I like programs
that make my Mac more efficient. As a mid-level user, I've downloaded a lot of neat
applications. Sadly, many of these just sit in my applications folder, forgotten,
never used. Don't get me wrong, I like them. I really do. I just don't remember that
I have them. To be truly functional, software should just lie low, hang out quietly
minding it's own business, then pounce when needed.
PDF files are well-packaged, clean, and organized bundles of information. In the
past, I've always been a little miffed that while I'm surfing Safari for this or
that, a PDF that catches my attention suddenly feels like it can just dig into my
applications' folder and open Preview whenever it feels like it. There is a well
known alternative, and that's to have your browser use the Adobe Acrobat Reader PDF
plug-in with Safari. There's another option, perhaps not as well-known. Meet Schubert's
"PDB Browser Plugin"; it lies low, minds its own business, then pounces
quite nicely when needed. PDF Browser opens PDF files that you surf to within the
Plugin turns your web browser into the best PDF viewer available. With the help of
PDF Browser Plugin you can view PDF documents directly in your web browser, print
them, and save them to disk if you'd like to keep them. The Schubert|it PDF Browser
Plugin perfectly integrates into your web browser and with its great Mac look &
feel it looks like it always belonged into it. Easy to use and intuitive toolbar
buttons give you quick access to the most common features, and a standard Action
menu lets you access everything else — even while the toolbar is hidden in cases
when you need the maximum screen real estate. PDF Browser Plugin takes advantage
of the Quartz technology that is built into Mac OS X. That means you are viewing
PDF documents with the same crisp and high quality graphics you are used to from
other modern Mac OS X applications. And of course it also profits from the high speed
of Quartz when displaying PDF documents."
Mac Ox X 10.3
or later (there is an alternate version available for 10.2 Jaguar)
Works with any web browser except for Internet Explorer
For not-for-profit activities at home or at educational institutions, PDF Browser
Plugin 2 is free. You can order a site-license of PDF Browser Plugin 2
for $69. The site-license is valid for all computers of a single organization within
a 5 miles perimeter.
Setup and Installation
You can download
PDF Browser Plugin 2.2.3 from the Schubert web site. This downloads a "dmg"
file which should open automatically. Reading the "Read Me" file is a must,
since the application must be dragged to a "/library/internet plug-ins"
folder either in the administrator's account, or into individual user accounts. Restarting
the web browser then activates the plug-in. "Read Me" includes a cautionary
note and instructions on how to disable both Adobe Reader 7 and Preview if either
of them has been set to automatically open PDF files.
I had been using
Preview up to this time to look at PDF files, but since it's a stand-alone application,
the PDF would first download, then open Preview, taking me away from my browser.
Installing PDF Browser Plugin skips the download step, as the PDF opens immediately
in a new browser window, but operates as a regular document viewer. Documents can
be viewed with several different formats such as a continuous view or a facing pages
view similar to a magazine. Links to other web pages work with a click of the mouse.
Documents with text fields to fill can be done from the plug-in. Documents can be
printed from the browser or saved to your hard drive.
The first time a PDF document is opened, a toolbar opens at the top of the PDF document,
below the browser's native toolbar. As far as the space taken up by the toolbar,
it's actually quite narrow and hardly noticeable. Compared to screen space taken
up by opening another application such as Preview or Acrobat Reader, the PDF Browser
Plugin wins hands down. Also you can easily use the plugin with the toolbar turned
off via the right-hand menu icon(see below). Control buttons are located in this
toolbar at the top of the page. The icons used to identify them are somewhat confusing,
but identifying labels do pop up if the mouse lingers over them long enough.
PDF Browser toolbar
The buttons in the
tool bar are described below from left to right:
Open with external view: provides a pop-up menu of applications on your Mac
which sit ready to open the PDF if you want the file outside of the browser. My Mac
offers Preview, Acrobat 6, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, and Graphic Converter.
Dragging down to highlight one of these launches the program and opens the PDF document.
Save: opens a standard save dialogue to save the file to the computer's hard
Print: launches the familiar print dialogue.
Show table of contents: Toggles a PDF's table of contents on and off (providing
that one has been encoded in the file). As with Preview, clicking on a link in the
Table of Contents goes directly to that page.
Display options (next three buttons): Includes standard view, facing pages
(where even pages are placed on the left side and odd on the right of a larger page),
continuous view (with no page breaks).
Sizing buttons (next three buttons): fairly self-explanatory with enlarge
(+), return to original size (single dot) and reduce (-). Note that the page cannot
be made smaller than the original.
Left and right arrows: function as forward and back browser buttons within
the changes/advances one's made within the document. That is, if you've gone from
page 5 to page 19 to page 12 in the document, the left arrow will take you from page
12 back to page 19; if you've gone from viewing pages in "continuous view"
to "facing pages", the left arrow will return you to "continuous view."
The left arrow will not back you out of the PDF document. The right arrow button
functions in the opposite manner.
Rotate: rotates the topmost viewed page 90 degrees of clockwise rotation per
click, up to a full 360 degrees.
Menu (on the far right): provides a drop-down action menu for the options
listed above, links to the developer's website, and an option to turn off the toolbar. The
menu icon turns into a tiny arrow when the toolbar's off; clicking on this arrow
opens the menu and presents the option to open the toolbar again. It also presents
a drop-down menu to open the document with other programs, such as Preview, Adobe
Acrobat, and other applications on your computer which might open the file.
Additional keyboard commands
are documented in the "Read Me" file (and shown below):
PDF Browser - Keyboard commands
The plug-in takes
a bit of getting used to, specifically the control buttons, given their somewhat
non-intuitive icons. I found a learning curve of a half-dozen or so PDF's being opened
and manipulated before I felt comfortable with the controls and menus. Once I mastered
the controls however, I liked the ability to view PDF's without leaving Safari. It's
nice to view manuals (such as for my digital camera) without downloading the entire
file to the computer. Scrolling is very smooth.
User documentation is lacking for the plug-in, appearing neither on the website itself,
nor in the download.
For the occasional PDF document which requires text fields to be entered, the plug-in
worked beautifully. Interestingly, when I tried to print using Safari's command-P
keyboard control, the document appeared blank. Using the plug-in's print button,
I was able to print the document with text-fields completed. This is hinted at in
the "Read Me" document which comes with the plug-in download.
The plug-in seems a bit slow opening large PDF documents, waiting for the entire
file to load into the browser before opening the first page. For some reason, neither
the scroll wheel on my Macmice mouse, nor my Turbo Mouse would scroll the PDF's;
the scroll function for both devices work fine with regular Safari web pages, perhaps
this function will be added in a future update of the software.
I do like the ability in Preview to go to a page automatically by typing in the page
number, a feature lacking in this plug-in. One major drawback is the lack of a search
command. The Mac Os X standard "control-F" command does not work to search
PDF's opened in the browser, and there is no search window such as one finds in Preview's
An additional download on the Schubert website is called PDF Browser Plugin
2.1 Settings. When downloaded and opened, a file by the same name is placed on the
computer. The sole function appears to be to change the background color on which
PDF's are viewed, and to toggle on/off whether text fields amenable to being filled
in are highlighted. It would have been easier if this plugin where just included
with the main download.
Finally, there is no easy way to toggle the plug-in on and off. As far as I can tell,
the only way to turn it off is to manually remove the plug-in from your library.
Browser Plugin is a nice program for viewing PDF documents in your web browser. This
plug-in allows you to stay within your browser program while viewing PDF files versus
launching another program, such as Preview. It does a great job with images, and
makes it easy to save and print files. It includes features for easy document rotating
with flexible page-viewing options. Best of all, PDF Browser is free for home or
educational use. There is room for improvement in the plug-in. Unlike Preview, a
thumbnail drawer is not available for quick browsing and selecting pages in the document.
There was no search function or place to enter a page number to jump to, making it
difficult to view and search longer documents. It could also use an option for easy
uninstall, and some better documentation. The bottom line is that PDF Browser includes
some very nice features, is a free download, and I like using it. I recommend all
Mac users giving it a try.
- PDF viewing within
the browser app
- Very clear images
- Easy to save and
- Can rotate files
90 degrees with ease
- Flexibility in page-viewing
- Difficult to view
and search long documents
- No thumbnail drawer
- Confusing icons
- No toggle on/off
- Lack of good user
4 out of 5 Mice