Return to General Information Page

 Return to "Lessons" Page





From J. Schorr, "Secrets: What Do You Want to Read Today?...Making the most of Acrobat Reader"
MacWorld, Dec.1998, pp.103-102


The current versions of both Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer let you view pdf files without leaving your browser... but only if it's properly configured with the "plug-in" called "Adobe PDFViewer", a version of Acrobat Reader that actually runs within the browser. If Navigator doesn't know what to do when it stumbles on a pdf file, here's how you can teach it to be pdf-savvy (the instructions are similar for Explorer).

1. Make sure Navigator's Plug-ins folder contains the Adobe PDFViewer plug-in.

2. Open Navigator's Preferences window (in the Edit pull-down menu), expand the Navigator item, and click on the Applications category. This is where you specify which program or plug-in to use when opening each type of file. Scroll down to the Portable Document Format (PDF) entry (near the bottom) and click the Edit button.

3. In the Edit Type dialog box, make sure the information is filled out exactly as shown here:


MIME Type:


Handled by

Portable Document Format



*Plug-in: PDFViewer

Now, whenever Navigator encounters a pdf file, it will fire up PDFViewer and display the document in the browser window. (If you click on the Application radio button instead and select Acrobat Reader, Navigator will launch Reader to display PDF files.)



Reader is designed for fast, easy document viewing. To really speed through documents with a minimum of clicking and scrolling, however, bypass the Reader tool bar and use some shortcuts:

1. Move from page to page by using the page up and page down keys or the arrow keys (right or down move you forward; left or up move you backward). To jump to a specific page, press command-5, type in the page number, and press return.

2. To scroll vertically within a page, hold down the shift key while using the arrow keys; to scroll horizontally, press shift-left arrow and shift-right arrow.

3. To see more of your document at once, press control-shift-B to hide the Reader tool bar, and command-shift-M to hide the menu bar. the same keystrokes make those items reappear.



Here's how to convert the content of a pdf file into plain text that you can paste into another document. To grab a specific chunk of text, you use the "Select Text" tool (press command-option-4) and then drag over the text. But if you want to grab all the text in a document, you can bypass the "Select Text" tool... just press command-A to select all the text in one shot and then command-C to grab (copy) every word in the document.

To confirm that you have indeed copied everything you intended before switching to another application to paste it, use Reader's "Show Clipboard" command in the Window menu to get a preview of the selected text or graphics.



You can also turn an entire page of a pdf file... including all the text and graphics... into a single image that can be copied and pasted into another document. Press command-option-5 to switch to the "Select Graphics" tool; command-A to select the entire page as one giant graphic, and command-C to copy it... and then switch to another application to paste the page.



If you think Reader is nothing more than a bare-bones document viewer for reading online manuals and formatted pages, you obviously haven't tried the mind-blowing presentation features that essentially turn it into a tiny, free version of Microsoft PowerPoint. Yes, Reader is the least expensive slide-presentation program.

When you open a pdf file with Reader and press command-shift-L, the page instantly fills every inch of your screen... no windows, no menu bar... just like a slide-presentation program. Amazingly, even in this full-screen mode, you can still move from page to page (by using the up and down arrow keys or by pressing command-5 to jump to a specific page) and zoom in and out (press command-L and then choose a level of magnification). To jump back into normal-screen mode, just press the escape key.

It gets better. Choose "Full Screen" from the Preferences submenu in Reader 3.0's File menu, and you're given a whole array of presentation options. You can have Reader advance from page to page automatically at any interval between 1 and 60 seconds or have it wait until you click the mouse. You can choose to make the cursor visible during a slide show or keep it hidden. You can select virtually any background color and pick from among 18 transitional effects, so you can have one slide dissolve, wipe, glitter, or split into the next (use Reader's "Full Screen Preferences").

And let's not forget about anti-aliased text; not even PowerPoint can make text look as good on a slide. (To have Reader antialias the text, turn on the "Smooth Text And Monochrome Images" option in the "General Preferences" dialog box.)

Yes, Reader lacks builds, background templates, and animation. But think about what it does offer: if you have Acrobat, you can...

1. build a presentation in virtually any program;

2. distill it into a pdf file; and

3. head out on the road, knowing you'll be able to present it on any Mac or PC you encounter, using a free program that just about everyone on earth has installed.



If you try to open a pdf file you've downloaded from the web and it won't cooperate (or generates an error message), check the version of Acrobat Reader you have installed. Most current pdf files are saved as Acrobat 3.0 documents and use a compression scheme that earlier versions don't support. To solve the problem, just trash Reader 2.1 and download a fresh copy of the current version, 3.0.1.

Acrobat Reader, like SimpleText, is one of those little programs that seem to multiply on your hard disk; it's not unusual for installers to dump extra copies of it, given the fact that so many software manuals, reference guides, and tutorials are now supplied in pdf form. Clean out those superfluous copies to avoid inadvertently trying to open documents with the wrong version.