PDF = Portable Document FAIL
April 23, 2012 10:57 AM   Subscribe

Please help me thwart the evil Adobe empire so that I can read the Valve Handbook for New Employees (and other .pdf files) on my Macbook again! Recently, Adobe Reader told me an updated version was available. Obviously delusional, I went ahead and updated my perfectly-working 9.4 to the new version 10, and now I can no longer view pdf documents in Chrome (18.0.1025.163), my browser of choice. What now?

Here's what happens: I go to a .pdf on the internet, and all I see is a black screen with "missing plug-in" on it. If I click on the "missing plug-in" message, the screen helpfully turns a lovely shade of blue.

And that's it. What now?

I have already tried a number of "fixes" from the Chrome and Adobe help sites, including:

Opening Adobe Reader, Clicking on Help and "Repairing the installation" for Adobe.
Making sure the internet settings for Adobe included viewing documents in Adobe Reader.
Closing and Restarting both Chrome and Adobe.
Restarting my computer.

When those didn't work, I deleted Adobe Reader entirely, and re-installed the latest version, repeating the steps above--still no go.

When that didn't work, I deleted Adobe Reader 10 again, re-installed Adobe Reader 9 (9.4.0), the one which had previously worked just fine--and now it doesn't work, either! Same exact result.

At that point, I quit and went off to cuddle my kitties and indulge in some left-over birthday cake.

So now I'm ready to try again! Relevant info:

I do not have Adobe Acrobat installed.

I DO have Adobe Digital Reader, which I use to review galleys from publishers in ebook format. I can't find how to alter preferences for that, if I even need to.

My Macbook Pro is running Snow Leopard (10.6.8). I would prefer not to update to Lion, but I *could* if I need to. Adobe tends to lag behind Mac operating system versions, so I don't think that's necessary?

I can read .pdfs just fine if my spouse downloads them from the internet and sends them to me--which leads my spouse (engineer, PC and still loyal Internet Explorer user despite my best efforts to corrupt him) to decide this is a "Mac" problem or a "browser" problem.

Fine, but I don't want to give up my Mac, and I really do prefer Chrome, though if I have to I will install another browser just for viewing .pdf files online.

Will that even work, though? And is it my only solution?

Most of what I know of computers (not much) comes from trial and error, a few college classes and figuring things out as I go, so please keep that in mind if you have any suggestions for me. I'm game for trying pretty much anything.

Help me, Mefites, you're my only hope!
posted by misha to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
What happens when you try to open it in Preview?
posted by Magnakai at 11:01 AM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


By default, Chrome on Windows will actually render PDFs directly, without using Adobe Reader at all. I think you can enable this functionality on Chrome on OS X:

http://hints.macworld.com/article.php?story=20100929075624116

I won't even install Adobe Reader on my Mac, I just use Preview.
posted by me & my monkey at 11:01 AM on April 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


Nthing preview.

But when you uninstall also uninstall the files in

/Users/[misha?]/Library/Application Support/Adobe Acrobat (or Reader)

Deleting both if they are there should be fine.

You may have to turn on View hidden files to get here. You can also get a tool like App Zapper which does this kind of clean up for you. That's a paid app but the demo gives you a few zaps for free...
posted by bitdamaged at 11:05 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


This won't help with in-browser viewing, but you could always use other programs to view downloaded files. Preview, as mentioned, is usable if you don't mind not having any functionality apart from scrolling; you should also be able to use document/image viewers (my personal favorite is Xee), and IIRC the Kindle desktop and mobile apps can both read PDF as well.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:07 AM on April 23, 2012


Wait, can you just save it to your desktop and open it not in Chrome? Or does that not work either? It's not really a fix but an annoying workaround, I guess. I've been having a lot of trouble with pdfs in chrome as well lately.
posted by elizardbits at 11:09 AM on April 23, 2012


Try this:

1. Open Chrome.
2. In the URL bar, type "about:plugins" (no quotes) and press return
3. Look for the entry for the Adobe PDF Reader plug-in (not "Chrome PDF Viewer"; that's the good one)
4. Click the disable link for that entry
5. (optional) Restart Chrome

This should get you just the basic built-in Chrome PDF viewer, which is fine for simple reading. For more complex needs (rotation is the only common one really), you can just click to save the PDF to disk and open it up in Preview or even the actual Adobe Reader app if you feel like it. But for normal web browsing use, the built-in Chrome PDF viewer is going to get you want you want with the least amount of fuss compared to the Adobe plug-in nonsense.
posted by zachlipton at 11:28 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


[be helpful don't just make lazy anti-Adobe snark here please.]
posted by jessamyn at 11:30 AM on April 23, 2012


I can view downloaded documents in Preview with no problem.

I can't view or download them from the internet any more, though, so that's not really an ideal situation.
posted by misha at 11:42 AM on April 23, 2012


Wait, you can't even download them? (To download pdfs on my macbook, for instance, I two-finger click the link to the pdf and choose "save link as" - does that not work for you? It also works when I control-click.)
posted by rtha at 11:49 AM on April 23, 2012


Yay!

The about:plugins trick from me & my monkey and zachlipton worked! I can't believe it was that simple. I am doing a happy dance right now.

I won't even install Adobe Reader on my Mac, I just use Preview.

Wait, that will still work without having Adobe Reader installed at all?! I am SO getting rid of that monster! I've got AppCleaner to do that.

Thank you so much, everyone! I would send you birthday cake if I could (if you're in Florida, stop on by).
posted by misha at 11:50 AM on April 23, 2012


P.S. The cake is real.
posted by misha at 11:50 AM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


rtha: "Wait, you can't even download them? (To download pdfs on my macbook, for instance, I two-finger click the link to the pdf and choose "save link as" - does that not work for you? It also works when I control-click.)"

rtha, nope, that's what had me so frustrated--if I could have just control-click downloaded them, I wouldn't even have minded the extra step.
posted by misha at 11:53 AM on April 23, 2012


That's so weird. And so frustrating!

Preview has some limitations, but since it doesn't sound like you have to manipulate the pdfs in any way - not that Reader lets you do much - then Preview should work a treat. It's way less heinous than Adobe Reader.
posted by rtha at 12:01 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, you can use Preview instead of Adobe Reader unless you need some specific functionality only supported by Reader (filling out PDF forms, signing PDFs, interacting with LiveCycle Rights Management, etc).

Adobe Reader is an evil thing if you don't really need those features, and I recommend avoiding it wherever possible.
posted by me & my monkey at 12:07 PM on April 23, 2012


Wait, that will still work without having Adobe Reader installed at all?! I am SO getting rid of that monster! I've got AppCleaner to do that.

Yep. Adobe Reader does allow you to do certain special things that are pretty rare, but might come up in more corporate situations. As far as I know, these are mainly features around dealing with DRM'd and encrypted documents, more advanced form filling support, digital signatures, and viewing crazy advanced PDF files that Preview can't handle (like PDFs with Flash videos embedded or something). Preview is even fine for filling out PDF forms as long as you don't need to electronically submit them to some kind of crazy PDF server that Adobe offers. Preview is just perfect for practically all run-of-the-mill PDF encounters.

I'd probably still keep Adobe Digital Reader around for dealing with DRM'd encrypted files that you might not be able to open in Preview, since it sounds like you get those from publishers sometimes. As far as I know, Digital Editions is basically separate from Adobe Reader/Acrobat and doesn't have a browser plugin. I don't know why on earth Adobe did this, but it shouldn't cause you trouble to keep it installed for when you need it.

As I said, the main thing I used to miss in Chrome's PDF plugin is rotation support. Sometimes you wind up with a PDF that's 90ยบ off, and Chrome couldn't fix that. Except they just fixed that bug too!
posted by zachlipton at 12:20 PM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pretty sure Preview even lets you sign documents now.
posted by entropicamericana at 2:19 PM on April 23, 2012


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