I'm tired of looking at that spinning beachball!
January 6, 2010 8:13 AM   Subscribe

OS X and Adobe Acrobat is a bad combination. What are my options?

I'm at the tail end of writing my MBA dissertation (submitting on January 22nd!) and find myself juggling almost 200 PDFs of research papers.

My working style tends towards reading and working with maybe a dozen or so documents at a time, generally switching to and from MS Word and Acrobat as I craft text. I revise incessantly, flipping back and forth a great deal. I'm finding Acrobat intolerable because of its overall slowness but also CPU load; sometimes it will max out my Macbook and I've got to force quit the app. In fact I've found its better to quit it at the end of the day, restarting it in the morning.

What other tools are out there? My dissertation is due at the end of the month, but I'm writing a book on finance as well, and I seriously can't take another six months of the beachball.

I can't seriously entertain working style changes, and suspect this is mostly an Adobe / OS X problem as we've got Linux boxes in our flat, and they don't manifest such slothlike behaviour (but my primary machine currently is and will remain my MacBook for reasons not germane to this query).

While free is preferred I don't mind paying a (reasonable) amount for something that's fast and light but does the job.

System details in case it matters: MacBook 2.4 Ghz, 2GB RAM, GMA X3100 graphics card, 500GB hard drive (structured as two logical volumes, first is mirrored each hour onto the second using the excellent Carbon Copy Cloner), OS X 10.5.6 and I'm slow to update my operating system as I'm risk averse (if it aint' broke ...), Adobe Reader V7.0 and while I can see its got plugins, I ain't installed them meaning they came along for the ride when this app was downloaded from Adobe. I rarely restart my Macs preferring to keep my session intact, so at the end of the night after backing up (yes every night, to external drives as well as the cloud) I sleep my MacBook.
posted by Mutant to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You know, Preview - which comes with your machine - will read many PDFs just fine.

10.6, for all that you're risk-averse, handles then quite well, to the point trashed Acrobat Reader utterly.
posted by mephron at 8:17 AM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Maybe I'm missing something, but why aren't you using Preview.app? Preview is built into Mac OS X. It opens PDFs and is a billion times faster than the Acrobat? And Acrobat 7 wasn't a universal binary so it is going to be slooower in Intel Macs. The current free Acrobat Reader is up to version 9. It is universal, much faster and much more stable, but again, Preview.app is faster.
posted by birdherder at 8:21 AM on January 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I wikipedia-ed PDF software and aside from Preview, which everyone else has mentioned, the only one they mention for Mac OSX is an open-source one called Skim.
posted by "Elbows" O'Donoghue at 8:25 AM on January 6, 2010

Best answer: How long do the backups take?

Personally, I'd be backing up to an external disk with Time Machine. Backing up to the same disk every hour seems destined for trouble.

Chucking in an extra 2Gb of RAM will help with everything.

Even though I do a lot of design for print work to PDF, I use Preview app over Acrobat / Reader for reading PDFs. However, if you have 10+ PDFs of enough size, you're going to get slowdowns depending on the sizes of the documents...
posted by i_cola at 8:32 AM on January 6, 2010

Best answer: I use a combination of Skim and Preview, and get by alright. Skim, as a bonus, has pretty nice "sticky-note" functionality and is compatible with LaTeX's live-update features if you use Latexmk or a similar auto-rebuild-on-save script.
posted by Alterscape at 8:34 AM on January 6, 2010

Best answer: If I'm understanding you correctly, you're just reading the pdfs. If that's the case, have you looked into Papers? It seems to be fine with multiple tabs open when I've used it.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 8:50 AM on January 6, 2010

Best answer: If you're juggling 200 separate PDFs then run, don't walk, to download Papers.

(I slightly prefer Sente, but that's because it was part of my writing workflow and I was making a lot of use of its citations function. It's a bit late in the day for you to be digging into that and changing your workflow.)

As a bonus, Papers now has a pretty nice iPhone companion, too.
posted by bonaldi at 8:51 AM on January 6, 2010

Best answer: I've had the same problem after installing CS3, Acrobat is a beast, and I only need it when creating PDF's from multiple documents. For everyday usage, I've made Preview the default pdf reader
posted by limited slip at 8:59 AM on January 6, 2010

Best answer: Just as good as papers and open-source (FREE!) is Mendeley.
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 10:37 AM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: uh, I just realised I've been doing something dumb (what a surprise).

Everytime I get a new Mac I copy the entire hard drive onto the new machine. Did the same when I purchased this MacBook a couple years back, it replaced a 15" G4 PowerBook (1.25Ghz), and I distinctly recall setting Acrobat as the default PDF reader. Never thought twice about it really.

Well, I just did a test and my gosh Preview does (so far) everything I need and much, much faster.

Needless to say, I'm switching to Preview.

i_cola -- How long do the backups take?

Personally, I'd be backing up to an external disk with Time Machine. Backing up to the same disk every hour seems destined for trouble.

Incremental backups of just my dissertation docs directory finishes in less than five minutes, about the amount of time it takes me to head down and put the tea kettle on. But won't Time Machine create multiple copies, pretty much one of every revision to my files? That isn't really a problem, but I'm just curious.. Also what problems might using Carbon Copy Cloner to backup to another volume on the same physical drive cause? I'm just doing it as I'm hyper paranoid right now about losing anything. But maybe I should stop?

I haven't heard of Papers until now, but I'll give it a try. I'd been using Spotlight with CoverFlow to search PDFs for text snippets that I could recall reading, but needed to find to properly use then cite. That seems like a poor substitute from what I've read on their web site so far. Seems pretty hot in fact the more I read - thanks !
posted by Mutant at 10:52 AM on January 6, 2010

Best answer: Thirding papers as recommended for you here. I use it daily, and have a writing/referencing intensive job.
posted by u2604ab at 11:04 AM on January 6, 2010

Re: same-physical-disk backups: There's no major additional risk in that, it's just that it's fairly pointless: every time I've lost, or come close to losing, data, it has been due to a failure of the physical hard drive. So if that's your only backup, you're not protecting yourself from the most common reason to need a backup in the first place. I don't think you should stop backing up to there until you have another, external-or-network-drive backup in place, but you're definitely not as protected as you want to be.
posted by xueexueg at 11:07 AM on January 6, 2010

But won't Time Machine create multiple copies, pretty much one of every revision to my files?

Yes, but this is its genius. When the only backup is current-1 and you didn't notice the accidental destruction of pars 340-362 a few saves ago, having current-5 around is a lifesaver.
posted by bonaldi at 11:43 AM on January 6, 2010

Best answer: But won't Time Machine create multiple copies, pretty much one of every revision to my files? That isn't really a problem, but I'm just curious

Yes it will, and it automatically thins out older intermediate revisions over time so you end up with 24 hours of hourly backups, a week's worth of daily backups and weekly backups for as long as it has space for. It does some clever stuff so files that haven't changed don't take up disk space multiple times.

It also runs automatically and is happy to run in the background while you're working.
posted by cillit bang at 11:52 AM on January 6, 2010

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