Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Acrobat Reader 6

850 words

Today brought us the advent of Acrobat Reader 6. And at a first glimpse this is a piece of software that wants to make you puke. I really like using PDF files because they're an easy way to distribute documents efficiently without relying on other people to have a working TeX (or whatever other program you like to use) installation. But step by step Adobe has managed to turn Acrobat Reader into a crappy behemoth without any actual improvements.

The insults start at the download: They changed the name to Adobe Reader. Haha, a very clever exercise in corporate branding. WTF did they think. Acrobat almost is a household name these days. Nobody cares for Adobe or their managerial egos. Next is a 20 megabyte download, expanding to a 60 megabyte application. Not bad for a file display tool. Then, in-line with the name change, they ruined the previously distinctive icon with the PDF loop on it to a crappy new one which is harder to recognise at small sizes – except for the Adobe logo.

Launch time is even longer than it was for version 5, probably because they thought it'd be clever to display a zillion number of patents allegedly associated to the program. Surely the kind of information you long to have every time you want to display a file. Right after launching and ignoring the EULA junk, you'll see that the new application handily ignores your previous settings and insults you by putting a butt-ugly Microsoft toolbar full of useless junk buttons and some kind of ad area on your screen. Thanks a lot.

After getting rid of that I went to the preferences to look at the other nonsensical default settings. Surely I was pleased to see that Acrobat Reader now tries to compete with Mozilla when it comes to the number of settings you can make. They also score fairly low in the translation department: How many years has Adobe been doing Mac software and not managed to translate the File menu into German Mac style as Ablage but rather Windows style as Datei. [In my opinion this little difference in translation tells you a lot about the company using it.] They're en par with Microsoft for moronicity there. Perhaps as a consequence of poor translation but more likely as a sign of general cluelessness, most of the zillions of preferences leave completely unclear what they're good for. Really feels like Mozilla in that department.

There are sort-of improvements as well. It can be easier to select text and they added a bar with navigation and view style buttons at the bottom of the screen. They are the most frequently used ones (ahem, minus things like zoom which would've easily fitted in), so you don't need the floating palette at all. It remains a mystery, though, why they didn't use the space more sensibly, save a few pixels of vertical screen real estate and merge it with the other status information at the bottom of the screen. Particularly as it is impossible (non-obvious?) how to turn it off.

Other observations: 1. Adobe really seems to be very impressed by their patent for tabbed palettes or whatever they're called, making even those in the 'sidebar'-thingy in Acrobat Reader tear-off-able, introducing even more UI clutter that way. (Of course you still can't insert tabs back into the list of tabs wherever you want but only after those that already exist. 2. Although I downloaded the German Version for MacOS X.2 and above, the application's bundle does contain a Classic executable as well as an English localisation. Well thought-out... 3. I looked through my Library folders and couldn't find a web browser plugin. Is it true that Adobe can't come up with an Acrobat plugin that works in all OS X web browsers after years? 4. Still no scrolling through pages with the space bar.

Conclusion: Jeel beel kara ogoday blyum blocha jeli, (It stinks). Nothing new but useless junk and corporate bollocks. The product that should be a simple document viewer now looks and feels like it was from Microsoft. Now more clean-cut functionality but overgrown creepiness. Perhaps Microsoft uses the opportunity to step in with WDF...

Let's hope Apple improves their support for PDF in OS X beyond display purposes. There's still need for the ability to select text to begin with and there are speed issues, which are the main reason for me to use Acrobat Reader instead of Apple's Preview. Plugin-wise PDF Plugin is doing a fairly good job, except for the issues inherited by using Apple's PDF technology. It definitely wins for simplicity and the nice smooth scrolling it does.

The ways out of this are obvious. Either Adobe comes out with Acrobat Light, a no-frills reader, featuring only quick display, bookmarks, search and text-copying capabilities, which is most-likely all the casual user will ever need or Apple improve their PDF engine to be faster and give developers more access to PDF files, allowing selection, find and bookmark abilities. I won't hold my breath for either.

May 27, 2003, 17:01

Trackback

Trackback “Adobe Reader” from Michael Tsai’s Weblog:

Sven-S. Porst: Today brought us the advent of Acrobat Reader 6. And at a first glimpse this is a piece of software that wants to make you puke. I really like using PDF files because they’re an easy way to distribute documents efficiently without…

May 28, 2003, 2:54

Trackback “Adobe's Stupidity” from Jeremy Zawodny’s blog:

I was going to write a long commentary on how stupid Adobe is being with version 6.0 of Acrobat Reader. Err, I mean “Adobe Reader” I guess. Just read this and you’ll see. I can’t add much more to the discussion without using using a lot of four letter …

June 5, 2003, 6:39

Trackback “Acrobat Rant” from UFies.org:

A nice rant on Acrobat Reader by Sven.

June 5, 2003, 9:01

Trackback “Adobe Reader” from The Exciter:

So, I was going to download the new version of Acrobat Reader, when I saw they changed it’s name to Adobe Reader! I know Adobe got a lot of confidence in their PDF platform, and rightfully so, it’s a great…

June 6, 2003, 12:13

Trackback “Acrobat 3 for Palm” from Clie Pen:

Adobe has released Acrobat Reader 3 for Palm. This is in conjunction with their new Acrobat 6 product line– you need it in order to use the desktop app which converts PDFs into a form more suited for viewing on

June 9, 2003, 6:18

Comments

Comment by WIll Macdonald: Gravatar image

You should try PDFViewer, from http://www.object-craft.com.au

It is only 120k or so, and works great with OS X 10.2.

Will

June 5, 2003, 13:55

Comment by ssp: Gravatar image

I tried it when I first saw it and it looks like it only uses Apple’s PDF functionality. In particular it doesn’t allow me to find or select text.

[It doesn’t seem to offer space or enter key activated scrolling either, a feature that even TeXShop offers.]

June 5, 2003, 15:02

Comment by thadk: Gravatar image

ha, the Reader 6.0 for Windows is significantly better than any version that came before it. Finally it looks like Adobe got it right. It doesn’t run like a glacier anymore, the interface doesn’t look & feel like crap, and the options are far better organized. Funny.

June 8, 2003, 12:40

Comment by Nate: Gravatar image

Are you kidding? The Windows version is every bit as slow as the Mac version. I refuse to install it on the Pentium 3’s at the office.

June 8, 2003, 17:21

Comment by andy: Gravatar image

Hey guess what? The new Adobe Reader 3.0 for Palm also totally blows. It’s basically a troll to get you to purchase Adobe Acrobat 6.0, so you can use their new ‘tagging’ format to re-make all your PDFs. Otherwise they look like crap on the Palm. I’ve written about it on my link below.

June 9, 2003, 6:17

Comment by Phil Larson: Gravatar image

Looks like you got your wish. The Preview software in Panther does everyone of those features you asked for and blazingly fast as well.

July 5, 2003, 1:45

Comment by ssp: Gravatar image

From all the things Apple advertises about X.3 this surely looks like the most useful to me. Looking forward to it.

July 5, 2003, 18:43

Comment by Gisela Strauss: Gravatar image

This semi-monopolistic, patent-happy software firm took the name ADOBE from native Americans without asking - I presume!? - That could get very expensive.

Gisela Strauss Tech Translator Munich

April 20, 2005, 21:38

Comment by Jak: Gravatar image

It’ just simply too fat.

February 2, 2006, 4:21

Comment by katastrofa: Gravatar image

5 years later, still didn’t get any better.

November 23, 2008, 22:27

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