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Adobe Updates Reader, Hands Off PDF Standard

One of the most-used, least-appreciated programs on the average PC quietly got an upgrade over the weekend. Adobe Systems, Inc. shipped Adobe Reader 9, the first major new release of its free Portable Document Format file viewer since Adobe Reader 8 shipped in late 2006.

A blog post at Adobe's Web site explains the new version's changes, starting with "Improved launch speeds." Note, too, its system requirements -- either Windows 2000, XP or Vista; or Mac OS X 10.4 or 10.5 -- which will cut off some people who haven't updated their software lately.

Installing Reader 9, unfortunately, is scarcely any simpler or quicker than in earlier versions. The download page at Adobe's site defaults to including a "Free eBay Desktop," which would bloat the total download to over 50 megabytes, and pushes you to download a "download manager" tool that will itself fetch the Reader installer. You can skip that nonsense by using Adobe's direct-download link instead.

Reader still took more than 10 minutes to install on a geriatric Windows XP laptop; as before, its installer planted a desktop shortcut to the program without asking permission -- plus a new, second short to, a companion application that offers access to a few Adobe Web services.

Once installed, however, Reader 9 does seem to run dramatically faster. On that aging laptop, Reader 8 needed anywhere from 12 to 24 seconds to start, while 9 booted up in 7 or 8 seconds. Forget this release's other new features, like support for Flash animations and movies; provided Reader 9 refrains from crashing or otherwise messing with my system, that quicker performance alone will justify upgrading.

I haven't tested Adobe Reader 9 on a Mac, but I also can't see any reason for the vast majority of Mac users to bother with Adobe Reader when Apple's Preview does the job so much better.

That, in turn, brings me to the more important news about PDF software. Today, the International Standards Organization announced that it had taken ownership of the PDF specification. While Adobe had long ago opened the doors to third-party PDF readers and writers, this move cements the format's openness -- and can only increase the chances of better alternatives to Reader emerging.

If you've installed Adobe Reader 9, please share your experiences in the comments -- and if you've got another program to suggest for displaying or creating PDFs, please share that too.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  July 2, 2008; 12:09 PM ET
Categories:  The Web  
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It's a "least appreciated" program precisely because of all the bloat. Whether it's the download tactics that they borrowed from Real Networks, or just the sheer size of the executable once you get installed, it's just not worth it.

FoxIt PDF Reader for the win.

Posted by: LarryMac | July 2, 2008 4:30 PM | Report abuse

I've been using Foxit reader rather than Adobe. It suits my needs well - a program to read pdf files, and it's fast and clean.

Posted by: EL | July 2, 2008 5:16 PM | Report abuse

I much prefer Foxit.

Posted by: joe hindot | July 2, 2008 8:08 PM | Report abuse

Foxit is much faster but selecting text for copying can be weird. For writing, CutePDF has been very dependable. Both are free!

Posted by: jgloo | July 2, 2008 8:25 PM | Report abuse

You think Preview is better? Try sending a Preview generated pdf to be read by someone with Acrobat 6. No can do.

Posted by: Jay Arr | July 2, 2008 10:44 PM | Report abuse

I started using FoxIt a few weeks ago and have been very happy. Adobe Reader tends to freeze my computers, especially my 5 year old desktop.

Posted by: KSmith | July 2, 2008 10:45 PM | Report abuse

Foxit is really great! Small, fast and not hungry for memory.

doPDF appears better than CutePDF as it doesn't require for the PostScript processor, Ghostscript.

Posted by: sleeking | July 2, 2008 11:43 PM | Report abuse

For the science section, you might find something of interest at "".

Thank you,
Robert Evan Howard
1-801-856-3200 / U.S.A.

Posted by: Robert Evan Howard | July 3, 2008 1:04 AM | Report abuse

I just installed Adobe Acrobat reader in my MacBook and it works fine. There is no conflict with Preview and the download took about 3 to 4 minutes.

Posted by: Carlos de la Cova | July 3, 2008 4:25 AM | Report abuse

I just installed Adobe reader 9 and noticed Adobe AIR also was installed on my machine.

As per Adobe:
"The Adobe® AIR™ runtime enables you to have your favorite web applications with you all the time. Since applications built for Adobe AIR run on your desktop computer without a web browser, they provide all the convenience of a desktop application."

Have it with me all the time? Does that mean I have to drag my desktop computer with me on the bus? I thought the idea (as per was to move away from desktop applications. I'm confused. :)

No one should be able to surreptitiously install programs on your machine.

It is a good idea for anyone who installs any new program or update to check that an unwanted program was also installed.

Posted by: Konstantin | July 3, 2008 7:25 AM | Report abuse

so is there a way to *completely* delete the unwanted stuff once you've installed Reader 9? (By *completely* I mean everything, including registry changes - I'm thinking of the notoriously difficult challenge of removing all traces of Symmantec/Norton programs).

Posted by: occdoc | July 3, 2008 7:50 AM | Report abuse

I have been using FoxIt reader for a few years and I am NEVER going back to Adobe. Adobe Reader is an example of a good software gone bad before they tried to make it do more and more stuff. Now it's supposed to host Flash presentations? Whose idea was that?

Posted by: Bart | July 3, 2008 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the link to the direct download.

Posted by: Neil Ottenstein | July 3, 2008 10:31 AM | Report abuse

In the past, I found a few websites with detailed instructions for removing from XP bits of Reader (8 and earlier) that allowed for FAR FAR faster Reader startup times. It's possible those sites' suggestions will work for 9 or that they'll soon post similar suggestions for removing the extraneous crud Adobe's pushed across.

As for me, I'll continue to Preview my PDFs. I have foxit on my virtual XP machines but don't use it unless I have to; Preview's just that much more seamless: I'll leave the Windows side just to read PDFs.

Posted by: Bush -- not related | July 3, 2008 8:39 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: chinanshu | July 4, 2008 7:56 AM | Report abuse

Long ago I uninstalled the Adobe Acrobat resource hog, which was constantly trying to add rubbish and which was vulnerable to malware, and I installed Foxit Reader. It's okay, but the standards decision is good news. I hope we get a really good open source reader now.

Posted by: Australia | July 4, 2008 9:15 PM | Report abuse

install time - 2 minutes and about 30 seconds
(system: Q6600, 4 Gb RAM )

as it appears is opening documents of about 40-80Mb almost instantly displaying the pics inside ( even very high ) the same fast away
till now appears to be very good

funny thing ... i`m a pretty advanced user (at least i tend to believe this ) but Y-day i`ve tried to install Adobe 9 at a friend of mine, and didn`t understand how to pass that idiot download manager ... so, instead i`ve followed the link to Adobe 8 using other system :D

as an alternative option i`m using PrimoPDF which can remove pass, and restrictions from PDF and works excellent

Posted by: Iulius | July 6, 2008 7:37 AM | Report abuse

One reason for maintaining a copy of Acrobat Reader on your Mac is that Preview doesn't allow you to work within PDF's with "privileges" such as the IRS Income Tax forms

Posted by: Mac | July 7, 2008 6:05 PM | Report abuse

There is a free registry backup program for any NT-based system, called ERUNT.____

Posted by: Bill | July 8, 2008 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Older Adobe Reader version's slowness to open drove me to FoxIt a while ago, but I switched back after I wasn't able to either print or save docs opened with FoxIt.

Posted by: Pete from Arlington | July 8, 2008 12:00 PM | Report abuse

I have been using deskPDF to create pdf files and PDF Professional for reading and manipulating pdf files since Katrina pushed me paperless.

The only problem I have had is with web sites that search to see what reader I am using before they let me download pdf files. I have found several that look for Adobe. After I write to them, they usually let me have the pdf files and claim they never knew there were other readers that worked? (Then why check?)

I agree with others that adding unrequested software should be banned . . . but Microsoft seems to be the worse . . .

Posted by: Michael Rice | July 8, 2008 6:51 PM | Report abuse

"Try sending a Preview generated pdf to be read by someone with Acrobat 6."

You're confused sir. Neither Reader nor Preview generate PDFs.

Posted by: Chris | July 11, 2008 8:00 AM | Report abuse

Adobe Reader 9. A TREMENDOUS step backward. #1 it will not properly execute some files that ran fine under 8.0. ADOBE knows of this. The FIND can 'finds' a lot of stuff, but not what you are searching for. #2 - I have not been able to get some sites which require the PDF Reader to find it. All this makes a mockery of the "PORTABLE" word in PDF. I have pulled it off my system and replaced it with 8.1.

Posted by: | July 18, 2008 1:43 PM | Report abuse

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