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Posted at 6:39 PM ET, 11/19/2010

An Adobe Reader update worth the download hassle

By Rob Pegoraro

For the first time I can recall, there's an update to Adobe Systems' free Reader program that merits a reaction beyond resignation.


The new Reader X, released yesterday, includes three valuable features.

The first is a new layer of defense against increasingly common attacks on this widely used Portable Document Format application. As my old colleague Brian Krebs explained in a blog post last month, Reader X is a "sandboxed" application that runs with minimized access to the operating system. A virus that takes over the program gets stuck with the same limited privileges, a change that Krebs said "would be a major advancement for one of the computing world's most ubiquitous and oft-targeted software applications."

The second is the simple "Read Mode" it employs when opened inside a Web browser. Instead of cluttering the browser window or tab with its traditional horizontal and vertical toolbars, Reader lets the PDF fill the window. Only if you float the mouse over the bottom center of the page do you see a compact overlay of buttons to save or print the file, zoom in or out or show the toolbars.

Third, when you open a PDF saved on your hard drive, Reader X lets you add notes and highlight text. Until now, Adobe reserved those annotation functions for its $139-and-up lineup of Acrobat programs.

Sadly, Reader's download process remains inexcusably pushy. In Internet Explorer and Firefox, Adobe demands that you install a pointless download manager off its Web site (what is this, 1996?) and opts you into installing either Google's Toolbar alongside it (what is this, 2001?) or a McAfee virus scanner. Google's Chrome allows a direct download of the installer, or you can click this direct download link.

(Plus, would it kill Adobe to refrain from planting a Reader shortcut on my desktop? I'm willing to bet that most home users never open Reader on its own; they run it by double-clicking a PDF first.)

If you use a Mac, you don't need to worry about any of this: Apple's own Preview comes built-in (and has long offered a minimalist in-browser mode and provides better document-markup tools too). Windows users can also switch to such free Adobe alternatives as Foxit Software's Foxit Reader, which also includes more extensive annotation features, and the open-source Sumatra PDF.

But most Windows users still run Reader, so it's welcome news to see Adobe address this program's security issues and stop trying so hard to upsell people to Acrobat. I just hope this version doesn't exhibit the installation glitches readers have reported in the past. If it does, I'm sure you all will let me know soon enough in the comments.

By Rob Pegoraro  | November 19, 2010; 6:39 PM ET
Categories:  Productivity, Security  
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Alas, Mac users who want to the the post office's Click-n-Ship label printing option have to download Adobe Reader. I used to be able to get by using Preview as long as I used Firefox instead of Safari, but when I tried it this week, Preview printed the label a little bit off registration with the scoring on the labels.

I gave up and downloaded the latest Adobe using Safari; it installed easily. It did keep clamoring to have me choose it as the default PDF reader until I realized I could shut it up by checking the "Do not ask me this again" box.

Posted by: anne37 | November 19, 2010 10:42 PM | Report abuse

I've had an increasing number of PDF files fail to open in Preview. It's a bit distressing: I have a congenial loathing for Acrobat and dislike having to fire it up at all.

I used to favor Foxit on my Winstalls, but no more: it, too, pushes a toolbar on install, a practice up with which I shall not put; Sumatra works for me, thank you.

BTW, if you use to install your Win software, you automatically bypass those nasty toolbar install options, another major bonus to using ninite.

Posted by: Bush--notrelated | November 19, 2010 11:33 PM | Report abuse

I appreciate that Adobe is at least putting up the facade that it cares about its customers, but why should we care about Adobe Reader when Foxit reader (a Firefox add-on) opens faster, is as effective for most users and isn't as intrusive as Adobe? I haven't used Adobe in years.

Posted by: DrBeaker | November 20, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Visiting the link in the first sentence of your story, Adobe AIR was also included in the download...Is it needed?

Posted by: clogwearer | November 20, 2010 11:27 PM | Report abuse

I ordered the full version (on CD-ROM) as I generate PDFs. I just got a notice that delivery has been pushed back to Dec. 15.

Posted by: RepealObamacareNow | November 21, 2010 5:24 AM | Report abuse

To anne37 and others having problems printing USPS Click-n-Ship labels on a Mac.

It's not necessary to use Adobe Reader to print the USPS labels. You can simply rename the file, deleting everything to the right of "pdf" in the file name. (The "servlet" garbage.) Now the file will open and print in Preview.

Posted by: washpost50 | November 21, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Curious as to whether there exist any Windows or MAC based applications other than Adobe Reader 9 or Adobe Acrobat 9 that can display multimedia as well as Adobe.
I can not find any.
PDF’s are becoming the defacto standard in desktop publishing for the internet, for the average business as well as individuals.
And the way I see it, Adobes solution for embedding multimedia (video and audio) stands alone from all others in the PDF application world.
Multimedia will continue to grow and be a focus for businesses as we continue to see YouTube as one of the fastest growing search engines.
The ability for PDF’s to include embedded video and audio media, MEM (multimedia Embedded Marketing) is going to be key in the future, I am betting and creating a business based on this.
The way I see it, not being that technical and fully understanding all the technical issues involved, businesses need this embedded media feature in their PDF’s and other provides offering PDF solutions need to become compatible with the Adobe solution.
Adobe needs to fix these technical issues that seem to have created the stumbling blocks of the past, hopefully with the help of the technical community developing software for their business websites and business marketing.

Posted by: nshone | November 21, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse


Installation appeared trouble free. Now if only use is also trouble free.

Posted by: | November 22, 2010 1:24 AM | Report abuse

Not only does Reader install a desktop icon (what is this, 1995?), but it also installs an unnecessary icon in the root Start Menu folder. I keep mine in a "PDF" folder along with PDF Creator, Acrobat/Distiller, etc. I DO occasionally use this way to launch the program because sometimes a given PDF is confused about whether it should open in Reader or in Acrobat.

ANOTHER reason why I do this at the office is because our IT Borg Collective still distributes Acrobat 7. Evidently they don’t want to pony up for new licenses for the Acrobat users. I only use Acrobat for PDF files I create myself. With the release of X and a new fiscal year, I will have to pester them about upgrading. Again. Fortunately, I can keep Reader updated without their meddling.

Posted by: 54Stratocaster | November 22, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Funny, but you have to use the proprietary Microsoft Visual Studio C++ Express if you want to recompile the open source Sumatra PDF. Of course, both Visual Studio and Sumatra only run on the proprietary Windows platform. The developer seems a bit unclear on the concept of open source.

Posted by: bluevoter1 | November 22, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

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