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View Poll Results: How do you read PDF documents?
I extract the text content first 11 8.40%
I use a pdf file conversion utility (Which one?) 33 25.19%
I use a computer, laptop or tablet PC 64 48.85%
I don't read pdf files because it's not worth the effort 21 16.03%
Doesn't matter - I never have pdf files I want to read 2 1.53%
I have a another approach (Explain in a comment!) 28 21.37%
Multiple Choice Poll. Voters: 131. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 09-06-2008, 06:31 PM   #1
Bob Russell
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How do you read PDF files?

One of the most common discussions about e-books centers around (non-protected) PDF files. Everyone generally tries to avoid them for e-book reading, or convert them into another format where possible with programs like PDFRead.

Sure there are many reflowable formats like txt, rtf, ePub and so forth. But when you want to read technical manuals or tutorials or scanned documents, what do you do?

Let us know in the poll associated with this post!

My solution so far has been a combination of several methods:
1) Read it on my Lenovo x61t tablet PC. This method never fails. I get color full-screen documents and lots of reading options. I can use Adobe Reader or FoxIt or whatever program I choose. And the tablet PC form factor means I can lay it on my lap and turn pages with the d-pad next to the screen. But it's heavy, gets warm, has limited battery life (maybe 4-6hrs), is tiring for the eyes, and requires me to carry around a very expensive computer just to read the documents.
2) Convert the pdf file using one of the many pdf document processors. I use PDFRead, but there are others. One of the new ones for Python folks even uses a fancy algorithm for splitting lines in the middle where there is white space between words. My method is simply to run the default PDFRead settings for my Sony Reader PRS-500, which results in each pdf page becoming two landscape Reader pages. I need glasses to read the resulting document, but it does get the job done reasonably well. This method is my solution when I want to read on the e-ink device, which is very convenient to carry around.
3) Extract the text from the pdf file and load it up on my favorite e-book reader. The problem with this is that text doesn't come out of scanned documents, and the text doesn't seem to come out nicely even for text-based documents. I've gotten to the point that I don't even try this most of the time. On the other hand, it has the advantage of getting the document onto my Treo smartphone, so it's always with me.
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Old 09-06-2008, 06:39 PM   #2
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If it's a book that I want, then I extract the text and spend time reformatting and converting it so that it looks good.
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Old 09-06-2008, 06:49 PM   #3
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Technical texts I read on dektop computers. Books I read directly on Cybook, no conversion, found only two that crashed out of 20 or so I read.
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Old 09-06-2008, 06:57 PM   #4
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It depends on the text, and what I want to read it on.

Some PDFs I read "native" on my desktop or laptop. Some I attempt to convert, using something like Mobipocket Creator, which can take a PDF as an input format. Some I print out as a hardcopy (like "cheat sheets" of program commands.)

How well conversion works depends upon the PDF. Mobi Creator, for example, does fairly well in single column PDFs with embedded images, but fails dramatically on PDFs laid out in multiple columns or with fancy formatting.
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Old 09-06-2008, 07:01 PM   #5
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PDFRead for me... (would you expect otherwise?)

As I have said here before, I usually prefer to convert my ebooks which are based on html/text so that they can ultimately be searched or used with the dictionary look-up feature of my ebook reader. When dealing with a .pdf there is no easy way to preserve the layout (without rendering it as an image). I usually give up converting .pdf to .txt/.rtf/.html and then to ebook format!

And I do have a lot of converting expertice; it's just not possible to extract the 'look' so that I'm comfortable with it! And if it's not paletable to me, I can't read it!

And then along came PDFRead! What a great program created by ashkulz (who has recently re-joined our mobileread community and made a splash with his impserve). Using landscape-full mode seems the way to go to increase the legibility and the dilation helps a lot!

You know what they say, "If you can't beat them, join them!"

Also promising is the pi (pdftoimage) program created by caritas, where, as you mentioned, the .pdf can be split in half vertically and then the lines can weaved back alternatively, so as to preserve the textual flow (and images).

Last edited by nrapallo; 09-06-2008 at 07:11 PM. Reason: added link to PDFRead 1.8
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Old 09-06-2008, 07:02 PM   #6
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It depends on what the document is, how long it is, and what future use I might have for the content. That said, here is my logic.

For most of the short documents I will just read them on my PC so the rest of the discussion centers on long form documents.

If it is a text only (or with minor graphics) then it is a good candidate for conversion to LRF for the Sony using either BookDesigner or Calibre. Before any conversion I will load the PDF in Adobe Acrobat and crop the pages to remove the header and footer lines so that they do not show in the converted text. The next action is to get the text from the PDF to MS Word for editing. If the basis of the PDF is text then this is no problem and there is a routine in Calibre that will make this almost a sone step process. If however the base of the PDF is a scanned image (say a TIFF, BMP, or the like) then you have to OCR the document. The best I have found for this is ABBYY PDF Transformer ($99) that will take an image PDF file and produce an MS Word file that retains the formatting of the original. I will then clean up the OCR errors. How much I clean up depends on what I intend to do with the finished file.

If it is something for my own enjoyment and the errors are not too bad I will most likely just make it into an LRF and let it go at that. If it is something that I will keep around and reference, then I will spend a longer amount of time on it. If it is something that I will post for others (such as some of the works in the Harvard Classics series, then I will spend a great deal of time proofreading and correcting the text.

If it is graphic intense and for my own use I will use PDF read and pdflrf and look at the results and use the better of the two. Of late PDF read has been winning the face-off about 5:1 over pdflrf.
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Old 09-06-2008, 07:07 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by RWood View Post
Of late PDF read has been winning the face-off about 5:1 over pdflrf.
That's a winning endorsement, I would say....
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Old 09-06-2008, 07:10 PM   #8
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Most of my pdf books are about programming and such and usually password protected. I can only read them on the computer, and only with adobe products.
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Old 09-06-2008, 07:57 PM   #9
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Hey Bob, guess you've been seeing a lot of requests regarding PDF's & what to do with them. I really wish I had one device to rule them all, but that hasn't happened just yet. I think eInk is phenomenal, especially considering it's energy consumption vs usage ration and secondly for the fact that it's entirely viewable in bright sunlight outdoors, for that matter it might even be more striking. But it's main hitch is in the resolution department, perhaps I need to upgrade to the 505 or Iliad, but it hard to keep the wife happy while hemorrhaging cash on techno-gadget lust.

While there are some really nice PDF conversion utilities for the Reader, I still couldn't get things quite where I'd like them to be; i.e., viewable in portrait mode w/o having to pan around. Everyone has already hit PDFRead right on the button in its usefulness, I found it great for converting comics & PDF's for viewing on the Reader but the font was really too small to read comfortably.

So while I wait for a higher resolution eInk device, or one with a larger screen (that Iliad in the market place is oh so tempting... wonder if I could arrange a swap for something... ), I'll continue to use my HTC Shift Tablet for in-house viewing or on long road trips, or my iPod Touch for short jaunts on the train/sitting in a waiting room/or over lunch break

Until the net best thing comes out, I'll be stuck using several devices to read my various formats.
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Old 09-06-2008, 09:04 PM   #10
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If I get a PDF at work, I read it on my laptop (usually plugged into a docking station with an extra monitor), but if I'm reading at home, I nearly always read them on my iLiad. That's true for fiction as well as non-fiction (e.g. journal articles for my grad classes).

I prefer other formats for fiction, but I'm reasonably happy with the visual quality of PDFs on the iLiad. I like the annotation capability, too. I would much rather read a PDF on my iLiad than get a printed handout from the instructor.

I'd say your survey needs another option ("I read it on my eink device").
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Old 09-06-2008, 09:12 PM   #11
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Maybe "I print them out" should be added to the poll. It's what I do with most of PDF files
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Old 09-06-2008, 09:30 PM   #12
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Most PDFs, like Google Books or research articles, I read on my computer (I have a monitor that is on a monitor arm and I can rotate it to be portrait). I also have an old Fujitsu tablet pc that I use sometimes for reading PDFs.

I create PDFs of html ebooks to read on my Sony Reader, but I'm guessing you're asking about 'regular' PDFs found in the wild.
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Old 09-06-2008, 10:49 PM   #13
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I print the PDF file, and then scan it. Then I use a good OCR program, do the delicate handicraft of reformatting it to my specifications. I then transform the text through one of many sophisticated programs intended for the ebook device of choice.

Finally, I put the resulting file into the trash receptacle on my desktop and curse at the top of my lungs the demented maternal sexual congresser who decided to publish the book in PDF format.

Last edited by Donnageddon; 09-06-2008 at 10:53 PM.
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Old 09-06-2008, 11:21 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Donnageddon View Post
I print the PDF file, and then scan it. Then I use a good OCR program, do the delicate handicraft of reformatting it to my specifications. I then transform the text through one of many sophisticated programs intended for the ebook device of choice.

Finally, I put the resulting file into the trash receptacle on my desktop and curse at the top of my lungs the demented maternal sexual congresser who decided to publish the book in PDF format.
I do the same thing....
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Old 09-07-2008, 12:18 AM   #15
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i usually e-mail pdf files to my kindle via amazon, and see how it comes out... if i'm not happy with it, i'll start tinkering with it myself. usually, i try mobipocket creator first, and then go to pdfread if i'm still not happy with it. i've just recently started messing with it, actually, since one of the classes i'm taking this semester has between 1 and 5 pdf articles to read for each class meeting.
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