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Old 05-20-2006, 08:16 AM   #1
Bob Russell
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Overview of .PDF reading options for PDAs

We've talked about the various options for reading Adobe .pdf's (Portable Document Files) on a pda before, but it's time for a review as it's a very popular topic. We'll talk about PalmOS and Windows Mobile as they are the most common devices.

The main problem is that these documents are primarily suited for representing a page as if it was an electronic version of a printed page. This characteristic is fine, and often even beneficial, when you intend to print the document or view it on a large display. But it is generally hard to view on a handheld screen. There is some reflowability of text, but often that has limitations such as not showing the images.

PalmOS
* PalmPDF
This is a free program and lets you read pdf files natively (without converting them first).
* RepliGo
RepliGo is what I currently use. It does require a conversion step, but the program is easy to use and works well. It allows you to reflow the text, but you won't be able to see images when reflowed, so if it has pictures necessary to understand the text, you'll need to either scroll a lot or find another alternative. The cool thing about RepliGo is that it isn't just for pdf file, but you can print to the RepliGo print driver and presto you have it on your handheld after the next sync. Doesn't matter what the document is, you can convert it. And there is a free viewer for PalmOS and for Pocket PC (you just can't do the conversions without the program).
* Documents To Go
This is a great office suite, and now it offers native pdf viewing.
* Adobe Reader for PalmOS
This seems to be universally disliked, both due to the required document conversion step, and because the reader is slow and bulky.
* Picsel Browser or Picsel File Viewer
However, this doesn't seem to support reflow of pdf.
* MobiPocket Publisher (Plus Third Party Tool)
I'm not sure what it means to say third party tools are needed. Maybe it's a format conversion from pdf to html before it gets to MobiPocket Publisher? But wanted to include this potential alternative for completeness.


Windows Mobile
* Foxit Reader for Pocket PC (Beta)
Foxit has all kinds of other desktop programs for pdfs also.
* RepliGo
Converts documents to RepliGo format. Also has PalmOS reader.
* PocketXpdf
* Adobe Reader for Pocket PC
* ClearVue PDF

Your options are for .pdf files with DRM are even limited, and I'm not sure which of these programs will work.

Converting pdf to other formats
* Adobe Acrobat Standard
With the Adobe Acrobat Standard desktop program, you can convert pdf files to HTML. Alex has reported that "The results are OK; only multi-column documents or documents that use a lot of vector graphics get usually screwed up."
* Iceni Gemini
This sounds like a first class solution if you don't mind the cost.
* PDF2HTMLgui
One more alternative if you are more adventurous. Macrotor reports that this can also be used on MacOSX.
* Txt2Latex.

Here are the threads that I pulled this information from:
- Reading PDF Documents on a PDA
- Palm PDF viewers roundup
- Documents To Go adds native PDF support
- PalmPDF V1.1 released
- Foxit Reader PDF Reader for Pocket PC
- Converting PDFs (See this thread for some additional options not listed above.)

And just for you Zaurus users, here is one additional alternative... QPDF2.
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Old 05-20-2006, 10:01 AM   #2
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I just bought a Nokia 770 Internet Tablet and one of the pre-loaded programs is a PDF reader. Haven't had a chance to use it yet, but I'll report back.
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Old 05-20-2006, 01:36 PM   #3
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Thanks for the summary Bob.

There is but one reason some of us Palm OS users must tolerate the universally disliked and bereft of updates Adobe Reader: DRM.
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Old 05-20-2006, 02:09 PM   #4
Steven Lyle Jordan
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Adobe Reader for PPC

For the record, I have Adobe Reader for PPC (v2.0), which I occasionally use to read my own PC docs on the go. When I create a PDF file (from Word), I always use the "tagged" function, to create a reflow-able doc. The PPC reader has no trouble reflowing the text, and I can read quite comfortably.

Unfortunately, not every word processing program creates tagged docs as easily as Word, but if you have the full version of Acrobat on your PC, you can usually do it, and it works fine. Some untagged PDF docs (that you might get from another source) can be tagged by full Acrobat, but that often depends on how the doc was saved.

Either way, graphics can throw all of that right off... so it is better for all-text docs, or for docs where graphics are isolated from the text.

I generally find PDF reader works great for all-text docs, though the page scrolling gets a bit jumpy on my PPC at times (not sure if this is a PPC problem, or a Reader problem, but it did seem to improve when I updated the Reader to build 20040724).
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Old 05-11-2010, 12:27 PM   #5
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Thanks a lot for the list! My girlfriend just got a handmedown palm, and your summary really helps with a couple graphics issues she had.
appreciated! ...will certainly enjoy the less problematic all-text documents though.

Last edited by harlamar; 05-14-2010 at 01:02 PM.
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