[xplorer˛] — The incredible Mr Adobe
home » blog » 14 August 2011

"One step forward, two steps back"

Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF) has somehow established itself as the standard way to share documents. The reader software is free and there are many ways to create free PDFs from other document formats through virtual printer drivers. Unfortunately Adobe developers or management weren't very keen on robust code and as a result their windows shell integration support has little to be admired.

Instead of fixing the faults and shortcomings (e.g. poor 64 bit support), things got even worse with the latest Adobe X reader release. So whereas the past version 9.4 had basic support for all shell aspects (filters for text extraction, thumbnail and preview handlers), version X dropped support for text searches and ActiveX PDF embedding.

Providers of all major document formats offer the necessary DLLs for shell integration. Windows explorer and shell extension aware file managers like xplorer˛ tap into this framework to present a rich text and thumbnail preview of documents, plus offer in document desktop search services. To the side you can see my Adobe reader v9.4.5 nicely collaborating to show all these elements in xplorer˛ quick preview window. PDF preview as thumbnail, native and plain text

We will never know whatever posessed Adobe to drop half of the PDF shell support in their latest version 10 (X) or whether they will improve in some future version. If you use PDFs a lot for your work, here are some immediate solutions: (in preferred order)

  • Uninstall version X and install the better old version 9.4 (solves all problems in an instant)
  • Grab the Foxit IFilters (32 or 64 bit) for text search and preview (free after registration)
  • Get the older PDF text extractors from Adobe: v6.0 (32 bit) or v9.0 (64 bit)

What else can go wrong? If you cannot see PDF thumbnails in draft preview or in thumbnail view mode make sure your thumbnail extraction byte file size limit is large enough to cover the PDF files you use (this setting is controlled from Tools > Options menu, General page). Note that only the professional xplorer˛ will search within PDF and other office document formats, not the free lite version.

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