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I use chrome and I can view PDF URLs in my browsers as PDF file. I would like to know if this is something that chrome natively supports or is it because of the adobe plugin?

I basically need to understand how browsers support PDF viewing and which ones do.

Reason that I'm asking this is I'm building a PDF gallery viewer. I looked into PDF.js, and apparently it's awesome because it converts PDF into native web format so that all browser support it. But from what I see all browsers already support viewing PDFs ( atleast the ones I could get my hands on ) so why is PDF.js awesome?

closed as off-topic by unor, Jan Doggen, Izzy, Undo Nov 7 '14 at 13:45

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    It doesn’t seem that you are looking for a software recommendation, which makes your question off-topic here. – unor Nov 7 '14 at 11:42
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The point is that as most browsers use plugins for PDF and:

  1. The plugin might not be installed, (or as happened recently was broken for a while).
  2. Some antivirus products & firewalls block pdf content.
  3. With the plugin you can only see the contents by opening them, this uses a lot of resources & time.
  4. If you are using your mobile browser you are going to have to download the entire PDF then open it but a lot of mobile browsers will download a smaller, low resolution version initially then you can click on the one that you wish to see in full glory.
  5. Not all mobile browsers support pdf other than as downloads.
  6. You may not wish to make the actual pdf available on-line for various reasons - e.g. if you are offering to sell the pdf you might wish to put some low resolution excerpts online only.
  7. The machine doing the rendering offline is likely to be more lightly loaded than the end users.

Built-in PDF Support

For reference Wikipedia has a table that details which desktop browsers have "built in" support for .pdf format here. In many cases where support is described as built in it is actually provided as a pre-installed plug-in as the code is often proprietary Adobe code. Note that the referenced table primarily deals with full desktop browsers and that few lightweight or mobile browsers have built in support, (in many cases any support other than downloading), for pdf but most can display images in the more common formats.

  • "most browsers use plugins for PDF" - this does not seem to be true, it looks like PDFs are natively supported in chrome and firefix. – sublime Nov 6 '14 at 20:53
  • Only 5.3 out of 30+ having built-in as opposed to plugin counts as most in my book - source en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Steve Barnes Nov 6 '14 at 21:11
  • @sublime "natively supported" could also mean "bundled plug-in", like the document viewer in Chrome which can be disabled like any other plug-in. So technically you're both right. It is a plug-in, as well as a native feature. I guess it depends on how you define "native" – Tymric Nov 7 '14 at 0:57
  • @Timmy - Chrome class it as "built in" but FSF class it as a plugin because it is a proprietary element. My main point was that Chrome+Firefox <> most! Even if you add iCab, Pale Moon, Konqueror and Safari (on Mac only so I gave it .3) that is hardly most! Of course mobile installations are a growing market share and few have pdf integration there. – Steve Barnes Nov 7 '14 at 7:19

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