PDF on Mac – So now I know what the experience is supposed to be like!

So I guess it doesn’t need saying, but Adobe Reader on Windows absolutely sucks. It is slow, regularly crashes web browsers and it used to make me think twice about even opening PDF files unless I really needed to see what was inside.

I was not expecting a different experience on Mac, it is not Microsoft’s fault that Adobe wrote a reader app that sucks so hard and so I expected it to suck just as hard over on this side of the fence as well so I was extremely pleasantly surprised to find a little app called Preview installed on my new mac as the default PDF viewer.

I have no idea if Adobe even make a PDF reader for Mac OS but there is no way I am going anywhere near the Acrobat Reader site just in case they do :) This thing is tiny, responsive and just works™, it’s great.

Chalk up one for the Mac side of the fence, the grass is getting greener.

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29 responses to “PDF on Mac – So now I know what the experience is supposed to be like!

  1. You will also love that you can save to a PDF from pretty much any program on the Mac, right out of the box,.

  2. Also, add to that the ability to MAKE a PDF from just about any OSX application that has a ‘Print’ function.

    Try THAT on Windows out of the box (without any 3rd party apps) :)

  3. Yes Adobe does make Reader for the Mac and yes it does suck almost as bad on the Mac as in Windows. And, although I have Acrobat Pro I may not upgrade the next time around because I have used it so seldom since switching to OS X.

  4. There is a Acrobat Reader for the Mac. But as you say, you don’t need it , preview is doing a fine job. It is also great for looking at images and other various graphic formats.

    And I too love the fact you can create a PDF from ANY app really EASILY!

  5. Here is a great plugin for reading .pdf’s in your mac-browsers:


    It works very well, but for long documents you will prefer Preview.

    There also is one for word, it isn’t that good but it’s better than loading up MS Word just to read a few lines:


  6. Galen D. W.

    Preview isn’t just for PDFs, although that is its strong point. Preview is also your default image viewer, for taking a look at what’s inside images.

    And, yes, most OS X apps support some sort of ‘Save to PDF’ option.

    BTW, have you tried Finder’s column view yet?

  7. Better yet, Safari now opens PDFs directly in the browser window, no loading of Preview necessary.

  8. “Better yet, Safari now opens PDFs directly in the browser window, no loading of Preview necessary.”

    And if you absolutely despise this feature, you can turn it off. Quit Safari and enter the following command in Terminal:

    defaults write com.apple.safari WebKitOmitPDFSupport true

    To restore the default setting:

    defaults delete com.apple.safari WebKitOmitPDFSupport

  9. Argh! Why did Apple decide to open PDFs in Safari? We hates it, my precious. HATES IT!

    Rafe – thanks for the info. I had recently re-installed Tiger from scratch and needed that tip again.

  10. You might want to check Onyx:


    It’s a great and free utility that does cleaning and maintenance tasks, as well as enabling / disabling various hidden OS X parameters. As for Safari opening PDF files, you can disable that with Onyx:

    Appearance > Safari > Automatically open PDF files in Safari checkbox.

    Oodles of other niceties for system behaviour tweaking abound in Onyx.

    Other than that, do check MacUpdate.com, one of the best freeware / shareware / update / commercial software sites for the Mac. An esteemed classic in the field is VersionTracker.com.

  11. Preview is absolutely briliant. fast and elegant. 9 out 10 times you needn’t bother about any other pdf reader. yet Preview doesn’ render transparancies well enough. as a graphic designer i find that a serious drawback. so in the end i had to install acrobat – which in the pro version has very powerful functionalities – for the give or take 10% docs which use superimposed inks effects.

  12. you’ll have to note, though, that some *very* rare PDF files require Adobe Reader to be opened, since their layout is broken on Preview

  13. Unfortunately, last time I needed to fill out a PDF-form preview was a no-go. It’s awesome for _previewing_ (hint hint ;) documents, not so much for doing some of the more advanced features. True, I hardly ever never use them, so I don’t even have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed (phew).

    ps. this might be fixed since it was a while ago I had to try

  14. > Unfortunately, last time I needed to fill out a PDF-form preview was a no-go.

    Yea I can live with that, Acrobat isn’t coming anywhere near this thing :)

  15. On XP, try Foxit for viewing PDF’s. Its fast and free with no install. It just works.


  16. Just like how Symantec Norton Antivirus sucks, A strong Windows user is familiar with Adobe Reader alternatives such as Foxit Reader (although too slow for large PDFs) and Adobe Speedup, so this is really not an issue unless you are a new/first time Windows user.

  17. I create and read dozens of PDF everyday on both MAC and PC as I’m a graphic designer. Preview is neat but it has some issues with some of the latest PDF features. It doesn’t always display the vectorial fonts when I save a PDF from photoshop. But as I understand it Adobe keeps implementing new stuff in PDF and it must be hard to keep up for third parties.

    Preview also typically displays the PDF documentation from Apple softwares and such. I must say the right pannel, the one that displays the chapters and search results, is a jumbled mess of abbreviated and unreadable information. Any tips on that?

  18. I use both Preview and Adobe Reader on OS X. However, my default viewer is Preview. I only use Adobe Reader when I have no other choice (DRM’d eBook, PDF Form, Complex PDF).

    If after you install Adobe Reader you find all your PDF’s now default to Adobe Reader. Select a PDF file and press Apple + I – This will open a Get Info window. Click on Open With and set it to Preview then click Change All button. Then for those documents you must open with Adobe Reader you can specifically go to Get Info for each and turn it to Adobe Reader just for that one file. If you have Adobe Reader loaded be sure to turn off the “Display PDF in browser” option under Preferences_Internet from within Adobe Reader.

  19. As mentioned above there are some things that Preview doesn’t handle, i.e. notations and comments in PDFs that are essential if you’re using them in a professional environment but apart from that Preview is great, loads up a lot faster than Acrobat reader, that’s for sure.

    I just wish it supported showed animated GIFs as well…

  20. >I just wish it supported showed animated GIFs as well…

    It doesn’t support animated Gif’s?? What’s up with that?

  21. Pingback: My Journey to Macintosh » Preview - Let me count the ways

  22. I’ve installed Acrobat Pro for Mac and then uninstall it.
    But the problem is that now, Safari doesn’t open pdf inline as it did before. It tries to use the plugin added by Acrobat Pro (which has been removed).

    Any idea?
    I tried to reinstall Safari from MacOSX Tiger disk, but no effect.

  23. I wish I could help, but I don’t use Acrobat Pro or Safari :)

  24. i just read . . . find a pdf file, single click it, type apple + i for get info, go to open with, select preview, click change all. I think that should do it. It will reset preveiw as the default pdf viewer. I assume safari should recognize this.

  25. on the off chance, does anyone know how to make photoshop my default viewer?

    i’m especially having problems with editing original images in InDesign CS2…always comes up in preview!

  26. Pingback: LSPS2 » Blog Archive » Acrobat No! Preview Yes!

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  28. Bishan Rajapakse

    Thanks for the comments, but I have recently switched to mac from PC. As a scientist I am somewhat disappointed. As far as PDF’s go I used to use Foxit Pro which was free, and allows me to write comments on journal articles. Preview doesn’t allow me to see what I’ve written previously, nor does it allow me to write more comments. Foxit pro or similar free PDF editing software is not available to my knowledge. Secondly using Window, there is no synchronous scrolling feature (ie a basic feature available on Word for PC that allows two different drafts of the same document to be scrolled at the same time). Now come on MAC, i thought that it was meant to make life easier, not more difficult. I’ve just spent 2 hours looking on line to find the answers to all these problems instead of getting on with the research that i’m meant to be doing. And at the end of all this support searching all i’ve found is the answer “sorry you can’t do this on a mac” (ie NO synchronous scrolling for MAC Word, and no free PDF editior for )

    Sorry to put a dampner on the “MAC highs” posted here. I still think there are a lot of great things about the mac, but some serious drawbacks also – let’s be real folks.

    Bishan Rajapakse
    a very frustrated new mac user