Reading PDF Documents on a PDA
#1  Bob Russell 08-09-2005, 03:55 PM
I think it's time to summarize what we've learned about reading pdf files on a mobile device, and pool our resources to try to determine what are the best approaches on either Palm or Pocket PC.

Over the months and years, we've seen a lot of proposed methods for reading pdf (Acrobat Reader) documents. I'm not sure, though, if any of these are clean, reliable and relatively successful.

I think many of us would be very interested to hear if anyone has found a good solution at a reasonable price. Maybe there are even a few great solutions buried in our forums here that I've missed, and which deserve to be trumpeted again.

Some of the ideas I vaguely recall hearing about are:My idea of a basic set of requirements (wishlist) for such a program would be:
1) If necessary, the conversion process can be done on a PC, but should not require Palm Desktop or hotsync. You should be able to just transfer to a storage card.
2) Reads just about any (non-DRM'd) pdf file adequately
3) Can turn pages and search reasonably fast
4) Works on smaller screens like a Treo or 240x320 standard resolution PPC
5) Can handle large documents.
6) Can read documents from storage cards
7) Bonus points if it costs less than $30
8) More bonus points for reasonable RAM memory requirements

Or.... maybe this is beyond our capabilities in the mobile world right now? Surely not!

#2  koz 08-09-2005, 05:38 PM
I came across this thread over at Hands down, if you want native support for PDF, with zoom and web browsing, PicselBrowser is IT!

It's a long read, but worth it.

#3  Chaos 08-09-2005, 05:46 PM
Quote BobR
Or.... maybe this is beyond our capabilities in the mobile world right now? Surely not!
Definitely not. The Zaurus has had one really wonderful PDF program for a long time now, called QPDF2. It hasn't been updated in over a year, but it's quite a nice program. I believe Opie has a still-being-developed variant of this program, but I can't find much mention of it, and I can't remember if it's in the source tarball I have or not. I think it is though...

As for Palms/PPCs, I think the best current option would be to convert to HTML and then run it through Plucker or iSilo or something... You may have some luck looking at Ghostscript, but I haven't really done much with it myself.

#4  volwrath 08-09-2005, 07:02 PM
Adobe reader works pretty good with a vga pocketpc (using the VGA hack). I can see the entire screen and almost read it. at ~80% I can read it big deal for me.

I've read great things about repligo, but never have tried it.

#5  surur 08-09-2005, 07:06 PM
Thats a rather old article (2001!) Adobe reader for pocketpc has grown rather a bit (its now 7.5Mb installed). Its still slow and clunky, but displays rather well, and is quite usable. Unless its an e-book you are reading the text would likely contain tables and figures which would be best viewed with the native adobe pdf client.

Here's a pdf of the lifedrive on my VGA pocketpc.

image »

LifeDrive Datasheet PDF


#6  macrotor 08-09-2005, 07:24 PM
In reference to Palm viewers"

Most PDF -> HTML converters are hit-n-miss as soon as you introduce columns and graphics. Adobe Acrobat Pro does the best job, of course, but at a nasty price tag.

Documents-to-go only converts the text. However, it does a good job of it.

I've heard of email/web services that convert PDF to TIFF, but that's a lot of bandwidth and waiting. No thanks.

The Palm Adobe reader does a good job, but you have to convert it first on the desktop. Also, the reader seems rather crash-prone.

Picsel Browser (if you can snag a shady copy of it) does an excellent job of reading native PDFs without conversion, but it does not reformat them for your screen. So, you'll be doing a lot of panning and zooming to read the article. However, it works nice and fast. A pity that Sony has them locked-down to exclusive licensing.

I am still perplexed as to why Picsel Browser is the ONLY PDF viewer. Jeez, we are buried by numerous graphical viewers that support a dizzying array of formats. Reading and WRITING Microsoft documents is now old-hat. I constantly see shouts for a native PDF viewer, yet the developers are silent. Is there some sort of licensing restriction I'm not aware of? You'd think that someone would have made use of the ghostscript or pdfx code by now. Odd.

- Jim

#7  hacker 08-09-2005, 08:18 PM
I love when people use XML on the web (note: XML has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the web), and then don't produce valid content from it for browsers.

If the document is sourced from XML, which MUST be well-formed, how can you possibly screw it up so badly that it ends up being completely invalid, incorrect, malformed non-HTML? (There's only 121 errors on that first page)

#8  hacker 08-09-2005, 08:23 PM
Another thought:

If content providers want you to be able to view their content on your mobile device, they should produce it in a format that is suitable for that device. Hint: PDF is not that format.

By voicing your opinion to these content providers (in an intelligent, lucid fashion), you can change their minds. For those that do not wish to adapt to suit their customer's needs, go elsewhere. There are plenty of other vendors who would be happy to help you (in exchange for your sale, of course).

If we keep coming up with workarounds, converters, and bass-ackward solutions to getting a PDF document on a Palm device, we don't give the content provider any reason to change their broken behavior.

If what I want to read is only available in PDF, I go elsewhere, and I let the content provider know I went elsewhere, and why.

We all have a voice, lets start using it. Without us, they would have no market.

#9  Flipper 08-10-2005, 08:08 AM
I have used ClearVue PDF for PPC with mixed success. It doesn't require any conversion of files which is a plus point, but the fact that only seems to like 50% of the files I use it on rather cancels that out!

#10  lwehrung 08-10-2005, 03:40 PM
Here is more about Repligo in a news article I published at 1SRC back in January of 2004. I looked over it, and it still is applicable today. I use Repligo for everything.

News Article on 1SRC

Personally, I think the Repligo product from Cerience is the best solution for the Palm platform. It allows different type views. It has flawlessly converted many large PDF files for me. It is much faster than any other viewer on the Palm, Pocket PC, and Windows platforms.

In my opinion, it is the best option for the Pocket PC, also. Adobe Reader is excellent for reading for native PDF files, but it is a pig (as is the desktop version). Repligo is small and fast!

Just my two cents. Check it out for yourself.


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