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Mozilla developing Firefox PDF renderer


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Anyone that wishes to access a PDF file on an internet browser probably finds that the plugin that loads the file is Adobe Reader. But how about if, using HTML5 code and Javascript, you could view the PDF file directly in the browser without needing a third party plugin? That's what Mozilla has been quietly but surely working on.

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For around a month so far, on what the developers are calling pdf.js, they've been developing the piece of code quite openly over at GitHub with the purpose of creating something that renders the files fast. You can try out the still work-in-progress reader yourself; the developers claim that they were not planning on releasing details for awhile, but decided to do so on the basis of the amount of interest shown in their work.

While it will be a few months before technical users can start to use the PDF feature, this could be seen by some as a fundamental change in what Firefox can do and features the casual user might come to expect from internet browsers as a whole. By having a native PDF renderer, internet surfers do not have to worry about drops in usability and the threat of security exploits. Mozilla has said themselves that the pdf.js uses only safe web languages and doesn't contain code which could be exploited by others.

The exact features of the native renderer have yet to be revealed, but it will be interesting to see how this story develops and whether Mozilla will use the opportunity to shift Adobe Reader and other third party programs to only advanced/business users.

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Sweet. :D

First thing came to my mind, would it cause security problems? Good that Mozilla is trying to make sure it doesn't. :)

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Mozilla to Add Built-in PDF Viewer to Firefox

Mozilla is working on a project that will add PDF rendering to Firefox using HTML5 and JavaScript, eliminating the need for users to run Adobe's own plug-in. The PDF reader may be included in Firefox within three months, said Andreas Gal, a Mozilla researcher who on Wednesday unveiled work the company had done quietly for the last month.

If Mozilla follows through on its plans, it would make Firefox the second major browser -- after Google's Chrome -- to offer in-browser PDF rendering.

But while Chrome relies on an API (application programming interface) to craft its own native-code plug-in, Mozilla will exclusively use HTML5 and JavaScript to display Adobe's popular document format.

Gal touted that as more secure.

"The traditional approach to rendering PDFs in a browser is to use a native-code plug-in, either Adobe's own PDF Reader or other commercial renderers, or some open-source alternative," Gal said in a post to his personal blog .

"From a security perspective, this enlarges the trusted code base, and because of that, Google's Chrome browser goes through quite some pain to sandbox the PDF renderer to avoid code injection attacks. An HTML5-based implementation is completely immune to this class of problems," he said.

Adobe Reader, the free PDF viewer whose plug-in is most notably used by Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE), has been updated five times so far this year to fix flaws discovered by, and in many cases exploited by, cyber criminals. Three of those updates were "out-of-band," or emergency releases to address critical vulnerabilities hackers were actively exploiting.

By shunning the Reader plug-in, a browser sidesteps the vulnerabilities that come with the Adobe software.

Mozilla will initially provide the in-browser PDF viewer via a Firefox extension, but Gal said the ultimate goal was to ship the viewer inside the browser. "This will result in a substantial usability but also security improvement for our users," he argued.

Mozilla has dubbed the open-source project "pdf.js," and has published detailed plans on its site, as well as source code on Github.

Gal said that other browsers could also use pdf.js to display PDF documents.

"We would love to see it embedded in other browsers or Web applications," Gal said. "Because it's written only in standards-compliant Web technologies, the code will run in any compliant browser."

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You know I have an efficient mena sof loading PDF's in Firefox with the Foxit Plugin.. editing and all.. BUT the one thing I think that nobody can get around i n fact the download time from the server of the PDF.. PDF Streaming of some sort would be a good idea.. but this would mean a complete change in how PDF files are actually served and created.. as well as used.. This is the problem I could not get around so disabling plugins or that effect was the route I chose.. loading them from my HD nto FF was fast usually.. but online was a completely different story all together.. and of course the way things would come to a halt as the plugin sat there waiting to process the file.. and of course.. scanning with protection...

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Personally I don't like PDF in browser. I feel insecure. And Nitro's safe mode (i think it does have safe mode, dunno :P ) is better than using plugins.

About the loading times, many have complained over it. Both on internet side (where only one or two pages get loaded) and on computer resources side.

I guess it'll be interesting to see how Mozilla does it. :)

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