Jul 08

Despite my love for Firefox, I sorely miss the ability to view PDFs in my web browser. One of Safari’s and Internet Explorer’s really big advantages over Mac Firefox is its ability to display PDFs inline – Safari does so using either PDFkit (built-in support) and Internet Explorer does so by the more full-featured Adobe Reader plugin (Safari can be set to use this plugin as well).

Having experienced inline PDF viewing in Safari, gotten used to the Adobe PDF Preview Handler of Outlook 2007 and its more simple first-page-only Preview cousin in Entourage 2008, I was pleased to learn of the Firefox-Mac-PDF plugin for Firefox 3, which allows for the same inline PDF viewing found in Safari.

Without native PDF viewing support in Mac Firefox, PDFs must be downloaded and opened by another program for viewing. While Preview is more than up to this task, you have to wait for it to launch, and sometimes it’s nice to be able to view a PDF directly in the browser. For those time-oriented folks like me, the free Firefox-Mac-PDF plugin does the job nicely. It opens PDFs directly in Firefox, using Apple’s PDFKit.

The plugin works on OS X 10.4+ both on PowerPC and on Intel Macs. To install Firefox PDF Plugin for Mac OS X (v1.1.1 was released on July 2nd, 2009)…

  1. Firefox users may click to install the plugin (.xpi)
  2. Download it from it’s Google Code project page and just open the Firefox Add-ons panel by going to Tools > Add-ons. Drag the downloaded “.xpi” file to the Add-ons. Once you restart Firefox you’ll be able to view all PDFs right within Firefox and will notice a Quartz PDF Plugin in the Firefox Extensions screen.
Firefox-Mac-PDF Plugin Context Menu

Firefox-Mac-PDF Plugin Context Menu

Firefox-Mac-PDF uses OS X’s PDFKit to display PDFs, so it’s not relying on any undocumented features or third-party tools to get the job done. While viewing a PDF, you can control-click (right-click) to access a contextual menu that you’ll find to be nearly identical to that of Safari’s. While you can use the viewing options, including zoom level and viewing modes, you can also use Firefox’s built-in zoom features (in the View menu or keyboard shortcuts) to adjust zoom level and the arrow, page up/down keys, which all work as expected.

2 Responses to “Firefox PDF Plugin for Mac OS X”

  1. Steve Loveless Says:

    I'd been a big fan of FF for so long–until it started crashing all the time on me with more recent 3.x releases. I've given Safari a chance after finding Xmarks (to replace my usage) and have really been digging it. I do miss some of the plugins, but oddly enough (for me), I'm opting for stability over functionality for once (having FF crash in the middle of major Jira tasking is a total PITA).

  2. lcalcote Says:

    Steve, this is too funny. I'm the same boat. At the time of writing this post, I'd actually gone through the same transition you have and had switched to Safari 4 beta. Just after the 3.x releases of FF, it started crashing on me all the time, typically when I was mid-sentence in a textarea. There was one redeeming factor to these crashes (and the reason I put up with them as long as I did), which is that upon restart of FF I would choose to reopen all previously open tabs and FF actually retained my work (text that I had typed). This feature may have saved my Macbook Pro from a fist through the screen.

    I've since moved over to Safari and am enjoying the Top Sites tab and resizable textareas features. I do miss my FF plugins, though. And have added an hotkey to Safari to facilitate my transition from FF –> ⌘+K. I was so keen on ⌘+K in FF to jump focus on the search box in the upper, right-hand corner. I'm happy to have the same hotkey now in Safari. Previously, the key sequence was ⌥⌘+K, which felt like an unnatural contortion of my poor fingers.

    I gave Xmarks a shot, too, which really helped in transitioning my bookmarks from FF to Safari. I've dropped Xmarks now, though. Not because I don't like it, but because I keep some of my usernames/passwords in the name field of many of my bookmarks (I find this a convenient way of accessing them when cookies fail me). So, this is a privacy issue for me with Xmarks. Others who also store their credentials in the name of their bookmarks have asked for a feature to not share or remove this info. Xmarks declined. :(

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