Saturday, June 25, 2011

Chrome, Firefox Browsers To Get Tighter PDF Integration


Better PDF functions are being built into Google's Chrome browser and Mozilla's Firefox. Beyond user convenience, avoiding the PDF plug-in from Adobe Systems removes a favorite hacker target. Chrome 13 beta saves web pages as a PDF file for reading away from an Internet connection. Firefox is getting a pdf.js spec to render web pages as PDFs.

Browser developers at Google Relevant Products/Services and Mozilla are working on new ways to more tightly integrate PDF capabilities. Google was the first browser maker to integrate a PDF reader in Chrome instead of a plug-in vulnerable to hacker attacks. Now Chrome developers have taken the next step.

A new print-preview function in Chrome 13 beta lets web surfers convert any web page into a PDF file. Users on a Wi-Fi-only notebook Relevant Products/Services, media tablet Relevant Products/Services, or PDF-compatible e-reader should find this capability useful because web content can now be stored as PDF files for later reading where hot-spot access Relevant Products/Services is unavailable.

"Print preview uses Chrome's built-in PDF viewer to display the page you want to print, and it updates automatically as you adjust your print settings," noted Google software Relevant Products/Services engineer Chris Bentzel. "You can also choose to save any web page as a PDF file, using the 'Print to PDF' option that's automatically included in the printer list."

From Web To PDF

Using print preview is a straightforward process. Users encountering a web page they wish to print can click on the tool icon in the upper right corner of the Chrome 13 browser to select the print menu option. Print preview automatically appears in a separate window that shows users what the web page currently being viewed will look like when printed.

The Print To PDF option is among the available selections in the drop-down menu next to the word "destination." Users can even specify a single page or pages of content to be printed from among those displayed in the preview window. Click the Print button to save the selection as a PDF file.

Chrome's lack of a print-preview function has been among the top Chrome user requests since Google started requesting user feedback in 2008, according to Bentzel. Having finally implemented it on Windows Relevant Products/Services and Linux, the Mac version will be coming soon. "Thanks for being patient with us on this one!" Bentzel added.

Building a New PDF Engine

Mozilla's developer community is working to eliminate the use of a native-code PDF plug-in from Adobe Systems by building a secure PDF rendering engine into future Firefox browser releases. However, the developers are approaching the problem in an entirely different way than Google's developers.

"Google's Chrome browser goes through quite some pain to sandbox the PDF renderer to avoid code-injection attacks," Mozilla researcher Andreas Gal wrote in a blog. "An HTML5-based implementation is completely immune to this class of problems."

Firefox developers are working on a new open-source specification dubbed pdf.js for rendering PDF files quickly and securely from within the browser that is based on HTML5/JavaScript coding.

"Our most immediate goal is to implement the most commonly used PDF features so we can render a large majority of the PDF files found on the web," Gal wrote. "We believe we can reach that point in less than three months. The entire code so far is less than one month old, and it already renders a large set of PDF features."

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