Concept of plugins in browser will die soon. Few of its signs are already visible in the form of Chrome’s built in pdf reader or new browsers with HTML5 support. Plugins undoubtedly are useful but at the same time they also hamper performance as far as Firefox is concerned. To avoid such scenarios, developers are integrating features within the browser packages. Just like Chrome, Mozilla has now integrated the native PDF reader into its version 14.
Pdf.js Built-In PDF Reader for Firefox 14
Displaying PDFs directly in the browser would definitely improve the user’s experience. There are literally millions (billions?) of PDFs floating around the web, and on many devices loading PDFs switches to a different application (e.g. Preview on OS X and PDF View on Android). Also, external PDF readers and many plugins don’t support important PDF features well, including content links and fetch-as-you-go (HTTP range requests).
The traditional approach to rendering PDFs in a browser is to use a native-code plugin, either Adobe’s own PDF Reader or other commercial renderers, or some open source alternative (e.g. poppler). 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.
Firefox 14 which is in Nightly channel includes the inbuilt pdf reader. It is deactivated by default and is listed in the extensions menu. To test this feature you need to first enable it.
The pdf reader feature opens pdf documents in new tab and shows a small toolbar at the top from where you can skip to specific page, change zoom level, print the document, download the document or even bookmark the current location. From initial experience pdf.js built-in pdf reader for Firefox 14 looks good. Although it is not as good as Adobe’s but at least it is comparable with Google Chrome’s inbuilt pdf reader. Those who are interested in trying the extension can try its stable version or install nightly version of it to get the new experience. Try it and let us know through comments what do you feel about this new feature of Firefox.