Saturday, June 18, 2011

Browser developers at Google 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, media tablet 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 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 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 and Linux, the Mac version will be coming 
soon.

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.

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