2 good open source PDF readers

Spent some time this morning looking into different PDF readers. The default document viewer on Ubuntu is Evince. It works, no significant complaints, but overall I think I read enough PDF’s that a little more full featured, or nicer reader might be… nice. Found a decent comparison article, a bit outdated, but still helpful. I want to stick with open source, and in that vein I also found this nice little site which I will definitely be pointing people to in the future. (What is the best way to use those link buttons to compliment the grails PDF plugin that I work on?)

Okular looked like a the most promising alternative, so I did a quick install via Synaptic, it’s meant for KDE so it brought a bunch of dependencies along with it. After the install completed it started up no problem on my Gnome desktop. I see some things I like, but I am not sold just yet. However, a few nice features and UI polish can go a long way, time will tell.

To do my initial comparison I used the latest issue of Full Circle, which is a pretty cool e-zine. What I found out is that both of these readers do pretty well. Where Evince wins is simplicity and speed. Also it seems to render images a little better and text a little faster, judging just by appearance it looks like it has smarter anti-aliasing. For all I know this rendering advantage could reverse if I were in KDE. Probably the most negative thing I have to say about Okular is that the thumbnails looked pretty bad. The images in the thumbnail previews were great, better than Evince by a bit, but the text was rendered really poorly when the thumbnails were small.

Now where Okular wins. It has a nicer desktop icon (how pettty is that! ) and I like its default UI layout and options better. It has some really cool (and useful) features that Evince just can’t match. The three I played with were Bookmarks, Reviews and Selection. I did find out a couple features of Evince that I was unaware of, and I subsequently added a handful of buttons to the toolbar that in my opinion should be there by default.

My loose conclusion is that I will keep Evince around and use it to view shorter documents that I don’t need to interact with much, and I will used Okular for things like reading e-books.

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