Scott Hanselman

Office 2007 Foxit PDF Previewer/Handler

February 28, 2007 Comment on this post [18] Posted in Reviews | Tools
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Tim Heuer gives to the community and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. 

Everyone's been waiting ((and waiting) and waiting) for a PDF Previewer for Outlook 2007. I'm shocked that Adobe didn't get their act together in time and release one at the time of the launch. It would have been a compelling enough reason to actually put the crapware software on my system.

Well, of course you know I love Foxit Software because their tiny and glorious little PDF Reader (and PDF Creator) software keeps my computer moving fast and Adobe-(Reader) free.

Update for clarity - I'm complaining about how slow Acrobat 7 is, especially with regard to all it's plugins that it starts up during the splash screen. It's true that Foxit has crashed on larger PDFs and there's some quirky rendering sometimes, but I currently still prefer it for "casual PDF'ing." As for Adobe the company, I love PhotoShop, so I'm not impugning the whole building.

Now, Tim has combined the Foxit ActiveX SDK and an MSDN sample on how to create an Office Preview Handler and just called Foxit up. (The MSDN one uses Acrobat if you like.)

Bam. It was done.

WARNING: The PDF Previewer only works on Vista right now. Tim says via email:

"The problem with XP is that the preview handler model is slightly different.

In Vista, the preview handler is provided through a managed preview surrogate (you can see it running when you do a preview) called prevhost.exe.  In XP, this doesn’t exist and the preview must be handled by a COM surrogate."

Last year Tim wrote a Code Preview Handler (not sure if this works in XP?) so I guess I'll be collecting the best of these, methinks!

Let's all go over and crush Tim's blog with comments of encouragement. And convince him to make XP versions. He says:

"So, the next step for this project for me is to create the managed COM host for this code-base.  I have some stuff researched…but anyone interested in providing that host is appreciated. Time is not on my side for that one."

If you have the expertise and can write the unmanaged COM code, give him a shout.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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February 28, 2007 22:13
> keeps my computer moving fast and Adobe-free

So, you don't have Flash installed? PDF is a bloated pig, but is Adobe really so atrocious across the board?
February 28, 2007 22:42
Once you've tried Foxit, you'll know what speed truly is. I can open and close Foxit 10 times before Adobe starts up.
February 28, 2007 23:10
Good read Scott! Foxit will become my new best friend. I've been fed up for a while with Adobe. -Jason
February 28, 2007 23:19
I know it doesn't matter, but Foxit is only 100% free for non-commercial use--for commercial purposes you're apparently supposed to send them answers to a few questions like "who's using it" and "what are they using it for."

I just wish they would release it free for all purposes, commercial or non-commercial.

Check the page:
March 01, 2007 1:16
Foxit is faster than, well insert your own analogy here (tasteful or otherwise), but it looks like if a page has the viewer embedded as an ActiveX control and you can't download the file, you're sunk. Is that really the case? Either way, I'll probably use Foxit from here on out. Thanks for the tip.
March 01, 2007 2:31
Sigh. Can we get a little professional courtesy here?

As far as previewers go, you're right we (Adobe) don't have one yet. For that matter, Acrobat and Reader don't even officially support Vista yet. This is because Vista ended up slipping out past the Reader/Acrobat 8 ship deadline and we didn't want to take the leap of faith to support Vista when it wasn't finished and we didn't want to delay our ship date until after Microsoft shipped. We do have a Vista compatible dot release in the works. In the meantime, I think its great that Tim Heuer has done this, but there is a big difference between releasing an unsupported, hackish utility and releasing a supported product that gets used by literally millions of people.

As for speed, Reader 8 starts a heck of a lot faster than earlier versions. Foxit is still faster, but not that much faster. And Reader 8 has GPU support so the actual PDF reading experience is quite a bit faster on modern Vista machines.

I should also point out that Vista doesn't even ship with an XPS previewer, so Microsoft is just as guilty as Adobe in that respect. Are you just as shocked by that, Scott? Let's hear your outrage!
March 01, 2007 2:34
I do use FoxIt reader and totally agree it beats the pants off of Acrobat Reader.

My question was more about your comment that your computer is Adobe-free, which seemed a sweeping condemnation of their products. I wonder if that's what you meant?
March 01, 2007 3:29
Andrew - Heh. Sorry about the blatant troll. You have very valid points - I'll tone it down. I was wondering if you were going to jump in on this one. :)

I agree that XPS is just confusing and half-done, at least from a UX perspective. I have little use for it over PDF.

I also agree that that while Tim is cool as is his hack, it is just a hack. YMMV. It's just currently a salve on a festering wound - the missing previewers.

I don’t know if I agree with the non-waiting for Vista thing, but it seems you're probably right as EVERYONE did just what you did - wait and see. And that’s cool.

I do have one question - you said in the first breath that Reader doesn’t support Vista, but then you said that Reader 8 has GPU support under that the current or the dot release of Reader 8?

Brant - no, I'm all about Photoshop. I'll edit to clear it up.
March 01, 2007 3:39
I'm not sure i agree that it is a hack? what makes it a hack? the lack of *commercial* support? hmmm...welcome to the open source community i guess. this is using a full version of their sdk...i'm the consumer of the sdk, so i'm providing support... it even says that during the install (although maybe not clearly). i'm not sure it's fair to call it a hack. if i did the *same thing* with a standalone adobe control, would it be a hack andrew? i agree there is a big difference between unsupported things in the world, but that hasn't stopped anyone from using non-commercial versions of linux, ruby on rails, php, etc., etc. -- this is no different IMO. my email is for ping away :-)
March 01, 2007 3:44
Tim - Does this wikidefinition work? I'm not sure:

"In modern computer programming, a "hack" can refer to a solution or method which functions correctly but which is "ugly" in its concept, which works outside the accepted structures and norms of the environment, or which is not easily extendable or maintainable"

I suppose by this definition, it is extendable and maintainable since you are supporting it. I guess it felt "ugly" (nothing personal, not a good word) because it didn't come FROM Foxit, and that you said on your blog that they weren't supporting it.

If the release process was inverted and Foxit had release the exact same tool, I suppose I wouldn't have said "hack."

I just really want a pile of vendor released supported previewer - meaning, that the VS.NET team would have code previewers (does yours work on XP?) and Adobe would release a PDF Previewer, and Mindjet, etc...that you HAD to do the previewer yourself - that the pain of the missing previewer was so great - is a bummer, no?
March 01, 2007 3:53
I don't mean hackish in a demeaning way - I apologize if you felt I was putting you or your tool down. It is hackish in the sense that it doesn't work on XP, wasn't QA tested on a matrix of hundreds of machines, doesn't get technical support from Foxit, etc. No one expects you to do those things, and that's cool. But imagine if Adobe had released a previewer that only worked on Vista and not with XP. People would yell bloody murder!

That said, for the computer literate types who are willing to take a few risks, I think your tool is very useful and would recommend it to people who want such a solution now.
March 01, 2007 3:55
so in reading between the lines if foxit had released it, then it wouldn't be a hack. let me propose something. let's say i was just Software company XYZ and acquired a license to the Foxit ActiveX -- built a preview handler and released it. is that a hack? i don't think so...and that's exactly what was done here. my reasoning for including foxit in the promotion of it is because they rocked to work with and partnered to do it... but at the end of the day, i'm using a commercially available activex control in an application i wrote. so if i branded it a@ PDF Previewer, would it be less of a hack. i guess i just don't think it is a fair assessment. free != hack; free + from small ISV != hack -- again, just don't think that's a fair statment. now if it was released in "hack" style (to install, put this file here, change this registry code, do this, etc.) then it would be different. but time was spend in refining some of the sdk aspects, giving feedback to foxit, and trying to find best ways to implement in a lean fashion. and if it is lack of support, well read adobe's reader license agreement (section 7 about no warranty and no support) and section 3.4 about not even using any integration of the reader components) is adobe reader a hack?
March 01, 2007 4:00
andrew: thanks for the clarification. some corrections -- QA is a relative term :-) -- it was beta tested by a group of people (albeit that number might be minimal relative to how many people may actually use it) on varying platforms and versions of vista. doesn't support xp? that's right, but i explicitly state that it is a Vista/Office add-in -- my comments were that i want to *back port* to an XP product. there are plenty of things that are platform-specific...this is one of them, so again, that's not a valid point IMO. developing something for vista alone i think is fine...if you piss people off, you piss people off, but at the expense of what? if you wrote an awesome util that takes advantage of the desktop window manager in vista, is it wrong it won't work in XP? IMO, no. this version of the previewer works in Vista and Office on Vista...and that was it's intent. It was only by request that people have asked to be a part of XP...
March 01, 2007 4:24
Ya, I think you're right, Tim, if it was Tim Heuer "Micro-ISV" as opposed to Tim Heuer "Blogger" it might have be perceived differently. As you point out, it's not different. Thanks for making those distinctions.
March 01, 2007 4:27
All I'm saying is that the standards people judge against are different for large companies (Adobe, Apple, Microsoft) than they are for smaller companies and individuals. Be glad you don't have to deal with such things.
March 07, 2007 2:15
I was going to chime in in favor of Reader 8, and now I see Adobe beat me to it. I was all about FoxIt as a Reader replacement. It was the first thing I installed on Vista. But as you say, its got its issues and after hearing some positive comments, I tried Reader 8. And uninstalled FoxIt. Reader 8 is fast, doesnt have the issues FoxIt has, and just works.
March 07, 2007 2:32
Sounds like I need to check out Acrobat 8! Off to download again...
April 27, 2007 19:01
I have try this,but my computer become very slow.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.