There are forums full of questions relating to “my pc will not open pdf’s in browsers although I have Adobe Reader v9 as suggested in the resulting error message”. I have this issue as well.
There are forums full of almost any question you can think of, easily answered or not.
This one falls into the “surprisingly complex to answer” category.
Personally I hate having PDFs open within the browser. I find that the PDF reading application, like Foxit, Acrobat or others, generally provide me much more control over how the document is presented in turn making it much easier for me to read.
It’s one of the first things I change when I configure a browser.
But, of course, not everyone feels the way I do.
Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!
The Two Options
For those who aren’t familiar, I should probably review what I’m talking about.
PDF, or Portable Document Format, files are just that – individual files that contain a document designed to be easily viewed just about anywhere.
They require that you have a PDF reader of some sort installed. Most common is Adobe Acrobat Reader, though there are others such as Foxit Reader.
The “normal” approach to reading a PDF file that’s presented to you on a web page is to click on the link to the PDF, download it to your machine and then run the PDF reading application as a separate Window to open and read the document:
Here you can see Internet Explorer opened to the Internet Safety eBook download page, and Adobe Acrobat Reader with the document open in the foreground. When you click on the link to the PDF on the web page, the document is downloaded, either to a location of your choosing or the internet temporary files location, and then opened outside of the browser in the separate PDF reading application. (The way I like it.)
The alternative is this:
In this case, the adobe reader operates as an add-on within Internet Explorer, and displays the document within IE – almost treating it as if it were another web page, which of course it isn’t really. When you click on the link to the PDF the document is downloaded, this time almost certainly to the internet temporary files location, and the Adobe Reader addon opens the file displaying it within Internet Explorer.
You can tell this is a PDF document opened in an addon because of the additional PDF navigation controls at the top of the display window:
This is, apparently, the way others apparently like it.
The problem is that depending on which browser you use and which PDF reader you choose the setting you need to change may be in either, or both. You may also need to select additional options when installing the PDF reader to make sure that the options are even available.
Setting the Default with Adobe
When you use Adobe Reader, the option on where to display is a setting within Adobe, not within the browser.
Fire up Adobe Reader – you should find it in your Start menu. Once it’s open, click on Adobe’s Edit menu, and then the Preferences… menu item. On the left of the resulting Preferences… dialog box is a long list of categories; click on Internet
Check, or uncheck, the Display PDF in Browser as you wish. (If it doesn’t take effect immediately, you may need to close and restart the browser.)
When using FireFox it’s easiest to control what happens in Firefox itself.
Click on FireFox’s Tools menu, Options menu item, and then in the resulting Options dialog, the Applications tab. Near the top, if you have Adobe Acrobat installed, you’ll see “Adobe Acrobat document”. Click on the drop down menu to its left:
Click on “Use Adobe Reader” if you want PDFs to be displayed outside of the browser, or “Use Adobe Acrobat (in Firefox)” if you want PDFs to be displayed within the browser.
If instead of Adobe Acrobat you happen to use Foxit Reader, your options are similar. If you use Internet Explorer then run Foxit Reader, click on Tools and then Preferences and then click on the Internet category on the left:
Check, or not, “Display PDF in Browser” as you wish.
If you’re using Firefox and Foxit, we return to Firefox’s options exactly as before, except this time we look for “PDF Document” (or, in some cases “application/pdf”) and choose the setting for that:
Other Readers, Other “Gotcha’s”
As you can see, the setting may be in the browser itself, or in the PDF reader. With that, if things aren’t working as you expect, make sure to check both, if both are available.
If things aren’t working as expected, also make sure that the PDF Reader you choose is set to be the default reader. Some will check on startup and tell you, others will have an option, others will actually require that you uninstall all other readers and perhaps reinstall the one you want as the default.
And finally, the ability to display within your browser may be an additional option you need to select when you install your PDF reader.
Bottom line: it’s a bit of black magic to get things configured the way you want, particularly if you have several browsers and readers installed. But with the various places to look I’ve covered you should be able to get things set to your preferences.