Tip o’ the Week #138 – PDFs on Windows 8

clip_image001File Extensions. The lost remnants of MS DOS that started to vanish when Windows 95 removed the tyranny of the 8.3 for most people. This 8 year old survey asks, which one are you?

There are other historical artefacts littered around in Microsoft history – like the alias/login name, which for many is still their email address and is limited in length.

From a 1998 snapshot of the Microspeak Glossary:

E-Mail Names: On the surface, a reasonably logical method of distinguishing 20,000 or so Microsoft employees and contractors on the internal corporate e-mail system. Consists of a five- or six-letter alias (q.v.) constructed from first and last name — if Leonardo Di Caprio worked for Microsoft, for example, his e-mail handle would be something like "leodic." Where it gets strange is that the corporate culture fosters a substitution of the e-mail name for the real name, in memos, formal documents, and even, repellently, in conversation. (Ex: "johnd owns that issue," "contingent staffers report to edcur," and constant casual references to Bill Gates as "billg.")

[in actual fact, the maximum email name, logon name or alias length was 7 then 8 characters, a restriction originally imposed by the Xenix and then MSMail systems – Xenix was a version of Unix which Microsoft used to sell, and on which our first corporate-wide email system was based. MSMail disappeared nearly 15 years ago, yet the length limit still applies because, erm, nobody knows why. Probably.]

People continue to refer to document types by their file name extension, at least in part – “PPT” is still used (even if it’s really a PPTX); now and again you’ll talk about a “JPEG” or “MPEG”, but one of the most used is “PDF”.

The Portable Document Format was originally used by Adobe nearly 20 years ago, after the company was founded by people who had worked at the legendary Xerox PARC (having developed the PostScript page description language there, clip_image003before leaving – like seemingly everyone else at PARC – with their good ideas, and making millions elsewhere).

There’s a PDF reader built into Windows 8 (called, simply, “Reader”). It’s quick, it’s clean, it isn’t full clip_image004of unwanted functionality and security vulns, and it’s already there, so no downloading and updating every time you reboot. Hurah!

The downside? Well, sometimes it can look a bit funny on different machines, and it isn’t so easy to print as you might expect – on the Charms Bar (swipe from the right, throw your mouse to the bottom right, or press Wnd-C) you need to use Devices to print out.

The most annoying feature though, is when you click on a PDF link in an web page or an attachment in email, you view it in the full-screen, chromeless, Modern UI, and when you’re done, you close the window by dragging down from the middle of the top (like in any Modern UI app). And you get dumped back to the Start screen rather than the app you were in.


Ex-UK wonderboy Matt McSpirit was always a big proponent of Foxit Reader, an alternative to Adobe’s ubiquitous, monolithic and forever-needing-patched trad. PDF reader app. If you spend most of your time in the Desktop app side of Windows 8, then you might want to check it out – it integrates with browsers (of several flavours), and it is quick to launch and easy to make go away too.

If you do take a look at Foxit Reader from the link above, make sure, however, you pay attention to the install routine (this one) – like a lot of software these days, it insists on advising that if you don’t want to not install this software and not make it your undefault, then make sure you don’t not untick this already ticked box

Check you don’t want what it wants to set your defaults, that you uncheck the checked check boxes. Check?



Other PDF readers are available. Paul “Woody” Woodman recommends PDF-XChange Viewer; you may want to check that out before taking the plunge.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *