Monday, April 14, 2008

Some basic usability features missing from Adobe Reader

I really like Adobe Reader and use it very frequently. It's probably one of the most popular pieces of software available, and it works across multiple environments due to the clever Portable Document Format (PDF) architecture.

For something that has been around for so long, I'm quite surprised that it lacks a couple of basic productivity features. I had a quick look at Adobe's web site, and couldn't locate any reference to these or how to formally request them, so here's my unofficial request list ...

Recently Used List is Limited to only 10 Documents

Over a period of several days, I might open many more than ten PDF documents, and often I want to re-open some of them from a few days ago. However, you can only set up a maximum of ten documents in the Recently used List (and the default is a miserly five documents):

(Click to view a larger image)
This is my main usability complaint against Adobe Reader (as at Release 8.1). The list size needs to be increased to store far more than the current maximum of 10 file names. I reckon that it should cater for at least 40 or 50 recently viewed documents, so that I can quickly and effectively re-open just about any document that I've viewed during the last week or two.

Tabbed Browsing of PDF Documents

I find it very clumsy to move backwards and forwards between open PDF documents, via the Windows menu item. I regard it as essential that the various open documents should be navigated to via tabs, like all of the current browsers do. Further, it should support tabs in multiple rows, which is the only workable method to manage navigation when you have 20 or 30 documents open at once (which I would do fairly often if I could).

Showing (circled in red) multi-row tabs in Avant Browser, here located at the top of the viewing window. Click for a larger image. And for the icing on the cake, as with my favorite Avant Browser (and Firefox, and others, but unlike Internet Explorer 7, which is pitiable in this regard) it would be nice if the tabs can be optionally positioned at the bottom of the viewing window so as to remove clutter from the top.

Facility to Bookmark PDF Documents, and in Groups

Using Avant Browser (and there's a feature like this in other browsers too), you can not only save 'bookmarks' or 'favorites' so that previously-viewed items can be quickly retrieved, but also you can bookmark PDF documents, and groups of PDF documents (thereby, in the latter case, enabling you to retrieve a whole set or subset of documents in one fell swoop). The following images give a snapshot of how Avant Browser does it:

Storing a group of web page URL links in Avant Browser. (Click for a larger image)
Restoring a group of web pages in Avant Browser. (Click for a larger image)

BTW, it so happens that Avant Browser is developed by a single person, so surely Adobe could devote a little development resource to match this! Features like the above would be a tremendous boon to Adobe Reader users in general -- even more so to heavy users and researchers like myself.

Enough said! What do you think? Would you find all or some of the above useful too?

1 comment:

  1. Today I dug up the Adobe Systems feature request web page ( ) and submitted an enhancement request, asking them to refer to the above article. Let's see if they ever respond to me, as one indication of how well they treat serious suggestions from IT professionals. From my own experience over the decades, the superlative companies always respond, the also-rans don't bother!