Google Chrome gets 'native' PDF support

Faster, more secure, more stable, says company

Google has started using its next generation plug-in API to embed support for Adobe Acrobat PDFs more deeply into the Chrome browser. The company believes this will benefit security, performance and reliability.

According to Google, the latest developer version of Chrome, 6.0.437.3 for Linux, Mac, and Windows, debuts native support for PDFs using the NPAPI (Netscape Plugin Application Programming Interface).

The benefits? Although browsers can already open PDFs, the experience can be unreliable and limited in some respects. According to Google, the new architecture will allow PDFs to be treated like any other web page.

"PDF files will render as seamlessly as HTML web pages, and basic interactions will be no different than the same interactions with web pages (for example, zooming and searching will work as users expect)," says Google's latest developer blog.

"PDF rendering quality is still a work in progress, and we will improve it substantially before releasing it to the beta and stable channels."

As with the parallel integration of Chrome with Adobe's Flash player, it will also make the environment more secure. The most important implication is that users will automatically receive the latest version of the plug-in required to view PDFs which could make Chrome one of the safest ways to open such a document without having to fall back to potentially insecure readers.

PDFs will run inside Chrome's secure browser sandbox.

Although Google doesn't say it, the development should also help speed and reliability. PDFs are often slow to open, sometimes crash, which is only partly because they download by default. Once the feature has been finalised, they should open in Chrome at similar speeds to any web page without faltering.

Users needing more advanced PDF features will still be given the option to launch a separate PDF reader.

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