Google Chrome and pdfs

This my story of struggle to get Google Chrome working nicely with pdf-files. First I will talk the symptoms and finally I will walk through the suggestions and fixes I found from the web.

So I first installed Chrome version (newest at the time of writing). I already had Acrobat Reader installed.

OK, so basically everything worked just fine,  pdfs opened inside Chrome using the adobe reader plugins. Unfortunately, there Acrobat Reader seems to have some problems on my computer so sometimes it just hangs indefinitely. The problem is that then the Chrome hangs…The whole program!…I know, I know it shouldn’t happen because Chrome should run each tab in its own process but it seems that some compromises has been made when it comes to plugins (like the Acrobat Reader plugin).

OK, I must admit that after you wait something like 10 seconds, Chrome asks if you want to shut down the non-responding plugins. After pressing OK, pdf-tabs come back alive by refreshing them.

This was unsatifactory for me, since the Adobe plugin hanged quite often.

I wanted to know whether the problem was the Acrobat reader or the plugin itself. I tested opening pdf files manually from explorer and found out that sometimes the whole acrobat reader just hanged and I had to force kill it. It’s quite safe to assume that this was the reason why the Chrome sometimes stopped responding too.

Solution Suggestion #1: Disable pdf viewing in Adobe Reader (Open pdfs outside the browser)

  1. Open Acrobat Reader, select Settings/Internet and uncheck the ”Display PDF in browser” checkbox.
  2. Restart chrome and open pdf file

When the option is unchecked, Chrome opens every pdf file outside the browser, therefore opening Acrobat Reader. OK, this might be good for some, but it didn’t resolve my problem since the Acrobat Reader itself hanged quite often.

Note: Chrome doesn’t handle this setting very nicely. When you press pdf hyperlink in page, let’s say ”” it opens it outside the acrobat reader, but unlike you might expect the URL bar in Chrome still displays ”” EVEN THOUGH the website is still displayed. None of the stuff in the website is clickable since the real URL is ””, not ””. So ther must understand to press Back-button to get to the web page the link is on. Not very ideal, when compared to IE or FF, for example. At this point I can tell you that I haven’t found a way to Chrome work properly in this situation. So currently there’s no way (as far I can tell) to tell Chrome to open pdfs outside the browser, and not changing the url of the browser to the pdf. Chrome seems to be designed to use the pdf plugin and nothing else.

Solution Suggestion #2: Install alternative pdf viewer, Foxit Reader (Best I’ve found so far)

There exists alternative pdf readers, one of them is Foxit Reader. It’s free but has some ads displayed on the top corner. I thought that this might fix the problems I was having with Acrobat Reader.

I installed Foxit Reader normally and associated all pdf files to it. It worked very fast and didn’t show no problems. PDFs opened automatically using Foxit, as expected.

The problem was that Chrome still opened the files using the acrobat reader!!! This is against all expectations, definately Chrome should respect system’s defaults.

After digging deeper (Note:you can see the used plugins by writing about:plugins to the URL bar) it seems that that Chrome still uses Acrobat Reader pdf plugin and ofcourse the Acrobat plugin opens Acrobat Reader.

I’ve googled way to make Chrome use the Foxit Reader plugin but all suggestions didn’t seem to work (One of them suggested creating Plugins folder inside Chrome directories and moving the foxit plugin dll there, didn’t work for me.)

It seems that Chrome uses Acrobat Reader plugin nppdf32.dll located in

C:\Program Files (x86)\Adobe\Reader 9.0\Reader\Browser

If you just delete the file, pdfs don’t open at all in the browser so that doesn’t work. EDIT: Deletion is enough, and after that Foxit browser works.

What if we replace the file with the Foxit plugin (btw, it’s located in C:\Program Files (x86)\Foxit Software\Foxit Reader\plugins\npFoxitReaderPlugin.dll)

Well, it turns out that after this the Chrome opens pdfs inside the browser, using the Foxit Reader. I’m satisfied with the result, although it’s not perfect. Ideally I would prefer the pdfs opening outside the browser but please note the problems mentioned before.

By the way, the solutions might be easier if you just delete the Acrobat Reader alltogether and install Foxit Reader, probably then Chrome would understand to use Foxit. I’m not ready for this yet (until I’ve verified that Foxit displays the pdfs correctly).

Chrome seems to have some sort of weakness here, I think the user should be able to set which file is opened in what application.

Hopefully this helps someone. Please ask and comment!

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