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June 7, 2010

Adobe Reader for Android and Your Feedback

It’s been two weeks since Adobe Reader for Android went live on the Android Market. To date, we’ve seen over 250,000 downloads and received a lot of great feedback from our end-users. We’re also getting some great questions regarding our thoughts concerning PDF and mobile environments. I thought I’d answer a few of those questions here.

Mobile Devices and Varying Screen Sizes
The expanding array of mobile devices are driving demand for new and better applications that enable customers to read and use PDF in the mobile environment. Adobe Reader for Android is our first version of Adobe Reader targeting the new wave of smartphone devices. In this first release, we focused on two major areas that we think differentiate Adobe Reader from other choices.

Mobile devices offer incredible opportunities, but they can also create interesting challenges as a result of limited resources and smaller screen sizes. We spent a lot of time making sure that the interaction with PDF documents was not only natural and easy, but also accurate with good performance. For instance, we tested Adobe Reader for Android against a wide variety of PDF documents and found that, on average, we successfully displayed the first page roughly twice as fast as other viewers. But, we also found that on some documents, the responsiveness of the application can lag a bit. Therefore, we are looking carefully at new ways of improving this.

Supporting the PDF Specification
The PDF specification is quite broad and includes many capabilities that address a wide range of document use cases. A key value proposition of any Adobe Reader is that it handles the fullest possible range of PDF for any given category of device or application. Given the limitations of the mobile environment, we can’t yet claim support for the full ISO 32000 specification, but we believe we support the broadest range of the spec for the most common use cases. We ran Adobe Reader for Android through our PDF test suite, which contains real-world PDF documents like annual reports, presentations, contracts, invoices and press releases. We found that other viewers did not support several common PDF features such as:

  • Transparencies: objects on a page, such as images or text that are transparent or ‘show through’, which is an extremely common way to create drop shadows for 3D effects seen in brochures and presentations
  • Smooth Shading: used to accurately describe gradient fills, which are common in PowerPoint presentation backgrounds, including many of the templates that ship with the product
  • Masked Images: images that have portions made transparent, which is common for GIF images within web pages, and subsequently the PDFs created from those web pages
  • JBIG2 and JPEG2000: Compression algorithms commonly used to optimize file size for scanned documents

While Adobe Reader for Android, rendered them successfully.

What’s Next?
Are we done? Absolutely not. In general, we believe Adobe Reader for Android offers a great PDF experience on smartphones, but our work is only beginning. PDF is an incredibly powerful standard, which allows for capabilities like dynamic media, interactive forms and digital signatures. Bringing those advanced technologies to mobile platforms will most certainly require new innovative designs, platform advancements and cloud services. One thing is for certain, your feedback is key. We’ve been very pleased with all the great thoughts so far. So, please keep it up. And, stay tuned, there’s a lot more coming!

Steve Gottwals, Group Product Manager, Adobe Reader

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