Tuesday, April 23, 2019

PDF Outlines, Bookmarks, and Preview

Howard Oakley:

I took a vanilla three-page PDF created using the Quartz 2D engine in Mojave, and tried to add an Outline or Bookmarks using each of the PDF editors I have to hand[…]


In most cases, whether called a Table of Contents, Outline or Bookmarks, the marked locations are written using a PDF /Outlines scheme, to a series of objects in the PDF source. The notable exception to this is Preview, which encodes Bookmark data in an XML stream rather than using /Outlines or any simple PDF objects.

All the apps are able to read Outlines or Bookmarks which use the /Outlines scheme. However, Preview’s XML stream doesn’t work in any other app of those tested.

Preview still hasn’t recovered from the rewrite in macOS 10.12. I continually get uncaught exception errors and hangs. These can actually be data-destructive because Preview will overwrite the on-disk file with unsaved changes, and if it doesn’t close the document in the normal way it won’t revert the file to its original state.

Previously: It’s Frustrating That Preview in Mojave Isn’t Better.

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My issue with Preview is that it won’t maintain multiple windows between relaunch. I like to keep PDFs perpetually open (for reference) and organized by windows and tabs with different themes (one window with “Electronics” PDFs in the tabs, another with “Music Theory”, etc). But once you close and relaunch Preview, all of the tabs get dumped into a single window. WTF? Does anyone at Apple actually use their own products?

On my Mac Pro running Mojave, I actually switched to Adobe Acrobat Reader due to Mojave's removal of anti-aliasing. I use a regular 1080i display, but I don't own a 4K display at this time. My PDFs look fuzzy on Preview.app, whereas they render perfectly fine in Adobe Acrobat Reader. Historically one of Mac OS X's bright spots is its pervasive support for PDFs through Quartz 2D; it's possible to print to PDF from any application. Unfortunately it's sad to see Preview.app degrade in quality; it used to be a superb app, and it used to be superior to the rather bloated-feeling Adobe Acrobat Reader.

On a related but larger note, I feel that while macOS is still superior to Windows 10 and the Linux desktop experience, over the years the macOS experience seems to have degraded from its high water mark, which I believe was the Leopard and Snow Leopard era (2007-2011). Some programs such as Photos.app and Preview.app have regressed compared to their Snow Leopard-era counterparts (I still miss iPhoto), and I'm concerned that Marzipan will further accelerate the decline of the macOS experience. Unfortunately Windows 10 is a hot mess (I use Windows 10 regularly; I've tried to like it, but I find the interface gaudy and the experience annoying with all of the notifications), and the Linux desktop does not have the fit and finish that Mac OS X has (it would be a beautiful moment if the Linux desktop caught up to even Panther's or Tiger's level of fit-and-finish). I'm concerned about the future of personal computing from a user standpoint; while there will be personal computers for the foreseeable future, I feel that the commercial stewards of personal computing don't care about desktop operating systems anymore, instead focusing their energies on more lucrative growth markets. Hopefully either Apple will begin caring about the Mac again, or some competitor will emerge that is fully dedicated to the personal computing experience, like how Apple used to be before the Tim Cook era.

"Does anyone at Apple actually use their own products?"

I'm not sure if they even read about them.

For PSPDFKit, we reverse engineered Preview’s Bookmark format - our SDK and the free pdfviewer.io apps for iOS, Android and soon macOS are compatible.


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