I’ve recently come across a new program that makes reading PDFs into a better experience. Oh, by the way, it’s free, too.
Viewing PDF files is easy on a modern Mac. By default you just double click on the file and Preview will open it up. There is no need to use anything else, though some people who got in the habit of using Adobe Reader (Adobe Acrobat Reader in older incarnations) will download that from the Adobe website. You might prefer the way it looks but Adobe Reader is slower in opening and viewing files than Preview.
There are some reasons to have a copy of Reader, It is better suited to filling our PDF forms and works in conferencing situations that use Adobe Acrobat Connect. I have maybe filled out two PDF forms in the last three years. Reader makes accessing documents that incorporate accessibility features for the vision impaired possible in a way that other PDF viewers don’t, as well as offering some security features you won’t find elsewhere. If you have any of these special needs, Adobe Reader is the best choice. For everyday use I never open my copy.
There are other PDF viewer options. One I particularly like is Skim . What makes the Skim PDF reader more useful than other options? I’m glad you asked. The list of features it offers is pretty long but there are a few that I particularly like.
As more and more documentation is created in PDF format we often end up dealing with long manuals, even e-books. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to save your place and come back to it later? Not a problem with Skim. Set a bookmark, title it so you know what your are bookmarking when you come back to it.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to add notes to a page you are reading? As PDFs are read only documents, that isn’t easy. Well, yes it is with Skim. Click on a page you want to annotate and a yellow box pops up. Start typing and you have a note. Skim lists notes in a sidebar with page location.
Highlighting – Circling
You don’t want to go to the trouble of making a note but you still want to call out a part of a page for later attention. Skim makes it easy to add the digital equivalent of a yellow marker to any selected text. Want to call attention to a graphic on a page? Adding a circle (or box) around it is just as easy. Strikethroughs, lines and underlines are all there too. With Adobe Reader you can add notes or markup if the original author sets the document up that way, in other words, sometimes.
E-books and special documents sometimes come password protected. Remembering passwords and manually typing them in each time I open a PDF is annoying. With Skim that isn’t necessary. It connects with Keychain to store passwords. Enter them in once, check the remember in Keychain box and forget about them.
Full Screen View
Sometimes it’s nice to be able to remove distractions while reading. Skim has a full screen view feature that hides everything but the page you are reading. Nice.
Another handy feature Skim offers is the Magnifying Glass Tool. Click on it in the Tool Bar then click on a section of the page and it instantly magnifies. Move the tool around and the section you are magnifying moves too.
Skim is feature rich and has a number of other features that set it apart from simple PDF readers like Preview and Reader. Some of them like AppleScript and LaTeX support are only for the technical user, but presentations, a reading bar and the ability to export notes are useful for the rest of us.
Skim is a bit slow compared to Preview but does display as quickly as Adobe Reader on my iBook. Both are fast on my new Intel iMac, but that has 4GB of RAM installed. Documentation is pretty good and available through the help menu but it isn’t as detailed as I’d like.
So far Skim has been stable for me and is now my default PDF reader. Give it a try. It’s free. http://skim-app.sourceforge.net/