Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Launching Adobe Reader faster on Mac OS X or Windows

An article was posted on Macworld, Mac OS X Hints: Create a lean, mean Adobe Reader machine, which I immediately following to get Adobe Reader to launch as fast as a browser. Adobe Reader launch speed is one of those annoying things you might never really do anything about, but it probably affects you on a daily basis. To improve launch speeds on Windows, I couldn't find any information on how to do it manually, but luckily, someone has written a donationware utility Adobe Reader SpeedUp 1.34 that does what the Finder does in OS X. Adobe Reader 6.0.4 on Windows now launches in about 3 seconds, comparable to Adobe Reader 7.0.5 on OS X after the plug-ins the Macworld article suggested.

How does it work?

Adobe is not strickly necessary on OS X because of the built-in PDF, Preview, which works extremely well. Because Adobe Reader was so slow to load and a view other things, I prefer it to Adobe Reader. But occasionally, a PDF has been created in Adobe Acrobat that follows a new PDF version, so you need to the latest version of Adobe Reader. This happened once or twice, so I keep it around and having it launch as fast as possible is a huge bonus. Making Adobe Reader launch faster is done by disabling Plug-ins most users don't need. On OS X this was simple because it is built-in to the Finder's Get Info window (Apple-I) for the Adobe Reader application with a Plug-Ins section. On Windows with Adobe Reader 6.0.4, from within the application I can't manage plug-ins at all, and Windows has no concept of application Plug-Ins that show up in the Properties window. If you look at the folder structure of Adobe Reader, there is a plug-ins folder that has the same naming of Plug-Ins as I did see in the Finder Get Info window. So perhaps you can just remove the Plug-Ins from the plug_ins folder on Windows (this could be what's happening in OS X as well, just the whole Bundle abstraction for application contents hides this away, I didn't look at the Bundle contents because disabling plug-ins just worked). The Adobe Reader SpeedUp 1.34 utility on Windows moves all but 5 Plug-Ins to from the ReaderInstallDirectory\plug_ins to ReaderInstallDirectory\optional. I don't know if it tweaks any application settings, I am not that interested in firing up Filemon and Regmon from to figure this out. The utlity release notes say that Adobe Reader will load all Plug-Ins in the optional folder on demand, which seems like how Adobe Reader should be configured to begin with anyway! Adobe, hello, get a clue that the fast majority of user's don't need the eBook Plug-In launching by default along with the 37 OTHERS I counted in the optional folder. I have to check OS X to see if the Plug-Ins manager in the Finder does the same thing. My guess is that is does, since it looks like the reader is developed on OS X and ported to Windows. The tell-tale sign is usually the Edit -> Preferences to get to user options instead of Tools -> Options.