View PDF files in Firefox without downloading them | How to

View PDF files in Firefox without downloading them

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To display PDF files inside the Firefox browser window, you can use the built-in PDF Viewer or a PDF reader plugin. This article covers both methods and how to fix the common issues you might encounter.

To display PDF files inside the Firefox browser window, you can use the PDF Viewer extension or a PDF reader plugin. This article covers both methods and how to fix the common issues you might encounter.

Note: The PDF viewer is now built into Firefox. Update Firefox to get it.

Using the built-in PDF Viewer

Firefox now includes a built-in PDF viewer that allows you to view almost all PDF files found on the web without a plugin. The built-in PDF viewer is enabled by default.

Using the PDF Viewer extension

PDF Viewer (aka pdf.js) is a new revolutionary extension using web standard technologies that allows you to display within Firefox almost all PDF files found on the web without a plugin.

PDF JS

If you've installed a PDF reader plugin like Adobe Reader, you'll have to disable it (and any other PDF reader plugins) before the PDF viewer extension will work.

  1. At the top of the Firefox window, click on the Firefox buttonOn the menu bar, click on the Tools menuAt the top of the Firefox window, click on the Tools menu, and then click Add-ons. The Add-ons Manager tab will open. Click the menu button New Fx Menu and choose Add-ons. The Add-ons Manager tab will open.

  2. In the Add-ons Manager tab, select the Plugins panel.
  3. Select each PDF reader plugin and click Disable close to it.

PDF Viewer toolbar functions

  • View document thumbnails or outline - The slider button on the far left will open a sidebar with thumbnails of the document's pages. Some documents will also have an outline view available. These make it easy to navigate through a long document.

    PDF Thumbnails
  • Page up and down or skip directly to a page - You can use the up and down arrows to page through a document or enter the number of the page you want to go to.

    PDF Pager
  • Change the size of the document - Use the + and - buttons to zoom in and out or choose a zoom setting from the dropdown menu.

    PDF Zoom
  • Fullscreen or Presentation mode - Click the fullscreen button to allow the PDF file to take over your entire screen. Press ESC to exit fullscreen mode.

    PDF Fullscreen
  • Print - Click the Printer button to open the print setup dialog.

    PDF Print
  • Download - Click the Download button to save the PDF file to your computer or to open it with a PDF reader program.

    PDF Download
  • Copy current view - Right-clickHold down the Ctrl key while you click the current view button to open the current view in another tab or window.

    PDF Copy

PDF Viewer keyboard shortcuts

Command Shortcut
Next page n or k or
Previous page p or j or
Zoom in Ctrl + +command + +
Zoom out Ctrl + -command + -
Automatic Zoom Ctrl + 0command + 0
Rotate the document clockwise r
Rotate counterclockwise Shift + r

Troubleshoot problems with the PDF viewer

Some PDF files don't render well or are blank

With certain types of PDF files, the PDF Viewer may have problems displaying fonts, colors or the whole document. To view these files:

  • Click the download button on the right side of the document header in order to open it with the default PDF program on your computer.

Cannot open any PDF files

Some extensions that block JavaScript may prevent PDF Viewer from working. You can disable them to allow PDF viewer to work:

  1. At the top of the Firefox window, click on the Firefox buttonOn the menu bar, click on the Tools menuAt the top of the Firefox window, click on the Tools menu, and then click Add-ons. The Add-ons Manager tab will open. Click the menu button New Fx Menu and choose Add-ons. The Add-ons Manager tab will open.

  2. In the Add-ons Manager tab, select the Extensions panel.
  3. Select each blocking extension and click Disable close to it.

For more information, see Troubleshoot extensions, themes and hardware acceleration issues to solve common Firefox problems.

Using a PDF reader plugin

If you'd rather not use PDF Viewer, you can use a PDF reader plugin like Adobe Reader, Nitro PDF Reader or Sumatra PDFAdobe Reader, MozPlugger, or KParts pluginSchubert|it PDF Browser Plugin on Mac OS X 10.6 and later.

To change from using the built-in PDF viewer to your PDF reader plugin:

  1. At the top of the Firefox window, click on the Firefox button and then select OptionsAt the top of the Firefox window, click on the Tools menu and then select OptionsOn the menu bar, click on the Firefox menu and select Preferences...At the top of the Firefox window, click on the Edit menu and select Preferences

    Click the menu button New Fx Menu and choose OptionsPreferences

  2. Select the Applications panel.
  3. Find Portable Document Format (PDF) in the list and click on it to select it.
  4. Click on the drop-down arrow in the Action column for the above entry and select Use PDF reader name (in Firefox).

    Opening PDF - Win v2

If PDF files are downloaded instead of displayed, try these solutions

If PDF files are downloaded instead of displayed, check your settings

  1. At the top of the Firefox window, click on the Firefox button and then select OptionsAt the top of the Firefox window, click on the Tools menu and then select OptionsOn the menu bar, click on the Firefox menu and select Preferences...At the top of the Firefox window, click on the Edit menu and select Preferences

    Click the menu button New Fx Menu and choose OptionsPreferences

  2. Select the Applications panel.
  3. Find Adobe Acrobat Document (if you're using Adobe Reader) or PDF files (for other PDF readers) in the list and click on it to select it.
  4. Click on the drop-down arrow in the Action column for the above entry and select Use PDF reader name (in Firefox).

    Opening PDF - Win
    • If Use PDF reader name (in Firefox) is not listed as an Option, see Reset download actions below and then repeat this set of instructions.
  5. Click OK to close the Options windowClick Close to close the Preferences windowClose the Preferences window

Additional solutions

Reset download actions

  1. Open your profile folder:

    At the top of the Firefox window, click on the Firefox button, go over to the Help menuOn the menu bar, click on the Help menuAt the top of the Firefox window, click on the Help menu and select Troubleshooting Information. The Troubleshooting Information tab will open.Click the menu button New Fx Menu , click help Help-29 and select Troubleshooting Information. The Troubleshooting Information tab will open.

  2. Under the Application Basics section, click on Show FolderShow in FinderOpen Directory. A window with your profile filesfolder will open.
  3. Note: If you are unable to open or use Firefox, follow the instructions in Finding your profile without opening Firefox.

  4. At the top of the Firefox window, click on the Firefox button and then select ExitAt the top of the Firefox window, click on the File menu and then select ExitOn the menu bar, click on the Firefox menu and select Quit FirefoxAt the top of the Firefox window, click on the File menu and select Quit

    Click the menu button New Fx Menu and then click ExitQuit Close 29

  5. Delete the mimetypes.rdf file.

Check Application settings

If the PDF reader plugin comes bundled with a reader application, check the application plugin setting if there is some.

  • Adobe Reader:
    1. Open Adobe Reader.
    2. Once in Adobe Reader, click the Edit menu in the menu bar, and then click Preferences.... The Preferences window will open.
    3. In the Categories section, click on Internet.
    4. Make sure the first check box, Display PDF in browser, is checked.
    5. Click OK to dismiss the Preferences window, and then close Adobe Reader.

If you still can't view a PDF in Firefox, continue with the next following instructions.

Re-initialize the plugins database

Follow the instructions in Re-initializing the plugins database.

This will force Firefox to rebuild its plugin database. If you still can't view a PDF in Firefox, continue with the next following instructions.

Re-install the application

If the PDF reader plugin comes bundled with a reader application and the above troubleshooting methods for Firefox did not work, uninstall and re-install the application.

If you still can't view a PDF in Firefox, continue with the next following instructions.

Further information for Adobe Reader

If none of the above troubleshooting methods worked, see Can't view PDF on the web from Adobe.com for further instructions.



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