Raspberry Pi 4: Chronicling the Desktop Experience – Viewing PDFs – Week 9

Last Updated on April 8, 2020

This is a weekly blog about the Raspberry Pi 4 (“RPI4”), the latest product in the popular Raspberry Pi range of computers.

For this week’s blog, I’m putting the RPI4 through its paces as a viewer for Portable Document Format (PDF) files. I look at the pre-installed solutions including qpdfview. On the second page, I compare qpdfview to the many other PDF viewers in the Raspbian repositories. This week’s blog ends with information about all the software.

PDF is a file format created by Adobe Systems in 1993 for document exchange. The format includes a subset of the PostScript page description programming language, a font-embedding system, and a structural storage system.

Over the years PDF has become an extremely important file format. If you want to create documents that can be viewed under all major operating systems, PDF is the ticket, as it maintains the overall look and feel of documents regardless of what platform they are viewed under.

With a Raspbian installation, you’ve already got 2 ways to view PDF files. First, the installed web browser (Chromium) offers the ability to view PDFs. But with its hefty memory and CPU footprint, it’s overkill for the task at hand.

The other pre-installed solution is qpdfview. It offers a good feature range. PDF support is provided courtesy of Poppler, a PDF rendering library. But qpdfview isn’t just a PDF viewer. It offers support for a large range of other formats.

How does the software fare on the RPI? As succinctly as possible, it performs really well. It’s a genuine pleasure to read PDFs on the RPI4. A definite thumbs up from me.

There’s lots to admire about qpdfview. If you like tweaking, you’ll be happy that the software is extremely configurable. Some of the options are illustrated in the screenshots below.

qpdfview Settings
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qpdfview Settings PDF
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The left screenshot shows one of the settings panes. I strong recommend ticking the parallel search execution box; on the RPI4 enabling parallel searches makes a significant speed boost to searching PDF files.

There’s also PDF-specific options where you can enable/disable antialiasing, and text antialiasing. By default, no text hinting is enabled but you can choose from Full or Reduced.

The software is crammed with niceties like thumbnail panes, continuous and multi-page layouts, and SyncTeX support. There’s also basic annotation and form support. It’s fast at navigating around PDFs, although searches are slow unless you enable parallel searches.

Inspecting the Raspbian repository reveals a host of alternative PDF viewers. I’ve examined the majority of these viewers. In the next page, I compare them with qpdfview.

Next page: Page 2 – Charts: Features, Navigation, Memory Usage

Pages in this article:
Page 1 – qpdfview
Page 2 – Charts: Features, Navigation, Memory Usage
Page 3 – Software Information

Read all my blog posts about the RPI4.

Raspberry Pi 4 Blog
Week 36Manage your personal collections on the RPI4
Week 35Survey of terminal emulators
Week 34Search the desktop with the latest version of Recoll
Week 33Personal Information Managers on the RPI4
Week 32Keep a diary with the RPI4
Week 31Process complex mathematical functions, plot 2D and 3D graphs with calculators
Week 30Internet radio on this tiny computer. A detailed survey of open source software
Week 29Professionally manage your photo collection with digiKam
Week 28Typeset beautifully with LyX
Week 27Software that teaches young people how to learn basic computing skills and beyond
Week 26Firefox revisited - Raspbian now offers a real alternative to Chromium
Week 25Turn the Raspberry Pi 4 into a low power writing machine
Week 24Keep the kids learning and having fun
Week 23Lots of choices to view images
Week 22Listening to podcasts on the RPI4
Week 21File management on the RPI4
Week 20Open Broadcaster Software (OBS Studio) on the RPI4
Week 19Keep up-to-date with these news aggregators
Week 18Web Browsers Again: Firefox
Week 17Retro gaming on the RPI4
Week 16Screen capturing with the RPI4
Week 15Emulate the Amiga, ZX Spectrum, and the Atari ST on the RPI4
Week 14Choose the right model of the RPI4 for your desktop needs
Week 13Using the RPI4 as a screencaster
Week 12Have fun reading comics on the RPI4 with YACReader, MComix, and more
Week 11Turn the RPI4 into a complete home theater
Week 10Watching locally stored video with VLC, OMXPlayer, and others
Week 9PDF viewing on the RPI4
Week 8Access the RPI4 remotely running GUI apps
Week 7e-book tools are put under the microscope
Week 6The office suite is the archetypal business software. LibreOffice is tested
Week 5Managing your email box with the RPI4
Week 4Web surfing on the RPI4 looking at Chromium, Vivaldi, Firefox, and Midori
Week 3Video streaming with Chromium & omxplayerGUI as well as streamlink
Week 2A survey of open source music players on the RPI4 including Tauon Music Box
Week 1An introduction to the world of the RPI4 looking at musikcube and PiPackages

This blog is written on the RPI4.

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Tim H
Tim H
4 years ago

Another piece of software that I find very useful, esp. when scanning to pdf, is PDF-Shuffler. It allows you to sort, delete, move, add etc. by the page. With one document open in one window, and another in a second one, you can drag and drop single pages from one to the other.

Karl K
Karl K
3 years ago

I use PDF Arranger daily, mostly cropping music pdf to fit on my tablet properly, and to combine, delete or re-arrange pages. It’s good, stable and fast.