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

Last Updated on April 8, 2020


The ratings apply to the software provided in Raspbian’s repository. A few of the software in the repository lag behind the latest version although the majority are the latest release or a sufficiently recent release not to pose an issue. I’ve summarized the position in this regard in the final page of this week’s blog.

Let’s start off with features. Almost all the software has support for zooming, basic navigation, and a full screen option. Extra credit is given for features like thumbnails, tabs, the ability to read encrypted files, continuous and multi-page layouts, useful keyboard shortcuts, night mode, and lots more besides. A surprising number omit search functionality which is a significant omission from any perspective. I also give credit to programs that offer multi-format support rather than focus solely on PDFs.

RPI4 - PDF Viewers - Features

While features are important, the responsiveness of the viewer is equally as important. Most of the programs start up promptly, with MuPDF offering lightening speed, whereas pdfpc is a real slowcoach. Startup time isn’t that important. More significant is navigation speed i.e. how fluid the experience of navigating around the document. Any delay in advancing to the next page is a real turn-off.

Factors that weigh heavily on the ratings include the responsiveness of navigating between pages, the speed of searching a PDF, as well as other specifics like keyboard shortcuts to jump to a specific page.

Many of the programs navigate between pages extremely quickly. The pre-installed qpdfview is fast at navigating pages, but it’s definitely not the quickest; okular, MuPDF are expeditious. This helps make reading PDFs a pleasurable experience.

In fact the only ones that are too slow for my liking are apvlv, pdfpc, and ePDFview, the latter suffers from terrible lags. At least searching PDFs with apvlv is reasonably quick.

Many of the programs are pretty sluggish at searching PDFs. qpdfview’s search functionality is a mite disappointing although enabling parallel search execution from the Settings panel makes a big improvement. And it’s search functionality is much quicker than Evince even though Evince has the edge on rendering pages. Others are painfully slow. Ones that search at a pedestrian speed include okular, ePDFview, and katarakt although the latter also usefully performs operations (such as rendering pages and searching) in parallel. Quite a few of the programs lack search functionality which lowers their navigational abilities.

RPI4 - PDF Viewers - Navigational speed

The two charts indicate the PDF viewers that warrant my recommendation.

Another important factor to consider is the memory usage. The chart below shows the memory usage of each program loaded with a fairly hefty PDF, and performing an identical series of actions on that file.

For okular, I show memory consumption for the default memory setting. okular has 4 memory settings (Low, Normal (default), Aggressive, and Greedy. In Greedy move everything is kept in memory with all pages preloaded.

Some of the other applications also offer low memory settings which aren’t reflected in the chart. For example, pqiv has a –low-memory flag which reduces memory usage by disabling optimizations such as preloading the next and previous image.

RPI4 - PDF Viewers - Memory Usage

As you can see, qpdfview uses a fairly hefty chunk of memory which will be an important consideration for users of the 1GB RAM and 2GB RAM model. All of them use significantly less memory than viewing a PDF using Chromium.

Next page: Page 3 – Software Information

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.