It’s been nearly a year since we last saw the built-in PDF viewer in Chrome and Chrome OS get a substantial upgrade. Back in December of 2018, we began tracking the addition of markup tools in the browser-based PDF viewer that eventually came to fruition in the Developer Channel of Chrome and Chrome OS in February of last year and ended up in the Stable channel later in the year. Since that time, however, the humble PDF viewer has remained largely unchanged.
This latest new feature was spotted by the guys over at Techdows and is now available in the Developer Channel of Chrome for you to try right now if you like. If you are in a channel that is on version 82 (Developer and Canary for the time being), this feature is available to you behind a flag labeled chrome://flags/#pdf-two-up-view. Enabling the flag and restarting Chrome will now give you the ability to view your PDFs in a two page, side-by-side manner. Simply click the small pencil icon above the zoom buttons on the right side of the viewer to enable the new, dual-page setup. Hopefully that icon changes soon as it makes no sense whatsoever.
There are countless ways this will be of high value to many users. Viewing many PDFs in a long, scrolling, one-at-a-time view is not only a waste of screen real estate, it is at times an impractical way to consume information. Users reading papers, music, or other print media generally benefit from seeing two pages side-by-side, and the ability for Chrome and Chrome OS to finally be able to display PDFs in this way is a very solid change. With the pauses on updates happening currently, we’d assume this change may show up with Chrome and Chrome OS 83 whenever that move happens. We’ll be keeping an eye out for it.