One of the most forgettable system utilities across all operating systems is the humble PDF viewer. Without realizing it, many of us use this built-in tool on a daily basis and never give too much thought to the entire effort. You double-click or download a PDF from the web and up comes the PDF viewer. In the past year or so, the Chrome PDF viewer has learned a few new tricks like side-by-side viewing of multi-page documents and on-screen annotations with digital pens. For what you need in a PDF tool, Chrome’s built-in solution does what most users need.
A bit of a UI overhaul is in the works, however, and the end result should clean up the operation of this system app in a very positive way. From what we’re seeing in the repositories and able to test in the Canary and Developer channels of Chrome OS, it looks like Google is now taking the PDF viewer and cleaning up the basic controls a bit.
PDF Viewer: Preparatory step for implementing new toolbar UI.
Shows a dummy (empty) new toolbar UI element when –enable-features=PDFViewerUpdate is specified. Decided to use a completely new element, since it will significantly diverge from the existing UI (sidenav button, different zoom controls + buttons, overflow menu)Chromium Gerrit
Just like what we see in that commit above, we’re currently seeing these UI moves show up in the Developer and Canary Channels of Chrome with no need for additional flags. The flag for this new UI is present in the Beta Channel right now, but it only puts a spot for the new UI in place with no actual items there to interact with.
The new UI basically pulls up the old floating buttons for zoom and fit-to-screen into the top navigation bar and then gives users an overflow menu button where the only current options available are non-working toggles for single and two-page views. Presumably this menu will be an easy place for additional features to exist as Google chooses to add them down the road. Of all the changes, however, my favorite is that the UI is now persistent. The old PDF viewer had items slide in and out as you moved your mouse across the document and it was always a tad bit annoying when the button you needed wouldn’t present itself. No worries with that any longer as all the UI elements are static and always present in the top bar now.
There’s no doubt this is a simple shift and a small move, but we love seeing refinements like this for Chrome. Sure, big flashy changes to the browser and OS are fun to see and interesting to watch develop, but these smaller iterations are the things that will go a long way towards making everyday use of Chrome a better experience for all users. Look for this new PDF viewer to arrive without flags in Chrome 86.