A little over a month ago, the new Chrome OS PDF viewer was spotted with some nifty upgrades to its basic functionality. Mainly, the top toolbar was set to be overhauled, simplified, and cleaned up. This new look that we came across back in late July was a nice change, but it didn’t do a ton to truly move the humble PDF viewer forward that much. I like a cleaner UI like every other person, but I love new interfaces to come with a side of new functionality, too.
While we’ve been waiting for the new PDF viewer to ship (we’re expecting it to fully show up in Chrome OS 86 or 87), I happened to be in the Canary Channel of Chrome OS today and was in the process of writing another post on PDF previews when I thought to flip on the flag for the new PDF viewer. Honestly, I thought it would just be enabled in Chrome OS 87 Canary by this point, but it wasn’t. After flipping the flag, however, I was treated to a few new additions to the PDF viewer that not only look new, but offer up functionality the built-in app has needed.
Preview sidebar pane
First up – and the most striking change – is the sidebar page preview. If you are looking at a PDF with multiple pages, you will soon be able to see all those pages in an overview in the left-hand sidebar. Right now, all the pages are white and clicking them does nothing, but we’d expect small preview images to be in place and the ability to click to a certain page in the document to jump right to that place in the PDF. This will be a handy feature for sure.
Headings sidebar pane
In that same spot, there’s actually a small toggle where you can call up the document’s table of contents. I’d assume this list will come from the PDF meta data or be auto-generated from the heading tags in the document if a table of contents isn’t provided. Either way, this is yet another useful way to move about longer PDFs.
Side by side view
The ‘two-up’ view has been a feature flag for quite some time in Chrome, so it’s nice to see it show up here in this overhauled PDF viewer without need for more flags. Instead, you can now just click the 3-dot overflow menu and select Two page view to see your PDF arranged in a side-by-side, two pages at a time format.
Apart from those changes, all the things you know and love about the PDF viewer for Chrome – like the built in markup tool – are all still in place and, with this newer layout, all found in the persistent top bar. It is worth noting that the sidebar features can all be hidden with a simple click of that hamburger menu icon in the top left, so once you have your view dialed in, you can clean up some screen space for a larger viewing area. All together, we’re hoping to see this launch in Chrome 86, but by the looks of it, we may be waiting until version 87 later in 2020. Right now, flipping the flag for this feature in Chrome OS 85 does nothing more than put a placeholder up top for all the new navigation, so there’s still some work to be done.