Setting the record straight re my article on Adobe Reader

I’d like to set the record straight regarding my recent Bugs & Fixes article for Macworld — the one on problems opening PDF files in the latest version of Safari when the Adobe Reader plug-in is installed. To put it as kindly as possible, I could have done a better job on this one.

In a nutshell, the problem cited in the article is that, after installing Adobe Reader, you get continually warned by Safari every time you try to a load a PDF file—requiring a couple of clicks before the PDF will load. I found this so annoying that I decided I’d rather bypass any security advantage and eliminate the warnings altogether. I then detailed how I had some trouble figuring out where and how to do this.

I placed the onus of the blame for this on Adobe and its Reader app. In retrospect, I should have placed the lion’s share of the “blame” (if the term is even appropriate here) on Safari itself. And on myself. Adobe was only making use of a new feature in Safari, one that Apple touts as a providing enhanced security for Internet plug-ins. At some level, this was obvious to me: The fix I cited (which I should have recalled without needing to search for it) required going to a Safari Preferences setting (as shown in a figure in the Bugs & Fixes article). Further, the Preferences screen lists numerous plug-ins besides the one for Adobe Reader. This is a clear tip-off that the situation extends beyond the Reader plug-in. Still, partly because of my prior bias against the Reader, as well as because Apple’s own PDF software does not trigger the same warnings and because I had not had any similar problems with any other plug-in, I viewed it as an Adobe failing. Not so.

I compounded my error by adding a comment that said Adobe “could have handled {the matter} much better.” What could Adobe have done to help ameliorate this? Actually, not much. However, I would have suggested two things. First, on the assumption that many Adobe Reader users may not be clear as to what is going on here, the Adobe Reader app (perhaps in its Preferences screens) should have included the pertinent information—bypassing the need to search Adobe’s or Apple’s support sites. Second (although I understand Adobe would be reluctant to do this), Adobe could provide a simple way to disable or uninstall the plug-in altogether (short of manually having to drag the plug-in files out of the /Library/Internet Plug-Ins folder)—for the benefit those who would like to keep Reader around but not use the plug-in (if there is a setting that does this, I couldn’t find it). Still, as I said, this is minor stuff. And to its credit, Adobe Reader’s Preferences>Internet screen does link to a relevant article on how to manually disable the plug-in.

On a related note, my Bugs & Fixes article also raised the question as to what is the difference between the “Allow” and “Always Allow” options in the Safari settings. I found none. This, as it turns out, is explained in an Apple support document. The answer is: when selecting “Always Allow,” “Safari loads and displays the content without prompting, even if the Internet plug-in is blocked by OS X File Quarantine.” With “Allow,” the Quarantine content remains blocked.

Overall, I fell down on the job with this article. More than once. For that, I apologize. Thankfully, it’s quite rare for this to happen. And I’ll do my best to make sure that it never happens again.

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1 Response to Setting the record straight re my article on Adobe Reader

  1. Pierre Igot says:

    Let me get this straight… Adobe says you need to log in as root user to disable the plug-in (in the “relevant article” you mentioned) and YOU apologize to THEM? Don’t be silly, Ted. Adobe deserves plenty of the blame even with the new Safari feature.

    Adobe has a terrible track record when it comes to embracing OS X technologies. (Resume feature, anyone?) If Apple revises its plug-in architecture, the onus is on Adobe to update its plug-ins accordingly and make the process of enabling/disabling them as user-friendly as possible. Otherwise, they should get out of the PDF plug-in business altogether.

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