Selectively opening PDFs with the system-default reader rather than Zotero

edited May 25, 2022
This discussion was created from comments split from: Navigating long documents in the PDF reader.
  • The new PDF reader really is a massive gift in productivity.

    In relation to the bookmarking/TOC editing, I can understand that this may be out of scope for Zotero. What would be helpful then would be a more direct way of opening PDFs with the system-default PDF editor rather than in Zotero.

    I use Acrobat Pro features in tandem with Zotero, primarily to delete pages, OCR, and edit PDF bookmarks. I'm fine to keep doing those in Acrobat, of course, but using both would be facilitated by a more convenient way of choosing which editor to use at any given time.
  • I don't know if we'll add this. Just to use one of your examples, if you delete a page in an external PDF reader, any annotations you previously made in Zotero would be on the wrong page. Rotating a page would be similarly problematic. These are generally things you'd want to do once, before you start working on the file in Zotero.

    You can always right-click → Show File and open the PDF in an external reader from there, and that seems somewhat appropriate for an advanced operation with potential drawbacks.
  • Thanks - that's a really good point about deleting/rotating pages messing up annotations.

    I guess, then, I'd make one more plea for editing bookmark/TOC.
  • Just to follow up on this briefly based on my experience with using the beta. I now find in order to get around not being able to edit bookmarks/TOC, I end up using a specific highlighter color to provide an equivalent way of getting around the document.

    For instance, I am currently assessing a couple of dissertations (which are typically submitted as long PDFs but without bookmarks) and so marking up chapter and other headings in orange. It works, but it feels like a kludge.
  • edited May 25, 2021
    @bentle I feel your pain. Zotero, DEVONthink, MarginNote and Preview all lack the ability to ‘Add to Outline/TOC’. It is a continuous point of friction for me. It is such a critical feature for reading to any meaningful degree.
  • @dstillman directed me to this thread.

    As pointed out in another thread by me, I need to frequently open PDFs in Acrobat to be able to see file properties, like PDF creation and modification dates as well as the "additional metadata fields" and embedded fonts. These are not accessible from within the Zotero PDF reader, but readily available from the properties dialogue in Acrobat.
  • @dstillman also directed me to this thread.

    I would like to quickly shift between the internal PDF software and external ones on a case-by-case basis. Why, you may ask. For instance, because sometimes the internal Z6 PDF Tool does not open a PDF file. I am not sure why. It might be because of some default PDF protection or the size of the PDF. Just guessing here.

    Another reason is that I sometimes modify PDF documents (e.g. deleting pages, splitting pages etc.) with external PDF programmes.

    Windows-Explorer has an "Open with ..." option to accomplish this. In Zotero, I have to select "Show File" first, then select the PDF with the folder and then use the "Open with ..." feature of Windows. I hope it is possible a simpler way to achieve this. Many thanks in advance.
  • @zurpher:
    For instance, because sometimes the internal Z6 PDF Tool does not open a PDF file.
    You should just report that, of course — that's not normal and wouldn't be a reason to add this. If that's reproducible with specific files, can you start a new thread and send the files to with a link to the thread?
    Another reason is that I sometimes modify PDF documents (e.g. deleting pages, splitting pages etc.) with external PDF programmes.
    I address that case, and why we're not inclined to make it easier to do that, above. (We'll also be adding the ability to delete pages from within Zotero while keeping annotations in sync.)
  • Hey! I was also steered here while looking for a way to open PDFs with the system viewer.

    While I acknowledge the workaround (file->open), having an option in the context menu (i.e. right-clicking on an item) would be a fewer clicks away and feels more canonical. Thus, I'd give my vote for a new context menu item!
  • edited May 25, 2022
    @TottiT: The relevant feedback would be the reasons you want to open a PDF in an external viewer. As explained above, it can cause problems, so we're trying to understand the use cases.
  • @dstillman Sure thing!

    My initial urges for opening the system viewer stemmed from the boring reason of myself being very much used to the way my system viewer (Evince) works, which results in me being much faster with it.

    Some key things I use with Evince, that I was not able to setup currently with the new Zotero viewer, is using the middle mouse button to "grab" the page (essentially a shortcut to the hand tool), opening another copy of the PDF quickly with a keyboard shortcut (useful for having the references of a journal paper always open without having have to go back and forth), toggling between single-page/dual-page modes quickly with a keyboard shortcut, as well as toggling between continuous pages and "discrete pages" quickly with a keyboard shortcut (this is useful for moving quickly forward a number of pages using the mouse scroll-wheel, for example).

    I thought, instead of opening tickets to every single one of these, and noting other people might have a similar set of weird preferences of theirs, it would be more sensible/less work allowing people to quickly open their default viewer of choice, especially if it would only require an engineering effort of adding a context item!
  • @TottiT: Right, so then that just sounds like a misunderstanding. If you prefer another PDF reader, you just set a different one from the General pane of the preferences.
  • edited June 29, 2022
    I would like to add a comment on how adding a shortcut in the context menu to open PDF files using system pdf reader in one click would be super helpful:

    Firstly, for most of the time the Zotero pdf reader/annotator is good enough for me. However I do encounter some occasions where the paper I am reading is complex enough so that I want to use the system pdf reader for more powerful annotation tools (free drawing, underline, add markdown attachment to the pdf file (I am not using Zotero attachment here because attachments directly in pdf can have their links at exact places that I want in pdf pages)), so keeping the Zotero pdf reader as default while adding a shortcut to open pdf using external pdf readers would be helpful.

    Secondly, I do use Zotero as my paper reader also on iOS. If I set the system pdf reader in Zotero as the default, then my last reading position will be lost when I open the same file on my mobile device. If I understand it correctly the reading position can only be tracked and synced across devices if I am using the Zotero builtin pdf reader.

    Overall, I also think that this feature small as adding a context menu item will be really helpful
  • Just made some really quick and dirty modification (the path to my pdf viewer is hard coded!) on Zotfile to add a context menu item for opening pdfs file using system default pdf viewer:
  • @emilianoeheyns Thanks! Great to see that there is already a well-written plugin for this
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