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PDF+ vs. Adobe Reader LE

February 28, 2007 in Mobile Phone Software

It’s time for a dramatic showdown between two bitter enemies: on one side we have mBrainSoftware’s PDF+, and on the other, we have the titan Adobe Software’s Reader LE. If you haven’t figured it out, both applications are designed to open Adobe’s standard PDF (portable document format) documents on a mobile phone. No easy feat considering phones aren’t exactly made to display entire contents of books.

Adobe Reader LE vs. PDF+

Adobe Reader LE vs. PDF+

I used four seemingly random PDF files for this little competition. They are:

1) A Nokia Repair Center Form (99kb)
2) The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi Translated Novel (3.9mb)
3) Dark Sun: Shattered Lands PC Game Manual (1.1mb)
4) Mike Caro’s Book of Poker Tells (12.8mb)

The rules are simple. Load up each PDF document, take a screenshot, go through a couple of pages, and repeat. Each PDF document is of varying size and difficulty. More on that in each section.

And finally, the testing platform is my trusty Nokia N80. Not the N80ie.

Round 1

The Nokia Repair Center Form is the simplest of the four documents. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. It’s a Nokia logo, a bunch of text, and some boxes to fill in your information.

Adobe Reader did a fine job reading the document. At a very respectable speed, on top of that. The logo’s there, and the text looks more or less fine. Score an easy 100% for Adobe.

Okay, the first time I ran this test on PDF+, I got the boxed-text version on the left (if you can’t see it, basically 99% of the letters are little boxes), which I assume comes from an unsupported font or something like that. Except the font in question was Arial. So after fiddling with the software a bit, I managed to get the result to look like the one on the right although I’m not quite sure how I did it. Speed-wise, PDF+ was similar to Adobe Reader.

Round 2

Round 2 is the translated Japanese book “The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi.” It’s substantially larger than the Nokia Repair form, but the majority of it is text. However, there are two fairly large images as well as some Japanese characters.

PDF+ went first this round. In a complete reversal of the Round 1′s results, PDF+ displayed the English text, Japanese text, and the images equally well. There was a noticeable lag when loading the two images, but since they were both large-scale graphics, it’s acceptable here. 100% for Round 2.

Okay, so I have no idea what happened here. The flawless Adobe Reader application refused to read this PDF and complained bitterly about being out of memory. Memory compression and a drastic phone reboot did little to fix the problem. Well, you can’t review what you can’t see, so I guess Adobe gets a zero here.

Round 3

Dark Sun is a really, really old PC game. So the PDF we have here is a pretty old manual for the game, and consists of maybe a 40/60% mix of graphics to text.

Looks like Adobe’s PDF software either loads 100% or nothing at all. In this case, we have another 100 percenter as the images and text matched perfectly with the Adobe Acrobat PC viewed version.

PDF+ did a good, but not perfect job on this one. The main image is crappier looking than the Adobe version and for some reason the bottom half of the image shows up on the top. There’s also 2 of those empty font boxes again. Otherwise it displayed the rest well.

Both applications rendered the mix of graphics and text on page 2 flawlessly.

Round 4

The final, and most grueling round consists of a book called “Mike Caro’s Book of Poker Tells.” It is, without a doubt, one of the biggest and bloatedest PDF documents I have ever seen in my entire life. Which makes it perfect for our testing grounds.

After a considerable wait, PDF+ loaded Mike Caro without any complaints. I’m actually a little impressed since I wasn’t expecting either program to load this bad boy production up.

I guess this was to be expected. After not even making an effort to load up the Book of Poker Tells, Adobe Reader quit on me.

Final Thoughts

So here’s the bottom line on the ferocious grudge match between PDF+ and Adobe Reader.

PDF+, without a doubt, ripped apart Adobe Reader LE in terms of straight PDF document compatibility. It opened every PDF I threw at it, even when I thought it would bug out somewhere. That’s the shocking and honest truth. But that doesn’t mean that it’s a 100% perfect piece of software. The interface is definitely a little clunky – changing fonts, for example, was a lot more difficult than it should’ve been. Instead of being able to choose a font from a normal menu, the software expects you to know to use left- and right-arrow keys to switch. There’s also an issue with the “word wrap to screen” function – half the time it will break up a sentence after the first word.

The good news is that these are relatively minor problems that can be easily fixed in later versions.

On the other hand, Adobe Reader LE really dropped the ball here. You know there’s a problem when your company MADE the damn portable-document-format AND the software that generates them and you can’t open your own documents. That’s all I really need to say here. Disappointing!

One line summary: If you ever have the need to open PDF files on your mobile phone, just get PDF+ and save yourself the headache.


PDF+ – mBrain Software
Adobe Reader LE – Adobe Systems




Gareth Evans
11:21 am

You seem to gloss over the “boxes as text” thing. I’m trying to look at a PDF from wizards of the coast regarding a character in dnd 4e. It’s only 10 pages long, and views fine under Acrobat on my PC.

No amount of fiddling with PDF+ gets it to display anything other than boxes as text for me. It would appear that this issue is more widespread than maybe it first appeared?

11:43 am

I were using trial version of adobe le 2.5.

Thanks for your review, I just went to bought pdf+, I found that pdf+ text output is not as good as adobe le 2.5 and the word wrap is hard to read.

Adobe le is far more better then pdf+, I have upgrade my adobe le 2.5 to full version now.

I don’t blame anyone here, it’s my fault, the blog review that was 3 years old is a outdated comment.

9:58 am

Adobe PDF is absolutely useless, I tried to open Cisco Press books on it (text only) and it kicked me on my ass asking why do I have to ask it to open it. (Operation Failed). PDF+ Rules!

11:59 am

Adobe PDF reader cannot even open a text-only PDF of 191 pages with a size of 444KB!

12:50 pm

Actually, what happens (like in example 2 & 4) is that the Adobe PDF reader for Symbian OS cannot read a PDF of 1.5mb or larger.

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