After trying to foist an unnecessary PDF competitor on us in Windows Vista and 7, Microsoft has finally thrown in the towel and provided its own app for viewing Adobe's popular document format. Dubbed Windows Reader, this new Metro-styled experience offers decent capabilities and performance.
Remember XPS? No? Good. Because in Windows 8, Microsoft is pretending that its brief foray into electronic page description language and document formatting never happened. And it is, instead, finally embracing the electronic document format everyone already uses: Adobe PDF. This support comes via a new Metro-style app called Windows Reader. And unlike some of the App Previews we see in the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, this one looks like it's' ready to go.
Windows Reader presents a very simple full-screen experience by default, like other Metro-styled apps.
Open the app bar, however, and the app's feature set is revealed.
Major features of Windows Reader include:
View modes. Windows Reader sports three reading modes, Two Pages, One Page, and Continuous. In In Two Pages view, Reader will display two pages of the current document side-by-side. In One Page view, only one whole page will be seen at a time and you must use the app’s navigational controls (see below) to move from page to page. In Continuous view, only one whole page will be seen at a time, but you can scroll through the document continuously, with the start of the next page being visually attached to the end of the current page.
Two Pages view
One Page view (with mouse navigational button shown)
Navigation. Interestingly, navigation varies depending on which view mode is used. In Two Pages and One Page view, you can swipe left and right, use the left and right arrow keys, or click the pop-up, browser-like navigational controls that appear to move through the document. But in Continuous view, Reader behaves like a traditional document-based, traditional Windows application and utilizes vertical navigation instead. In this mode, you can move through the document by swiping up and down, by typing UP ARROW or DOWN ARROW, or by utilizing the scroll bars that appear on the right side of the application.
Zoom. Zooming works as it does elsewhere in Metro: Via pinching on touch-based systems, with CTRL + - (zoom out) and CTRL + = (zoom in) keyboard shortcuts, or by holding down the CTRL key and using your mouse’s scroll wheel.
Find in document. Using the app bar's Find button, you can search for text within the current document. There are Previous and Next buttons for finding individual references to the search text, and an optional results pane that calls out each instance of the search text in the document as well.
Rotate. You can optionally rotate the current document.
Print. Printing works as it does elsewhere in the Metro-environment: You access the Devices charm (WINKEY + C, Devices) and then select the appropriate printer from the list. Or, access the printer list directly with CTRL + P.
Editing. Reader doesn't provide editing capabilities, per se. But you can highlight text, add notes (including ink-based notes), and fill out forms, and then save the changes to the PDF, or to a copy. Oddly, rotation changes are not saved.
It's pretty basic, sure. But it's a lot faster than Adobe Reader in my experience, and is useful even for those that typically stick to the Windows 8 desktop experience. I'm curious to see if this evolves further, but even in its current form, Windows Reader is a decent PDF viewer.