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by Ray DeCosta

Q. I'm having trouble reading a PDF file in my browser because it refuses to open. What can I do about this problem?

A. PDF stands for Portable Document Format. PDF files are designed to be opened by any computer and the format is considered close to being a "universal format." However, many things can still go wrong with the creation or reading of any particular file. Another problem is that PDF files can be hacked to install malware and other nasty items on your computer.

As a result, improvements are always being made to the different PDF reading programs which are in use. However, not all of these changes maintain the ability of the readers to accurately display the contents of a PDF file. The prime offender in this regard is often considered to be the original PDF reading program, Adobe Reader, and many substitutes have been developed to replace Reader.

This problem also exists when you are trying to read a PDF document within a browser. Typically, the browser PDF reader is completely separate from the reader you would normally use to open a PDF file on your Desktop. This means that your browser PDF reader may or may not have been properly updated when you updated your Desktop reader.

In your situation, you should check to see if your browser's PDF reader is up to date by checking under Tools and looking for the Plug-Ins or Add-Ons section (these terms are often used interchangeably) to check the PDF plug-in for the current version. If it's out-of-date, click the Update button and see if that solves your problem.

If it doesn't, try installing a PDF plug-in from a different company and make sure to deactivate the one that doesn't work properly. If the new one works, you can delete the old one if you wish.

There are plenty of free PDF reading plug-ins available, so try them all out and see which one works for you. Some will have annoying features or will not meet your needs. Make sure to read reviews from those who have already used the plug-in.

Published: Courier 5/5/13 - Page 3C