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When I click on a PDF link in Chrome, it opens automatically inside the browser window. How can I get it to download instead and open with an external viewer?

Update: I implemented djhowell's solution but Chrome still seems to be handling PDF files differently from regular files. When I click a PDF link it opens in Adobe Reader, but normally files download to a folder first.

I also find it weird that this is controlled by Reader and not Chrome. Are there not any file-type controls in Chrome anywhere?

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I checked too, it seems that Chrome has tendency to choose what to do with files for you... I'm actually surprised there is not "file association" to be found, to choose the program/plugin to use for a particular extension. – Gnoupi Aug 27 '09 at 18:50
I find even such topics in the Google Group for Chrome :… , people who would like to switch to another viewer, and can't.. No answer.. – Gnoupi Aug 27 '09 at 18:55
Added an update but the conversations in the Chrome support forums don't seem encouraging. – djhowell Aug 27 '09 at 19:28
Please consider my answer, I think it cover your needs a little better, if so, you should change your selection of the right one – Rafareino Aug 21 '15 at 16:09

10 Answers 10

up vote 60 down vote accepted

I know the answer's already been picked, but I'd just like to offer another option. You can disable the Adobe plugin in Chrome, which will force Chrome to download the PDF.

It's under chrome://plugins.

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That's the right answer! – nickd Jul 22 '10 at 10:09
a probably faster way to do the same thing: go to chrome://plugins (in firefox, that would be about:plugins), and disable the acrobat reader plugin – Babu Aug 23 '10 at 13:24
As I mentioned in my answer I don't have Adobe Reader installed any more but this looks like the best solution for those that do. – DisgruntledGoat May 20 '11 at 11:55
In version 12 of Chrome, I see Chrome PDF Viewer listed as a plugin. Disabling this does what is asked, downloads the pdf to a file. – KeithB Jun 19 '11 at 15:18
If I do this, the PDF gets opened in an external viewer (yes, as requested by the OP). What, if want to have it downloaded (just like any unknown MIME-type)? – Frank N Jan 22 at 9:50

browse to chrome://plugins and disable Chrome PDF Viewer

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This seems to be the only answer that solves DisgruntledGoats "Updated" problem (aside from Doug's basically identical answer posted a day after this one). It's definitely the one that helped me! – Fred Hamilton Jan 21 '11 at 16:43
This worked for me. Thanks! – Tim Perry Jan 28 '11 at 3:29

Are you using Adobe Acrobat/Adobe Reader to display the PDFs? If so, it is probably Abode's behavior you need to modify.

Here are the steps I had to take:

  1. Open Adobe Reader
  2. Edit menu, Preferences
  3. Selcet Internet from the Categories list
  4. Uncheck Display PDF in browser
  5. Press OK

If you are using another application to view PDFs the steps are likely similar.

Re: Update

By any chance do you have both Adobe Reader and Adobe Acrobat installed? You may have to repeat the above steps in the other application.

Chrome is a little weird in that its default behavior is to download everything and make you open it yourself. When you click a PDF link do you see the filename in the "download bar" along the bottom of the window? If so, try right-clicking on it and un-check "Always open files of this type" if it is checked.

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beat me by 50 seconds, CG :) – Molly7244 Aug 27 '09 at 17:39
Thanks for the answer but it hasn't worked 100%, see update. – DisgruntledGoat Aug 27 '09 at 18:37
the issue of downloading the file to a local folder first seems to related to this thread:… – Molly7244 Aug 27 '09 at 19:30
To answer your update: No, I don't see the file in the download bar, the PDF just opens when I click it. The behaviour you describe is what I want to see, i.e. the same as all other files. – DisgruntledGoat Aug 30 '09 at 17:19

In Google-Chrome: open a new tab, go to about:plugins and disable "Chrome PDF Viewer". This seems to have done the trick for me.

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Kind of sorted this; I uninstalled Adobe Reader and installed SumatraPDF instead! Much better and lightweight app.

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that depends on your default PDF reader, for Adobe try this:

Edit > Preferences > Internet

clear the box Display PDF in Browser

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To me seems that the desired behavior was to be able to save the files instead of open them in another application, so, I think a more accurate answer should be:

Press and Hold down the Alt (Meta) key in your keyboard while you click in the PDF link.

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How about pressing CTRL + S and saving the file after it opens it? Works ok if you are not into downloading a lot of PDF's

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This is an old question and I don't think that worked at the time. The only problem with your solution is that (in my experience) large PDFs take a long time to load in the browser (not including download) and sometimes don't work. – DisgruntledGoat Jan 9 '14 at 10:47
it still doesn't seem to work, for example, if the PDF is password protected – cnst Nov 28 '15 at 5:01

According to Adobe's page on displaying PDFs in various browsers, in order to have Chrome not open the PDF within the browser, after you've opened a new tab to chrome://plugins, you'll need to shift-click "Disable" on the currently enabled plug-in to display PDFs.

Otherwise, it will still open in the browser, it just uses different plug-ins to display it.

To have Chrome download PDFs instead of displaying them in the browser, shift-click Disable for the currently enabled viewer. This leaves both viewer plug-ins disabled so the PDFs won't display in the browser.

Once you do this, it will download the PDF, instead of opening it within Chrome.

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The following worked for me:

  1. Go to chrome://settings/
  2. Click + Show advanced setting
  3. in Downloads

    3a. check 'Ask where to save each file before downloading'

    3b. click on the button Clear auto-open settings

Note: 3b is fundamental to override the fact that PDFs are handled differently from other files.

Background: this happened to me as well because once I downloaded a pdf file, clicked on the small arrow next to the file in the download bar at the bottom, and choose 'always open with system viewer'. Since then, PDF files were saved in the "Download" folder and opened directly.

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