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When I read PDF files with Adobe Reader or Adobe Acrobat Pro, the display quality is superb. However, for the same files, other PDF readers like Foxit Reader, Sumatra PDF Reader, etc show poor quality: quite timid and fuzzy display. At least in Windows. In Linux systems, any reader is not satisfactory even the Adobe Reader.

Why? Is it because the PDF format is created by Adobe?


EDIT: Here are some sample screenshots. All viewers are set to zoom to page width.

(1) Sumatra PDF

Sumatra PDF

(2) PDF X-Change

PDF X-Change

(3) Foxit Reader

Foxit Reader

(4) BlueBeam

BlueBeam

(5) Adobe Reader

Adobe

To me, Adobe Reader clearly is the best. Especially look at the italic capital T.

Here is the sample PDF file.

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2  
Can you provide two screenshots for comparison, or perhaps a sample PDF file? –  Darth Android Jul 22 '11 at 22:28
    
@Darth I added screenshots. –  FEQ Jul 23 '11 at 2:31

4 Answers 4

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Only Adobe and Foxit (of those 5) have subpixel rendering. This is seen by zooming way in on the screenshot and seeing color fringing. This is because each pixel on an LCD display is made of 3 subpixels: red, green, and blue. These can provide extra resolution. Foxit maybe just doesn't have as good of a rendering method. Hinting could play a part.

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1  
+1. Actually hinting plays a large part. Adobe's font look better than Foxit's because Adobe's hinting tries to "flatten" circular strokes (such as the top and bottom arcs of the capital "S", and the lower-case "o"). The flattening reduces the transition of stroke width (thickness) from the sub-pixel anti-aliased (vertical) strokes to the non-aliased horizontal strokes. –  rwong Apr 18 at 22:33

Actually, I think Adobe Reader seems to benefit from the fact that it knows well how to render non clearype fonts (fonts not hinted by utilising Microsoft technology). Most PDF's use professional fonts which are provided by type foundries not using cleartype compatible hinting. Since only Adobe implements the specific rendering for all such professional fonts, Adobe Reader is on top perfectly rendering the smoothing effect.

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I think am pretty sure now that it's one of the rendering/smoothing options in Preferences->Page Display. Try changing them (there's quite a few) and seeing if it makes a difference.

Specifically:

If you change the "Smooth Text: For Laptop/LCD Screens" to "For Monitor", you'll see that it'll look like other programs' smoothing.

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It depends on the PDF.

I uses a variety of PDF readers myself because Acrobat can be a dog loading up on my laptop. I generally haven't seen the same fuzzyness, unless the scan was using a 200dpi. . .

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I don't see how there could be any difference at all with bitmap scans, as you mentioned, while the rendering of the actual PDF typesetting could differ in regards to font rendering, kerning, line-spacing etc. I have not noticed any difference when using Sumatra, but I will start looking and comparing with Adobe Reader more closely. –  paradroid Jul 22 '11 at 22:42
    
@paradroid I uploaded screenshots. –  FEQ Jul 23 '11 at 2:33
    
@Chang: From your screenshots, I can only see differences that may be related to ClearType settings. Have you tried tuning the settings using the Control Panel tool? If you are using XP, you need to install it: microsoft.com/typography/cleartype/tuner/step1.aspx. However I am not sure if it is possible to adjust how individual programs use ClearType. –  paradroid Jul 23 '11 at 3:01
    
Man, the other one suck pretty bad. Have you tried to force a different font on them? –  surfasb Jul 23 '11 at 4:06
    
@paradroid: Are you sure that PDF viewers use ClearType on Windows? I am almost sure that ClearType is used only for Windows font system rendering and I think that no PDF viewer uses Windows font system rendering but I can be wrong. –  pabouk Jan 8 at 8:51

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