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Two ways to master PDFs in Firefox

Firefox may have limited PDF functionality, but two community-developed extensions remedy that problem. Here's a guide to using Google's Quartz PDF and the Download Statusbar.

Firefox, for all its great functionality and superior performance, has long been a laggard when it comes to managing PDF content on the Web.

Apple's Safari and Microsoft's Internet Explorer browsers both give users the option of reading Portable Document Format content within the browser, while Firefox forces users to navigate to PDFs through its Downloads window. Not very convenient.

Leave it to Firefox's online community, however, to remedy this failing. While there are a range of Firefox plug-ins to help manage PDFs documents, two stand out for me.

The first, Download Statusbar, doesn't actually enable in-browser rendering of PDF documents but gives the user a status bar at the bottom of the browser window that displays the progress of downloads and allows the user to double-click any download to open it in the application of one's choice.

In other words, no more searching for the Downloads window to check on the status of a file download, and no more scouring one's hard drive to remember where the download went. Download Statusbar keeps it all in Firefox. For my PDF documents, I just double-click the status bar to open them in Preview. Easy.

If you use a Mac and you prefer to have PDFs rendered in the browser, you can thank Google for its simple but excellent Quartz PDF viewer, which does one thing really well: opens PDFs as if they were HTML right in the browser. If you want it to do more than that, well, it's an open-source project, so feel free to contribute.

If you use the two together, Google's Quartz PDF viewer overrides Download Statusbar for PDF files. So, if you want to manage PDFs through Download Statusbar, you won't want Quartz PDF viewer. But through add-ons like this, Mozilla and its large and diverse community have you covered.

Follow me on Twitter at mjasay.