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Firefox 19 betas: Built-in PDF viewing, broader Android reach

The desktop version of Mozilla's browser beta is shunting Adobe's PDF plug-in aside, and the Android version works on 15 million more smartphones.

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Adobe Systems' Flash Player plug-in has been under attack in Web development circles for years, but now Adobe's Reader software is becoming more of a target in the war against plug-ins.

Mozilla released the with its own built-in PDF reader, called PDF.js, which uses the browser's own JavaScript engine to decode the Adobe-created but industry-standard document format.

The Portable Document Format for years was an awkward part of the Web, often ambushing the unwary with long page-load times as the Adobe Reader plug-in loaded. But PDFs have become more common, exposed in Google search results and used for everything from bank statements to tax forms. In Safari, Apple bypassed Adobe's software with its own PDF-reading plug-in, but Google went a step farther by building PDF rendering directly into Chrome.

Mozilla launched its PDF.js project in 2011, taking advantage of newer browser abilities such as Canvas to display more complicated documents.

Mozilla also released a new Firefox beta for Android that it says reaches about 15 million more phones. Previously, the browser required an 800MHz ARMv6 processor or faster, but Mozilla lowered the requirement to 600MHz, along with 512MB of memory, and HVGA (480x320 pixels) screen resolution.

"This includes popular phones like LG Optimus One, T-Mobile myTouch 3G slide, HTC Wildfire S, and ZTE R750," Mozilla said in a blog post.

The new Android beta also adds themes so people can customize the browser's look, handles CSS' formatting set using viewport percentages, and can be localized into traditional Chinese and simplified Chinese languages.

The Firefox beta for PCs gets the CSS feature, too, along with faster startup and a feature that offers to reset the search engine setting for the awesomebar (aka Web address or location bar) if third-party software changes it.