I’m very fond of the concept of Adobe Acrobat – being able to share a single PDF file that contains a non-volatile representation of a document, that you can view on-screen or via a printer without worrying about formatting issues caused by different fonts, operating systems or printer drivers. But I’m getting increasingly infuriated by the implementation: amongst other things, by the slow loading times and increasing bloat in the Reader software. I frequently have to wait 10-20 seconds for the application to load when all I wanted to do was view a single page. I don’t want to complete an electronic form, verify a digital signature, print to a remote location, or manipulate a digital photo, so why do I have to wait for nearly 20 plug-ins to load before I can use the document. This is simply poor application design: most of these plug-ins could be loaded as a background task for starters, and the interface doesn’t even offer a way to disable them.
As I browsed around the directory structure under C:\Program Files\Adobe\Acrobat 6.0\Reader, I discovered there’s a subdirectory called Optional that contains a readme with the following text: “Put unused plug-ins in the optional directory.” Super, I thought and promptly moved all the plug-ins. Hey presto – Acrobat Reader immediately transformed itself back into the speedy, lightweight tool that I loved back in version 3.
Searching around the web to see whether this was a safe thing to have done, I discovered this post from Darren Norton over a year ago with the same information. So I’m behind the times, certainly, but I suspect I’m not alone in having missed this “feature”. I posted a quick mail to the “Cool Stuff” distribution list internally within Microsoft and received a number of replies from delighted colleagues, so I thought I’d share it here.