Adobe Acrobat

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Aug 15, 2006

Filed under: Rants 20 comments

How does one explain this?

Adobe Acrobat is running, even though I have no.PDF files open. Hey Adobe: There are clever little %mechanisims like “file associations” that allows Windows to open programs when they are needed. So why is Acrobat loitering here? It should close itself. An even more important question is this: Why is Acrobat eating up thirty-five megabytes of memory when it is not even in use? What is it doing with all of that memory? By contrast you can see that Paint Shop Pro – which is open and in use – is using less than a third of the memory that Acrobat is. I don’t know if this is arrogance or incompetence on the part of Adobe, but this is just shameful.

The awful thing is that programs can do this as a way of making themselves seem more efficient. How the game works is this: I have some no-talent hack programmers working for me making rotten software. It is sluggish and slow to start. I can get around this by having the program load when the system starts. Then my long loading time is just added to your boot-up time, thus masking my crime. When you open the program, it is already in memory and thus starts a little bit faster. So, I prop up my crappy software at the expense of making your entire system a little slower and less responsive. What if everyone did this?

(Yes, this stuff gets swapped out of memory after a while, but the whole point of buying lots of memory is so that the system can be fast and responsive and the user doesn’t have to put up with a bunch of disk-swapping. If this made any sense then people would just load everything into memory at start-up.)

This is really grotesque in the case of programs like Acrobat, which (in my case) gets used about once a month.

And while we’re at it:

How about NOT enabling something like this by default?



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20 thoughts on “Adobe Acrobat

  1. Wonderduck says:

    Acrobat is a bloated piece of drek. It doesn’t surprise me to see that it’s the largest program running, even when it’s not being used.

  2. bkw says:

    I have a script that opens a bunch of websites I read on a daily basis all at once. Today, for some reason, something on one of those websites caused Acrobat Reader to launch. None of these sites appeared do have any .PDF content at all.

    That was pretty much the last straw. I’ve been using a PDF reader from Foxit software ( for the past few weeks for those infrequent occsions when I DO actually need to read a PDF.

    I was gobsmacked when I saw that the Reader installation was 65 megs in size.

    The Foxit software is a standalone executeable. 2.8megs.


  3. Nathan H. says:

    I second the vote for Foxit. I’ve yet to run into a PDF it can’t open, and it is not an evil festering pile of bloatware like Acrobat Reader.

  4. Cineris says:

    What exactly is the appeal of PDFs again — All the inconveniences of using an image file (bmp) to store text, without the easy compatibility/editability of a regular image format?

  5. DVS says:

    Thanks for sharing about Foxit. :-)

    The point of Acrobat is security for the file creator. The file recipient is simply getting the short end of the stick.

    True, there was once some benefit for creating a file anyone could open, search, and perhaps copy text from. But these days almost every browser can open any office file, and Microsoft offers free “reader” versions for its formats.

    Does anyone know of an easy way to create RTF files that require a password to open and/or edit? That would be the optimal solution. For most individuals and business, any word processing document that cannot be done as an RTF file does not really need to be done.

  6. Pixy Misa says:

    What exactly is the appeal of PDFs again

    They are searchable, printable, precisely formatted text documents.

    A lot of people need that. I work for a phone company, and we produce our bills as PDFs. We can email one to a customer, and it looks exactly the same as the printed version.

    We don’t want people to edit them. And the files are only about 60kb on average, much smaller than an image would be.

    Now, Acrobat Reader is indeed a pile of crap. But the PDF specification is pretty good.

  7. Ditto Pixy’s point, plus: PDFs are not bitmaps. They are actually modified Postscript files, and that’s actually kind of a neat spec.

    Some PDFs contain bitmaps, but it’s not intrinsic to the format. (That’s why you can copy & paste text out of some of them.)

    PDFs are useful, although sometimes misused. Reader is an amazing pile of garbage.

  8. J Greely says:

    PDF files are incredibly useful. One of the first significant uses was by the IRS, making it possible to download and print official tax forms at your convenience, rather than driving to post offices or ordering them through the mail. These days, almost every hardware and software manual I need is available from the vendor as a PDF file, generated from the same source as the printed manual I misplaced five years ago. And they work correctly even if you don’t own a copy of the font that the document was designed with (including international fonts; I can make a PDF file containing Japanese text that can be viewed on any computer and printed on any printer).

    The problem for Adobe is that, like PostScript, to make it a standard they had to relinquish the ability to make money off of licensing the format. So the Acrobat product line attempts to justify itself in other ways, including stuffing a lot of partial features into Reader that are only really useful if someone pays for the full product.


  9. Cineris says:

    The printing and layout issues I understand — Searchability, though? Hmm. I just opened up a PDF and I suppose I can do a Ctrl+F on it. Learn something new every day.

    Now if only most PDFs would allow you to copy and paste text from them I don’t think I’d have any complaints…

  10. Toren says:

    “Today, for some reason, something on one of those websites caused Acrobat Reader to launch. None of these sites appeared do have any .PDF content at all.”

    This is a known bug given to us couresty of Microsoft in the August 11th updates.

  11. Pixy Misa says:

    Is that the same update that has convinced my notebook that our file server is “the internet”?

  12. Toren says:

    Probably. I ripped the whole thing out. I had to rebuild XP on my wife’s computer, though–it trashed just about everything. The major problems were with Explorer, but it also screwed up her FTP, Illustrator, and her pad driver, amoung the major problems.
    Sasuga, Microsoft!
    Although…a recent Zone Alarm update garbaged my entire Eudora email files, earning it a permanent uninstall and my eternal hatred. So there are plenty of programmers around that deserve a shot with a taser (or maybe two).

  13. Pete Zaitcev says:

    On my laptop (with Linux), Evince is 88MB total (e.g. including shared VMAs), 13MB RSS when idle, and 108MB total, 23316MB RSS when showing an instructions for my attic fan. The executable size of Foxit tells us nothing useful, unfortunately. For the Evince, the whole package is 2264517 bytes, unpacked. Nonetheless, it’s what… only 30% to 50% less memory hog than Acrobat?

  14. -Chipper says:

    My company used to have important documents in Word format on the network, with Read Only protection. Very convenient, very quickly searchable. Even more helpful since they don’t bother to provide an index. Then a few people opened some documents in Word, changed them, and printed them out, looking like they were official. So now everything is .pdf. Instead of punishing the guilty, they punished all of us. A search that used to take two minutes or less via Windows Explorer I now have to perform thru Acrobat, it takes twenty minutes, and it uses 50-85% of my CPU usage! Grrrr. And enterprising employees can still generate non-official documents, it just takes a little more effort.

    Put me in the “very dissatisfied” column regarding Acrobat Reader. I’ll check out Foxit.

  15. Mark says:

    While Acrobat Reader is a hideous program, it does have it’s uses. But those uses are rather limited, like the aformentioned IRS forms and Billing Statements. But half the time when I’m reading a pdf document, there’s no reason it needs to be a pdf.

    However, at least in newer versions, you are able to search and copy/paste if you want, which gets rid of most of the pain. However, the insanely long load time is still quite annoying.

  16. ubu roi says:

    ” Then a few people opened some documents in Word, changed them, and printed them out, looking like they were official.” Unfortunately, that problem with Word forced us into .pdf files also. Fortunately, we have no need to search the documents.

  17. Roxysteve says:

    Dammit! I just looked and found that running on my workstation and I used Acrobat last week!

    Thanks for the heads up Shamus.


  18. KelThuzad says:

    Wow, I really wish I remembered the magic button I pushed somewhere in the control panel (I think) that disabled programs automatically running after start-up.

  19. Steve says:

    I’m fashionably late with this post, but I couldn’t resist pointing out this tool, which I only found out about the other week. You can see all the junk which is set to run automatically on startup (Acrobat still has some kind of automatically run task, not to mention QuickTime’s oh-so-useful qttask.exe) and disable it. You can probably break your machine badly as well. No joy without alloy. :-)

  20. Perfumy says:

    Out of my investigation, shopping for consumer electronics online may be easily expensive, although there are some how-to’s that you can use to help you get the best bargains. There are often ways to uncover discount specials that could help to make one to buy the best electronics products at the cheapest prices. Good blog post.

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