PDFObject 2.0 released

After almost eight years in the making (and nearly 7 years of procrastinating), PDFObject 2.0 has arrived.

PDFObject is an open-source standards-friendly JavaScript utility for embedding PDF files into HTML documents. It’s like SWFObject, but for PDFs.

Version 1.0 was released in 2008 and has enjoyed modest success. Based on stats from PDFObject.com (including devious hot-linkers) and integration with 3rd-party products, I’m guesstimating it has been used on well over a million web pages. (If I had a nickel for every time it was used…)

I updated it a few times over the years, but generally only if someone reported a compatibility issue. Like an old beat-up car, it was a bit crusty, but still ran like a champ. That is, it ran like a champ until the rules of the game were changed — when Microsoft changed their ActiveX strategy in Internet Explorer 10-11 and Microsoft Edge, PDFObject’s checks for ActiveX began to fail, rendering PDFObject useless in those browsers. This marked the beginning of the end for PDFObject 1.x.

An update was overdue, yet I let it sit for a couple of years – I fully admit that kids, my job, and life tend to take precedence over an unfunded open-source project. But I never stopped thinking about PDFObject. I intentionally kept it at arm’s length for a while; I was fascinated by changes in the front-end development world, and waited to see how things would shake out.

It’s incredible how much has changed since 2008. For starters, the browser landscape has completely changed. Chrome, which didn’t exist when PDFObject was first released, now rules the land. It also happens to include built-in PDF support. PDF.js was invented, and eventually became Firefox’s default PDF rendering engine. Safari renders PDFs natively using Preview. iOS and Android exploded onto the scene, as did Node.js and NPM. Conversely, Adobe Reader’s market share took a nosedive thanks to browser vendors making Adobe Reader less relevant, not to mention disdain for Adobe Reader’s bloat and security holes. And, of course, HTML5 is now official, which means the <embed> element is officially sanctioned.

PDFObject 2.0 is a complete rewrite that tries to take all of this into consideration. It supports PDF.js. It’s packaged for NPM. It uses the <embed> element instead of the <object> element (not going to rename it to PDFEmbed though). It doesn’t pollute the global space and uses modern JavaScript conventions. It supports all CSS selectors, not just IDs. If you’re feeling frisky, you can even pass a jQuery element instead of a CSS selector (note: PDFObject does not require jQuery). Lots of little changes, which I hope add up to a better experience, wider compatibility, and lots of flexibility.

If you’d like to learn more about PDFObject 2.0, please visit the official site (completely redesigned as well), with examples, documentation and a code generator: http://pdfobject.com

The code is up on GitHub, and has been posted to npm.