Thursday, February 26, 2009

Limited Undo

It's great when you can undo after you have already saved a document and go back, back, back... It would be even greater if everything could be really undoable. Take for example Adobe(R) Acrobat(R) Reader 9.0.0. I was reading a book of 1200 pages. I was reading one of the internal pages (don't remember which) and had arrived to the bottom of the window. I moved my hand to press the key "Page Down", but I pressed the wrong (nearby) key, which happens to be the "End" key. Ok, I said, there's the Undo command. No way, said Acrobat Reader, you can't undo. The rationale is probably: "The user has not edited the document, there is nothing to undo". Why not adopting the rationale: "Every time a key is pressed, chances are it was a mistake"???
Dear reader, don't think that, just because today's software allow for unlimited undoing, you can really undo everything. Actually there are a lot of important and common things that can't be undone, or can be remedied to, but only using a command different from Undo. Try for example to click a link in this page and to return here with an Undo. Does it work? Try typing a long sentence with your word processor and to remove the last word only with Undo. What happens?
Luckily, everybody knows how to jump back to the previous page with the command go back and to delete the last word by selecting it and cutting it away. How do you find the page you were reading with Acrobat?
Adobe Reader takes 172.6 MB on my hard disk. It's larger than many historical operative systems (combined). It's also much larger than my first hard disc (40 MB), yet it can't undo. It's really a mystery what's hidden inside. There is potential room for a million of viruses.
I have an assignment for you. I mean you guys who haven't the least idea of what NMR means but nonetheless try to post comments into my blog only to link to your web sites. I have always deleted your posts. This time I want to give you a chance.
Read the credits of Adobe Reader (they appear after you open the "about" box). If you can write the exact number of people who appear into the credits, I will not delete your comment.


At 10:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Total 1029 names (duplicated removed) appear in the credit box of Adobe Reader 9.0.0

The Undo (Ctrl + Z) function is unavailable in Reader, but we can press Alt + Left Arrow to go to previous view.

At 10:49 AM, Blogger old swan said...

Dear Anonymous Anonymous, you are a genious and a generous one. Thank you for the lesson. Now I have also found the menu command Go To > Previous View. If the name was "Go Back", and if it was listed into a first-level menu, probably I could have found it by myself. Thank you again, I will certainly use your shortcut very often (on the Mac it's Cmd-left arrow).

At 5:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear old swan,

You overpraised me. Alternative way is getting the "previous view" and "next view" shortcut buttons upon the toolbar. The step is: Menu View->Toolbars->More Tools..., then check the "Previous view" and "Next view" options under "page navigation toolbar" item. For further convience, "First Page" and "Last Page" option can also be checked meanwhile.

At 6:14 PM, Blogger old swan said...

I suspected that the toolbar could be customized. The point is, however, that we can't learn all the software we are using. Given that we are also accustomed to web browsers, and that these browsers have a prominent "go back" button into the toolbar, why hasn't Adobe imitated the interface of a browser into the reader? I mean: the reader is a program that nobody is supposed to study. Quite often I click a link into a web page and I am automatically transported into Adobe reader (if the click downloaded a PDF). Yes, I know I can insert a PDF into the browser, but the performance is too poor for my tastes, I prefer reading the PDFs into an external application.
The mere fact that Adobe Reader is the effort of 1029 different people make me confident it's a reliable product. I just would have saved the effort of studying and configurig it. Maybe some day I'll meet a PDF reader with a more intuitive interface. From the considerations above, it's clear that "intuitive" is an extremely subjective concept, that strongly depends on the previous exposures of the user. I see you are an expert of the Reader. Do you also know why the name has changed from Acrobat to Adobe?

At 8:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have no idea why Adobe changed the name of Acrobat Reader to Adobe Reader. Frankly speaking, I have used Foxit reader ( to view and print pdf files in Windows OS for several years.

For Mac OS X, the wikipedia web page lists some pdf viewer (
Mac OS X
[edit] Converters
deskUNPDF for Mac – commercial application from Docudesk for converting PDF files to the Microsoft Office or file formats

[edit] Creators
Mac OS X's printing subsystem enables any application with printing capability to generate a PDF.

[edit] Viewers
Adobe Reader – Adobe Systems Reader is also available on the Mac platform.
Preview – Mac OS X's default PDF viewer (in v10.5 it also can annotate, rearrange pages, and merge PDF files)
Safari – Apple's web browser supports in-line PDF viewing.
Skim – an open source PDF reader and note-taker for Mac OS X

I'm not working with Mac, so I have no idea which viewer above is a lightware and best one for Mac.

I once tested iNMR in Leopard in virtual machine. iNMR is the most beautiful and elegant NMR data processing and analyzing software I ever saw.
You do better by yourself than the thousand developers of Adobe reader in making ease of use of softwares.

At 11:11 PM, Blogger old swan said...

Years ago I already tried alternative PDF viewers, and eventually decided that Acrobat reader had its advantages. Now I don't remember which they was! Maybe one day I will perform another review, yet I would say that I am satisfied by Adobe, expecially now that you teached me about the "missing" command. I have many things to say on the rest of your comment, so many that I will dedicate my future post.

At 8:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 2:35 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

wouldn't it be neat to have it in all software - a timeline that you could scroll if you needed

At 10:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You commit an error. I suggest it to discuss.


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