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Anyone know of a PDF viewer for linux that can reflow text on the fly? There are a few for android, and at least one for windows, but I haven't found any for Linux.

NOTE: I'm doing this on a 1600x900 laptop. The resolution is not the problem, badly formatted PDFs with hard-to read wide columns is the issue I'm trying to get around.

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  • I'm not that familiar with this but is there a different in reflowing vs. recropping to fit a PDF into the smaller form factors? There are tools such as briss:(lifehacker.com/5744899/…) and K2pdfopt + calibre: howtogeek.com/69481/…. But they appear to trim the existing PDF.
    – slm
    Aug 24, 2013 at 18:08

2 Answers 2

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Acrobat Reader 9 for Linux supports document reflow. The feature can be found in the menu under "View | Zoom | Reflow". The keyboard shortcut is Ctrl + 4.

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This is a bit of a negative answer but I thought it relevant to the topic. As of August 2013 it doesn't appear that the upstream tool to Evince, as well as other PDF viewers on Linux, supports this feature. This upstream tool is called Poppler and according to this question on one of the development forums for Poppler, titled: [poppler] Reflow Feature Support in Poppler it isn't supported.

The other thing that caught my eye from this thread was this bit about Acrobat's support of this feature:

excerpt

Does poppler support reflow feature?

No.

>

I have poppler -0.12.1 version .

Can i get any help or documentation for reflow implemantation?

If this is for display on small devices, remember there are other approaches. Acrobat's reflow feature relies upon tagged pdfs (which are not all that common), or guessing the layout, much as poppler does for text extraction. One alternative is therefore to use poppler's text extraction and /not/ display the document as a pdf; eg use pdf2txt or pdf2html and rely on a browser to do reflow. That's what this bug is about: https://bugs.freedesktop.org/show_bug.cgi?id=20652

That same thread goes on to highlight a couple of other alternatives to reflow that might be worth looking into.

Alternatives

These tools do not offer live reflow functionality, rather they reformat the PDF using a variety of other techniques. Most of them take a file in, reformat it, and spit out a modified version of the original.

  • Pdfreflow

    Pdfreflow is a command line tool that reflows PDF text. Its input is the XML output of pdftohtml, to which it reflows the text, removes page number, header, footers, and hyphenation, and generates an HTML file output.

  • Briss Lifehacker review

    Briss, a cross-platform open-source tool, gives you several ways to trim PDFs to look better on your ereader.

  • K2pdfopt Howtogeek review

    K2pdfopt is designed to optimize PDF documents for small screen e-readers. Rather than convert the document into raw text and try to reformat it, it instead carefully crops and realigns the pieces as though they were a series of images. The end result is a new PDF file that is really true to the original document and free from odd OCR blunders (as it doesn’t attempt to convert or reflow the text).

  • Calibre

    ebook management software.

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  • Those poppler comments make sense. I don't really care about reflowing in the acrobat reader sense. All I care about is making the text column narrower, so that it's easier to read, and I'd like to be able to do that on the fly, if possible.
    – naught101
    Aug 25, 2013 at 8:31
  • @naught101 - Are you doing this using Linux on some sort of smaller form factor device? If so what hardware is this device? That may dictate your possible solution a bit.
    – slm
    Aug 25, 2013 at 12:58
  • on a 1600x900 laptop. Resolution is not the problem, badly formatted PDFs with hard-to read wide columns is.
    – naught101
    Aug 26, 2013 at 2:09

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