Fast Forward's Help File

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By Rob Pegoraro
Sunday, February 10, 2008

Q When I view a PDF in Firefox on my Mac, the file doesn't display inside the Web browser the way it will in Safari. It opens in the Preview program instead, and I have to remember to delete the downloaded PDF later.

AYou've discovered a basic design flaw of Firefox on the Mac. Unlike Apple's Safari, it doesn't use the graphics software built into Mac OS X, which can display Portable Document Format files by itself.

So Firefox has to download a PDF and then hand it off to an extra application, such as the Preview program included with OS X. That extra step both takes you out of your Web browser and leaves you with the PDF file taking up space afterward.

Firefox users on older Macs with PowerPC processors can install an extra plug-in ( http://schubert-it.com/pluginpdf/) that adds this missing feature to Firefox. But this software, free for use in homes and schools, doesn't work on newer models with Intel processors.

It doesn't seem this problem will be addressed anytime soon. A bug report documenting it doesn't offer any target date for a fix and lists it as assigned to "Nobody."

My copy of Windows XP lost the software I need to play DVDs. Where can I get a new DVD player program?

The cheapest fix is to download a free, open-source program called VLC Media Player ( http://videolan.org/vlc). This application can be a little geeky, but it includes some helpful bonus features: It plays DVDs that have "region coding," which limits them to viewing in other parts of the world, and it can open almost any other video file you might encounter.

The VLC player can also solve lesser DVD problems. When a homemade disc played silently in one copy of Windows Media Player, VLC let me both watch and listen to the movie.

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 orrobp@washpost.com. Turn to Thursday's Business section or visit washingtonpost.com anytime for his Fast Forward column.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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