Subscribe / Unsubscribe Enewsletters | Login | Register

Pencil Banner

R.I.P. Reader: Examining Adobe's history of disdain towards Linux users

Chris Hoffman | Oct. 17, 2014
Linux users have recently been celebrating the arrival of an official Photoshop for Linux-- yup, once Adobe's Photoshop-streaming-via-Creative-Cloud is out of beta for Chrome, Linux users will be able to use Photoshop in an official way.

Linux users have recently been celebrating the arrival of an official Photoshop for Linux — yup, once Adobe's Photoshop-streaming-via-Creative-Cloud is out of beta for Chrome, Linux users will be able to use Photoshop in an official way.

But Adobe hasn't suddenly fallen in love with Linux. In fact, whatever support they provide for Linux seems purely coincidental. Adobe has been going out of their way to kill their consumer Linux software in the past few years: Reader, Flash, and AIR for Linux have all been axed.

Adobe Reader

Adobe Reader has never been the nicest PDF reader for Linux. It's always been behind Windows and Mac. But Adobe did provide an official PDF reader for Linux. It was long stuck on version 9, while Windows and Mac are up to version 11. But as a reddit user noticed a few weeks ago, Adobe Reader for Linux is no longer available for download from Adobe's website. This isn't a surprise, as they're no longer officially supporting Reader for Linux — it almost certainly has security vulnerabilities that will never be patched.

As a normal Linux user, you probably don't care too much. Linux distributions include good, integrated PDF viewers like Evince for GNOME and Okular for KDE. Chrome and Firefox have their own PDF viewers. Adobe Reader is clunky and not as nice to use, so you may have never used it.

But Adobe Reader is sadly still necessary. It supports "extended forms" that are often used to fill out government documents in PDF form, and no open-source PDF reader for Linux supports those. It also offers other features like animations and embedded 3D models. Yes, all this complexity leads to security problems in a document format that was originally supposed to be simple. But if you need to fill out government documents in PDF form, you probably can't do it on Linux anymore. There's simply no alternative to Adobe Reader here.

Adobe Flash

Adobe transitioned to maintenance mode for the standard Linux Flash player plug-in back in 2012. If you're using Firefox on Windows or Mac, you have Flash Player version 15. If you're using Firefox on Linux, you have version 11.2. Thankfully, Adobe is still providing security updates to this old version for five years, so users have until 2017 before the plug-in is completely unusable. Some Flash content does require a more modern version of the Flash player, however — it's completely unusable in Firefox and most other browsers on Linux.

Linux users do have an option here. The Linux version of Chrome comes with an up-to-date Flash plug-in that uses the Pepper plug-in API. Mozilla has no intention of supporting this new plug-in standard in Firefox. Chrome is your only option for an up-to-date Flash plug-in on Linux — although you can manually hunt down and install the Pepper plug-in for Chromium and Opera. Chrome is based on the open-source Chromium code and so is the latest version of Opera for Linux.

 

1  2  Next Page 

Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.