Firefox: Can’t open PDF in Acrobat

September 16, 2014

Firefox allows you to set options for how you’d like to deal with a linked file (Tools > Options > Applications). I thought I had them all set properly to open a PDF with Adobe Acrobat:


But PDF links clicked in Firefox would still try to save and NOT open in Acrobat as I wanted!

So after many months of being frustrated by this behavior and setting and resetting those options (for some reason, they reset themselves every so often — I’m not sure if it’s related to the regular Firefox updates or something else), I went looking for an answer. After viewing a lot of websites, I found another setting on that screen that is the critical one — you have to scroll down and there’s Portable Document Format!:



Once I set this to use Acrobat, everything worked fine.

What I want to know is how is ‘Adobe Acrobat Document’ in this list different to ‘Portable Document Format’ and why is PDF under P and not under A as all the other Adobe options are?



  1. Whilst the Portable Document Format (or PDF) file-type is a generic format, the Adobe Acrobat Document file-type is specific to Adobe. Adobe Systems did originally create the PDF file-type, but it has since expanded and the entire specification was opened in ’08; Adobe allowed everyone man and his dog to be able to create PDF files in any manner they wanted. However, there are some elements of the Adobe Acrobat Document file-type that are not open to the public, meaning that only an Adobe product can truly open these files, even if they are a “.pdf”.
    So whilst Adobe and countless other programs can create PDF documents, only Adobe can create Adobe Acrobat Documents! Hope that helps clear that up… clear as mud, right?

  2. Hi Lachlan

    I figured that was probably the reason, but it’s very confusing when you see all those Adobe things at the top of the list and assume that PDF is the same as Adobe Acrobat Document ;-). I have full Adobe Acrobat (not just the Reader) and that’s what I want PDFs to open in… I didn’t even think about looking further down the list for a PDF option.


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