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A PDF reader, more portable apps

May 01, 20064 mins

First up this week, a neat freebie: a lightweight PDF viewer for Windows 95, 98, NT, 2000, XP and 2003 called Foxit Reader published by Foxit Software.

Foxit Reader is much faster than Adobe Reader and much smaller as a download (1MB, compared with almost 28MB) and as an installed program (just under 3MB, compared with 90MB).

Although Foxit works as well as Adobe Reader for viewing documents, it isn’t quite on par when it comes to filling out forms. Foxit Reader doesn’t detect the position of the pre-defined data entry fields, so you wind up entering data, then dragging it to the right location on the form. Not a biggie in terms of cons, given that Foxit Reader’s performance is such a big pro.

Foxit also offers a PDF editor, Foxit Editor,  that is, as far as we know and as Foxit claims, “the first real editor for PDF files.”

We were excited by this, as we had recently filled out forms for the Department of Motor Vehicles to register a car but found we were not allowed to save the form data, which was very annoying. Unfortunately, as with Acrobat Reader, the Foxit Editor respects all restrictions the author has set. Rats.

Our second topic for this week is a return to flash drive-based portable applications, which we recently spent three weeks discussing as we examined U3 USB flash drive technology.

The downside of U3 technology, other than I/O performance (a limitation U3 has in common with all systems that use USB flash drives), is that it requires U3 hardware, which increases the drive’s price by 20% to 40%. We expect the premium pricing won’t last, simply because the potential of portable Windows applications is starting to generate competition.

One competitor is a new player in this market: Ceedo.

Ceedo doesn’t require special USB flash drive hardware and takes up just 3MB of storage. Installation is simple: You run the Ceedo installer under Windows with a USB flash drive inserted in a USB port, and the Ceedo software is installed on the flash drive.

The Ceedo installer “fingerprints” the drive and generates a license for that drive to prevent unauthorized use on multiple drives. Once installed, Ceedo can be configured to launch when Windows starts.

The first Ceedo interface you see is a control bar with buttons to minimize the bar to the system tray, show the menu and exit. This bar is stuck to the bottom edge of the display and can slide left and right only.

When you invoke the menu you get a presentation that looks like the Windows Start menu, with entries for the folders My Documents, My Pictures and My Music, which are all on the flash drive. Applications that exist on your PC, such as Internet Explorer and Outlook Express, are automatically added to the application menu.

Clicking on the Add Programs icon launches a separate window to Ceedo’s applications download site, which offers a tremendous number of Ceedo-compatible titles (although some are a point release behind the regular Windows version). Interestingly, Foxit Reader also is available as a Ceedo application.

As far as we can determine, Ceedo does a pretty thorough job of cleaning up when the drive is ejected, but the overall performance is a little slower than we’d like, and it seems occasionally to peg processor utilization at 100%.

We’re still testing the Ceedo system, but so far it looks like a good contender in the mobile application platform market. Ceedo comes in two versions: Ceedo Starter for OEM distribution and Ceedo Personal, priced at $40.

Are you going for portable apps? Tell us on Gibbsblog or at

If you wrote in requesting the Gearhead Windows screensaver we mentioned a few weeks ago, our apologies. We’re waiting for the next release of WildPresenter, which is due out any day now. You’ll be hearing from us as soon as we get our hands on it.


Mark Gibbs is an author, journalist, and man of mystery. His writing for Network World is widely considered to be vastly underpaid. For more than 30 years, Gibbs has consulted, lectured, and authored numerous articles and books about networking, information technology, and the social and political issues surrounding them. His complete bio can be found at

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