A Closer Look at Okular Part 1

Since almost all Linux applications can print to PDF, a good Linux PDF application is indispensable if you work with documents daily. Since Adobe no longer releases updates for Adobe Reader for Linux, users should try Okular, one of the preinstalled utilities with KDE, in their workflow.

Although it lacks the "official" features associated with Adobe PDF, Okular is dependable and includes many annotation tools. Annotations added in Okular can be viewed in other systems running Okular. The KDE Okular web page lists format support and limitations similar to that of Evince, another Linux document viewer.

PDF Support

New Linux users accustomed to Adobe Acrobat and who diligently make notes and annotate PDF documents will be surprised by how many PDF tools have been added to Okular over the years. Working in Linux already provides tons of flexibility when working with documents through the command line or through a hundred other available open-source applications, but Okular's GUI interface and toolbar provides most of what an editor or writer needs.

Okular may not have tools for filling out forms or adding text directly to PDF, but some tools users might find useful in their workflow include:

1. Selection Tools for text, images or tables

If you extract text or images from archived PDFs for research, Okular's Selection Tool can let you select text by drawing a rectangle on a text block or using the Text Selection Tool, which highlights the text. Okular will automatically detect the text when you use the Selection Tool and then offers to copy the selection to your Clipboard. You can also select an area and paste the text as an image (similar to using a screen capture utility). It's extremely useful for collating information to a note taking application such as KeepNote or Cherrytree.

The Table Selection Tool also worked perfectly on the tables on the Synology User Guide I was reading. After drawing a rectangle around the Table Selection Tool, click on the horizontal and vertical lines on the table so the columns and rows are retained accurately when pasted on to another application.

2. View > Trim Margins

One feature I found unique to Okular is the Trim Margins option found under the View menu. In Acrobat, trimming a PDF means "cropping" the document. Okular, however, focuses on the viewing experience of a document instead. By toggling the Trim Margin option, you can temporarily "remove" excess white space around a page while reading.

3. Exceptional views: Table of Contents, Thumbnails, Bookmarks and Reviews (Annotations)

Besides the typical zoom controls and Zoom Tool, users have a nicely laid out control panel for accessing page thumbnails, contents and bookmarks added using Okular.

4. Bookmarks in Okular

Bookmarks in Okular function differently from other PDF readers. Bookmarks are global - that is, the Bookmarks panel lists all the bookmarks you've added using Okular in all your documents. This lets you quickly refer to previously opened or read documents. It is a bit ungainly at times since it closes your current document. However, I can see its usefulness when working with several documents at a time.

In the screenshot below, there are two bookmarks listed. One bookmark is linked to the Synology User Guide and the other to a book about Hong Kong.

5. Review tools

The Review tools for PDFs opened in Okular are underrated. Users can add two types of fully customizable inline/floating notes, highlights to text, ellipses, freehand lines and polygons (which is drawn in the same way as the Pen Tool in CorelDraw or Adobe Illustrator). Take note though that annotations aren't visible when opened using Adobe Reader or other PDF viewers which limits sharing of the document between Linux machines with Okular.

Continued in A Closer Look at Okular Part 2


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