New vs current browser window for PDF?

Subject: New vs current browser window for PDF?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 17 Apr 2001 10:09:35 -0400

Karen Neeb wonders: <<Is there a standard as to whether a PDF link should
open in the same browser window or a new browser window?>>

Undoubtedly. The fun thing about computers is that with a little work, you
can find a standard that will support any opinion you want to support. <g>
Less facetiously, I don't believe there is any broadly accepted standard
that answers your question--at least not based on the variety of my
experience with clicking on PDF links on the Web.

<<I know I have my own personal preference, but others in my group have the
opposite preference... Have any studies been conducted? What is your
personal preference, and for what reason(s)?>>

Don't trust any studies that claim universal applicability when in fact the
study only addressed one small audience that may differ greatly from your
audience. If you can, ask your audience (not us) about their preferences. If
you get a unanimous response, adopt a single approach that suits that
response; if you get a diversity of opinion, try to satisfy the majority
without inconveniencing the minority. Sometimes you may have to go to the
drastic extreme of adopting two or more different approaches that meet
important but different needs.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that readers get annoyed if they end up with
dozens of browser windows open on their desktop--I know I do, and have read
diatribes by others with similar complaints--but how many windows would be
acceptable is likely to be highly subjective and thus highly variable. I see
no reason why creating a single additional, named target window dedicated to
the display of PDF would pose problems for most users; on the contrary, it
would seem to be quite efficient to have one window that contains the HTML
page that contains the PDF links and a second window that contains the
opened files, since this parallels many other familiar user interfaces
(e.g., frames in HTML with a table of contents on the left and content on
the right, having the online help open in one window and the application it
refers to open in another window).

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at

"The most likely way for the world to be destroyed, most experts agree, is
by accident. That's where we come in; we're computer professionals. We cause
accidents."-- Nathaniel Borenstein


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