Lucide, the New Document Viewer for eComStation

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From OS2eCS Organization

By Axel Meiss

Contents

Preface

This review of Lucide is based on Lucide Beta 4.This application hasn't been released as GA (General Availability) yet, so it would be inappropriate to criticize any functions of the program which may not have been implemented yet.

History

For a long time, OS/2 users were dependent on Adobe's Acrobat 3.0 PDF viewer which came out in 1997 and supported PDF documents up to PDF version 1.2. When PDF version 1.4 came out, Acrobat 3.0 couldn't display those documents properly. While most authors of PDF files switched to PDF 1.4 soon after that, Adobe didn't publish a viewer for OS/2 that would render those documents correctly. OS/2 users didn't have an up to date PDF viewer until Innotek published the odinized [Innotek has created their own internal build of ODIN version of Acrobat 4. Despite Innotek's honorable efforts, their Odinized Acrobat 4, was not a satisfactory solution for many OS/2 users, since it relied on the Win32 [Windows] version of Acrobat. As for me, who has a doze [Windows] machine in the corner, this was not an attractive solution. In fact, displaying PDF files was one of the few reasons to boot that machine, since I wanted to keep my OS/2 machine free from any doze system files. For many PDF files, I could still cope with Acrobat 3.0 for OS/2 but there were plenty of files which I couldn't view. PDF has become a de-facto standard for electronic documents; so the missing capability of Acrobat 3.0 to display newer documents is a severe nuisance. In fact, PDF/X and PDF/A have become real standards now. When PDF/A, the document format for archival documents, was adopted, I was preparing to start development for a native PDF viewer for OS/2. I even contacted the author of ePDF to evaluate the effort needed for the project. Soon after, it was announced that Lucide was being developed by Serenity Systems International to be included in eComStation. This made it unnecessary for me to continue my plans.

The Program

Lucide comes as a package, consisting of an executable (Lucide.exe), language files and some DLLs - including document processing DLLs. Lucide is a generic document viewer. Specific document types are "externalized" to a specific DLL. This means for each document type, you need a special DLL. (For example: LUPPLR.DLL for PDF documents and LUJPEG.DLL for JPG-picture files.) New document formats only require a new DLL, specialized for that format, while the main application Lucide doesn't have to change. [Lucide utilizes SOM, which among other things, makes it easier to develop new plug-ins.] If you are interested in how something like that works, check out my previous article: Developing for fun with OS/2 and OpenWatcom.

Lucide doesn't require any specific installation, it can be run after the program, language files and DLLs have been decompressed to a single directory from where Lucide is started.

Now, what does it look like?

Image:luc1.jpg|Screen Shot of Lucide

That is the start screen of Lucide. Please note the English menu. By default, Lucide starts here with a German menu. (That is what the language files are for.) But I can change that behavior simply by setting the environment variable LANG to "en_US" in the command window [An example: SET LANG=en_US], then start Lucide from there. I must say that is very nice! I had trouble displaying the Geode data book last summer, so I tested Lucide with that document. Lucide had no trouble with that!

Image:luc4.jpg

As you can see, this is the info about the Vcore issue of the Geode.

One thing I have noticed with Lucide, is that it is slow at rendering drawn figures, but I have a slow machine here (400 MHz). In any case, this is not such an important matter, since Lucide displays documents properly; which could not be displayed by the old [native] Acrobat 3.0.

Printing

This version of Lucide now supports printing of the documents it displays. [A New function in Beta 4.]

Image:luc7.jpg

When trying to print, I encountered a problem of the page not printing properly. First, I supposed it was a bug of Lucide, since I could print fine with [Lotus] SmartSuite documents. I tested the same image with Impos/2. I had the same error with Impos/2, so I realized that I had a printing problem, rather than it being a bug with Lucide.

Summary

I am already very content with Lucide [even though it is still beta code]. The concept of a generic document viewer is very nice. It can be extended for other document formats such as the OpenDocument format. As for me, the key feature of Lucide is its capability for handling current PDF standards. I suppose that goes for the majority of other eComStation users also. Even if we don't see other plug-ins for Lucide soon, the application is already what we have needed for several years.

Availability

Lucide and its components are only available to registered users of eComStation. [Currently via the BetaZone and included in the recent eComStation v2 Beta R3.] Some may wonder why one has to be a registered user? Evidently, this was done on purpose to increase the attractiveness of eComStation, which is the most recent operating system based on OS/2. If you want to use it, you need to get eComStation. This supports the developers, who spend much of their time, giving eComStation users good reasons to stick with their favorite operating system!