reading PDFs in Tofu


2005-1-29

I just discovered Tofu, an unique kind Tect-Display / Screen reader. Tofu adresses the common problem that reading on a screen is slower and more stressing than on paper. You'll need to check it out to see for yourself.

So far I'm very happy with it, it has really sped up my reading on-screen. Only gripe was it's only really usefull for more-or-less plain text. It can handle copy & paste from a Webbrowsers or other apps ok, but for longer Texts (ebooks) that is unpractical. And most of the onscreen-reading I need it for really are PDF ebooks!

So I was looking for an easy way to make plain-text out of a PDF ebook. Working on MacOS X, the solution lies nearer than one might expect: Ghostscript is your friend! Along with Darwin's installation of Ghostscript comes a rather usefull command-line tool named ps2ascii.

In Terminal a command like

ps2ascii TheEbook.pdf TheEbook.txt

will extract the plain-text part of the ebook into the file given as second parameter.

ps2ascii is far from perfect, and 'Your Milage May Vary' depending on the PDF in question. Some PDFs come out very well (especially those that were produced out of HTML files to beginn with), while some will come out utter rubish (PageMaker derived ones are notoriously unreadable in plain-text). And such that contain text as images (scanned) will not work at all - the don't really contain 'text' for that matter.

So far ps2ascii was a workable solution for me to make some proggress in my stack of to-read ebooks!

[small update] I might add that Tofu handles RTF/DOC and HTML files with simple text-styling rather well when opening those files directly.

[and yet another update] Using Acrobat Reader - instead od OSX's Preview gives a very good copy & paste result. This works even from Classic Acrobat Reader into Tofu. BUT it only works page per page, one at a time...

And I need to correct that last sentence again! If you switch the display behavior of Acrobat Reader to 'continous', a 'select all' really selects the whole text of the PDF! Paradise! Bliss!

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alles Bild, Text und Tonmaterial ist © Martin Spernau, Verwendung und Reproduktion erfordert die Zustimmung des Authors

Martin Spernau
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