Linux Commands Examples

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open or close a PDF file viewer



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pdfopen searches for an instance of the specified (or default) PDF viewer displaying the specified PDF file. If there is already an instance of the given viewer displaying the given file, the viewer is instructed to reload the file. If no such instance is found, pdfopen attempts to run the specified viewer on the specified document.

The default viewer is "acroread", which could start any one of a number of versions of Acrobat Reader, depending on what is installed on your system. However, the commands to reload the current document vary from one version of acroread to another; consequently, if you are using a version of acroread other than AR9, you should explicitly specify the viewer program.

Version 0.83 of pdfopen accepts the following viewer options:
, ar9-tab, ar8, ar7, ar5, xpdf, and evince.
The difference between ar9 and ar9-tab is significant when there is no instance of AR9 already displaying the requested document. In this situation, while ar9 will request acroread to create a new instance of acroread (and thus open a new window) by using the -openInNewInstance argument, ar9-tab starts acroread without this argument; if there is already an instance of acroread running, a new tab will be opened in an existing window.

pdfclose searches for one of the above PDF viewers displaying the given file and instructs the viewer to "close" the window. In most cases, the PDF viewer continues to run, possibly now displaying just a blank window. (This behaviour varies somewhat from one PDF viewer to another.)


-h, --help

output help and exit

-v, --version

output the version number and exit

-r, --reset_focus

after sending commands to the PDF viewer, attempt to reset the input focus to the window which had focus before the commands were sent


<ar9|ar9-tab|ar8|ar7|ar5|xpdf|evince> use (respectively) Adobe Reader 9 (in a new window), Adobe Reader 9 (in a new tab of a running AR9, if any), Adobe Reader 8, Adobe Reader 7, Adobe Reader 5, xpdf or evince as the PDF viewer program. Adobe Reader 9 (in a new window) is the default.


If you use ar9-tab to reload the PDF document and the instance of acroread with the given document is currently displaying some other document, the command causes your document to be displayed, but not reloaded.

pdfopen works by looking for a window with a name (window title) matching that expected for the given viewer and document. If for some reason your viewer’s window name is not as expected, pdfopen may not work for you.

With at least AR9 and some window managers, using pdfopen to reload the document gives focus to the acroread window, even though the mouse cursor is not necessarily in that window. This can be annoying. The -reset_focus option can be used to deal with this problem.

portability and availability

Users familiar with the Windows version of pdfopen might wonder about the lack of a --page <pagenumber> option. Unfortunately, to date no GNU/Linux versions of acroread support this feature. Anyone having a friend at Adobe is encouraged to ask them to implement a "-page <pagenumber>" command line option for acroread.

These programs have been tested on Slackware64 Version 13.37 and a few other versions / distributions of GNU/Linux. The code is reasonably generic and should work out of the box using most recent X11 implementations. (Reports to the contrary are welcome, particularly if they come with robust fixes.)

These programs are designed for X11-based systems. If you somehow find compiled versions of these programs on a system using another window system, they are very unlikely to be of any use to you.

Source and binaries of the programs can be downloaded from CTAN://support/xpdfopen/ (e.g.,


At certain points of TeX document preparation, many people repeat a "edit-compile-view" cycle. Since PDF viewers such as Adobe’s Acrobat Reader ("acroread") do not automatically refresh the display when the PDF file changes, this cycle can be more cumbersome than desired. The pdfopen program provides the ability to automate the reloading of the PDF document when it is changed.

Note: there seems to be little need for pdfclose under GNU/Linux, since (unlike the situation for MS windows) acroread does not lock the PDF file, which would prevent pdftex (or a DVI to PDF converter) from creating a new version of the PDF output file. However, pdfclose is provided in case someone finds it useful.


This manual page was written by Jim Diamond <Jim.Diamond[:at:]acadiau[:dot:]ca>. I am the current maintainer of the X11 versions of pdfopen and pdfclose. Report any bugs you find to me. Feature enhancement requests are welcome, coded enhancements even more so.

Past authors: Fabrice Popineau wrote the MS-windows versions of pdfopen and pdfclose upon which these programs were originally based. Taco Hoekwater created the GNU/Linux versions, up to Version 0.61 (including some documentation which inspired parts of this man page).

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