Why are PDF files dangerous?

Apologies if this is a silly question, but I see it all the time here: people linking to PDF files and saying “Warning: PDF”.

Why the warning? What are they afraid the PDF file will do to some unsuspecting innocent’s computer? Are PDFs prone to hide viruses or something?

They’re BIG, and take, on some computers, a really long time to load. They’re not warning of danger, but of inconvenience.

Incidentally, the threat level is low, but I can recall at least one demonstration of the possibility of a malicious hack using the PDF format.
Nonetheless, previous poster is 100% correct; if you’ve got a slow pipe or a suboptimal quantity of RAM, they can be painfully slow.
Additionally, some folks may not be able to open them.

What jayjay said. I had an older computer once that would crash when a PDF file was opened.

So is that it? It’s gotta be less of an inconvenience than going down to the library to look for it. Is it really an inconvenience worthy of a warning? If it’s taking too long, you can just stop it, can’t you?

Nope. On the work computers opening a .pdf file means the computer is going to freeze for about 10 minutes, then sloowwwwly open the file. Nothing short of a reboot will shorten the 10-minute wait. FWIW, this is on an Athlon 1800+ with 256mb ram and running windows 2000. They haven’t been upgraded in years.

Adobe Reader is really, really bad at opening *.pdf files in a browser. Saving a PDF to your hard drive and opening it from there is fine, but just opening the link normally will often freeze your browser.

I’m one of them. Old computer, hasn’t been defragged in way too long, plus my husband downloads a LOT of stuff that takes up virtual memory and real memory, so our hard drive is always way too close to full.

No, I can’t always stop it if it’s taking too long; it sometimes “freezes” my whole system. I can ALT-CNTRL-DEL and shutdown my internet browser, but it takes a while and then I lose whatever else I was working on or looking at.

It’s not the end of the world, but I’d rather have the warning, look at what else is running/downloading (coughbittorrentscough) and guesstimate if I have enough memory free at the moment to open a .pdf in something resembling a reasonable amount of time. If it’s something I’m not terribly interested in, it’s probably not worth it; I’ll just choose to take the poster’s word as their cite OR I’ll try googling the link to see if there’s an “Open as HTML” option available.

Weighing the aggravation of typing out “Warning: pdf” vs. the aggravation I know some other people might endure clicking on a pdf unwittingly, the polite thing seems to be to label my pdf links, so I try to remember to do it myself.

Once a PDF has started loading, I’ve never been able to stop it. In fact, in my efforts to do so, I’ve frozen the computer completely on more than one occasion.

I’ve always understood that when people give a PDF Warning, they’re just being courteous, and I appreciate it.

That is pretty much it. It’s a courtesey much like marking something NSFW. You’re just letting the user know they are about to attempt to open a .pdf file. At work I can download a 1.43MB pdf in about 10-15 seconds. At home that would take 4-5 minutes. FWIW sometimes it*** is much easier ***to go down to the library and look for it (tax booklets, for example) than trying to download a giant 40MB pdf file.

The issue is not PDF vs. nothing at all, it’s also a reflection of the overuse of PDFs. Sometimes the same data can be better presented as a Word document, a text file or a web page (or broken into smaller chunks).

If you are using Firefox, there’s an add on that will prompt you when you click on a pdf link, and let you choose whether you want to download it, view it or view it as HTML.

So glad you asked the question, Alive. I’ve wondered about it,too.

Also, when you download a PDF, it clutters your desktop, and then you spend a whole lot of time trying to declutter your desktop from all the crazy PDF’s you have. It’s a problem for me because I download a ton of journal PDF’sd which have no real identification markings on them at all, so to clean my desktop, I have to open every PDF and decide if it is garbage or not. I have great difficulty locating the PDF I want, because I am so loaded down with crap.

Another tip: Foxit Reader. A gazillion times faster than Adobe for opening PDFs, irrespective of whether they’re online or on your own hard drive.

Yup. Named, unoriginally, “PDF Download”. I used to loathe PDFs until I installed that add-on and Foxit Reader (link in GorillaMan post). That solved my problems with PDFs and I loathe them no more. I guess Adobe just didn’t do good work.

I have ~997 pdf files - too many to read individually.

Probably OK to delete as fast as possible?

There is probably a degree of anachronism involved as well. .pdf’s used to crash older browsers as a matter of routine, but these days I find them stable, but just slow.

Mine go into a temp folder that clears itself out. I’ve noticed that the mac in my lab is set up to download them to the desktop. I’m not sure why. I’m not sure if it’s a common mac thing or if it was just configured improperly. If I want to keep the PDF then I manually save it to a permanent location.

BTW I don’t have mine set to open up in a browser. I find that leads to crashes too easily. Adobe Reader opens up and the PDF opens in that.

I don’t think I’ve ever accidentally clicked on a PDF link. Is this common? All my browsers have a little bar at the bottom of the window that tells me where links are pointed when they’re moused over.

In MacOS X 10.4 and earlier, the Safari Web browser was configured by default to download to the desktop. In 10.5, Apple supplied a “Downloads” folder for the user, which was the new default destination. In any case however, you can direct Safari or any web browser to whichever folder you want for downloads.

That’s usually good enough. Occasionally though you’ll encounter a link with a complicated CGI URL that you’d never guess resolves to a PDF file. Surprise, surprise.