Viewing DjVu files in Windows - a status report
by James Rile, PlanetDjVu, April 28, 2002
In July of 2001, we reviewed the DjVu Plugins for ACDSee v3.1 and IfranView 3.25. Now we pay a return visit 9 months later and take a look at the ACDSee v4.0 and IrfanView v3.7 application updates to see what improvements have been made, and we look at the ability to view DjVu files on the Windows platform in general.
Both of these popular multiple-format desktop viewers continue to provide application plugins for the viewing of DjVu files. Both viewers have been significantly upgraded since last year, but the Djvu plugins have not been upgraded. They support only the now-outdated DjVu 2.0 format.
In ACDSee v4.0, when you attempt to open a DjVu 3.x file for display, the entire application crashes. In IrfanView v3.7, when you attempt to open a DjVu 3.x file, you get a "DjVu Decode Error" message.
Since even the open source library for DjVu now produces DjVu 3.x files, we find the DjVu viewer plugins to be fairly useless unless you happen to have DjVu 2.0 files created while the DjVu format was still owned by AT&T. Since then, we can find no other desktop viewers that support the display of the DjVu format.
In our review last year, we concluded that these DjVu application plugins were seriously out-of-date and in need of updating. This remains the case.
The DjVu Solo 3.1 desktop application from LizardTech, which is a free download from LizardTech, will open and display DjVu 3.x files, but it is not designed to be a document viewer as ACDSee and IrfanView are. You cannot see the text layer of DjVu 3.x files in DjVu Solo, which has not received and updates or bug fixes in the last 18 months.
We conclude that there are no longer any desktop viewers to display contemporary (v3.x) DjVu files, and so this just leaves the DjVu Web Browser Plugin from LizardTech for the display of DjVu v3.x files on the Windows platform.
Click Here for the review of ACDSee v3.1 and IrfanView v3.25 from 2001.
Click Here for the recent review of the DjVu Web Browser Plugin
Status Report Update 5/31/2002:
I am writing this adendum as a result of numerous inquires that were recently made.
First, a inquiry was made about distributing DjVu collections on CD-ROM with the DjVu Web Browser Plugin included on the CD for those that do not have internet connections. The answer is that, according to all the various license agreements for the DjVu Web Browser (see the most recent plug-in review which includes the license agreements), the DjVu Plugin cannot be distributed. It cannot be obtained at all other than as a download from the LizardTech web site. This is unlike the Acrobat Reader, which can be freely distributed and also provided on CD-ROMs.
Note: You don't have to be connected to the Internet in order to view DjVu files stored locally in the DjVu Plugin to the web browser.
Next, two inquiries made about building (compiling) a DjVu viewer with customizations like annotation support, for existing LAN-based document management systems. Unfortunately no viewer code is available for licensing. The DjVu Web Browser Plugin is not available in an SDK form. The DjVu Encode SDK provides no viewer code, dispite the declaration on the LizardTech site that (http://www.lizardtech.com/products/index.php?x=2&p=12&o=1) that you can "Build support for creating, viewing, and manipulating DjVu documents natively within third-party applications." You can create DjVu documents with it, and you can manipulate them within the limited set of SDK functions provided. There is no viewer code so you cannot build viewers with this, and also you cannot manipulate DjVu outside of the Encode SDK using the DjVu Reference Library, since this would require a separate license to the Reference Library.
Finally, someone asked about the ability to take the DjVuLibre plugin source code for Linux, and recompile it for Windows. The answer is yes, this could be done, but this viewer cannot be used in an application that is commercially sold.
So the bottom line is that, at present, there will be no proliferation of viewers for the DjVu file format.