Acrobat on the Web Powered by WebAssembly

Acrobat on the Web Powered by WebAssembly

Acrobat JS is a web-based PDF library powered by WebAssembly. We describe how we used WebAssembly to bring Adobe's performant and pixel-perfect rendering on the Web with the Document Cloud PDF Embed API.

We describe how we used WebAssembly to bring Adobe's performant and pixel-perfect rendering on the Web with the Document Cloud PDF Embed API.

PDF documents are a major part of our digital lives and, in an era where we spend most of our time working inside a web browser, enhancing the PDF experience on the web is crucial for providing a seamless, multi-device experience. As the creators of PDF, this led Adobe to envision Acrobat Web; we embarked on our Acrobat Web journey with the introduction of the Document Cloud PDF Embed API in 2019.

The PDF Embed API offers Adobe’s pixel-perfect PDF viewing on the web with the promise of performance and ease of integration on all major browsers. It also offers UI customization and integration with Adobe Analytics. You can see the Embed API in action here.

PDF settings screenshot

PDF rendering and viewing in the Embed API is done purely on the client’s browser. All the client-side PDF heavy lifting is performed by the core component of the Embed API called Acrobat JS.

What is Acrobat JS?

Acrobat JS is a web-based PDF library powered by WebAssembly. WebAssembly (WASM) is an open standard that enables reusing native C/C++/Rust applications in a web browser at near-native performance. Acrobat JS leverages WebAssembly by using Adobe’s Mobile PDF library on the web; the same library that powers Adobe’s Acrobat Mobile Apps. The library’s C++ code has been compiled to WebAssembly to bring Adobe’s high-fidelity PDF rendering on the Web.

The Acrobat JS project started in the very early phases of WebAssembly in 2016, which meant the documentation and support were still very new. The browser implementations and the standard were continuously changing. Debugging support was also not very convenient, especially for large codebases like ours. But the fun of working with such an amazing technology made it all worth it.

webassembly wasm web-development

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