How can one use system dictionary ^++D in .pdf's opened in Safari 6 (using Acrobat Reader)? Is perhaps Adobe Reader at fault (i.e. does the dictionary work with Safari's default .pdf reader)?


The program that draws the text needs to use one of Apple's standard SDK for drawing text for the shortcut dictionary to work. Since safari is handing the PDF over to Adobe to render - they apparently are not using a standard text field but have implemented their own code/class to do the drawing.

This is very common for web browsers like Chrome and other programs that desire to avoid being a Mac program and instead be more cross platform.

In your case, simply ditching the Acrobat plug in will restore the PDF handling using the native tools and your dictionary shortcuts will work again. Simply delete the AdobePDFViewer.plugin from /Library/Internet Plug-ins.

  • I can't speak for the OP, but I get similar behaviour when using Apple's PDF plugin (and within Preview for that matter). Looks like it may not just be a non-standard renderer issue. – robmathers Dec 18 '12 at 21:07
  • Indeed, got rid of Acrobat and the dictionary is back. The solution is to delete the AdobePDFViewer.plugin from /Library/Internet Plug-ins since Adobe disabled relevant option in preferences (should one wish to default back to Preview). – Blaz Dec 18 '12 at 21:19
  • @robmathers Safari 6.0.2 works with ^ ⌘ D for me - see this screen shot if it in action. cl.ly/LgyI - That same PDF works fine in Preview for me. Usually you can't select text in an image, so I'm not sure why you don't have those standard controls. – bmike Dec 18 '12 at 21:20
  • @courteous Feel free to edit my answer to improve it with your details or you can answer your own question, but it helps to have details like that (and I don't have Adobe products installed) so I couldn't test for you. – bmike Dec 18 '12 at 21:21

In my testing, the ⌃⌘D shortcut doesn't work in Preview or PDFs within Safari. However selecting the word, and using the Look Up in Dictionary item from the context (right-click) menu does work as expected (it displays the yellow highlighting and popup, not the full Dictionary app).

I'm not sure why the shortcut doesn't work, but it's a decent work around at least.

  • Odd, the ⌃⌘D shortcut does work for me in Preview. – Blaz Dec 18 '12 at 21:21
  • Something's up since I just tested this on three different Mac with three different versions of Safari and Preview and all work well. Perhaps you have a different shortcut defined? – bmike Dec 18 '12 at 21:22
  • Very odd. ⌃⌘D works for me everywhere else, but not PDFs in Safari or Preview. Now this is going to bug me. – robmathers Dec 18 '12 at 21:47

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