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Adobe Acrobat allows to measure distances in a document, which is helpful and saves making test printouts when trying to get a certain layout right point-perfect.

Is there a free (as in beer) PDF viewer that allows the same? Or can a PDF viewer actually be relied on to reproduce distances closely enough on-screen, to the point where one could measure distances directly on the screen?

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I don't know about point-perfect, but for the purposes of theses and dissertations I've assisted with, I always zoomed whatever PDF viewer I used to make an on-screen page the same width as a real page, and stuck a ruler up to the screen. –  Mike Renfro Sep 23 '11 at 19:18
    
Is the PDf you are trying measure produced by LaTeX? If so, you add a grid to see where things are exactly on a page. Otherwise with the use of pfdpages this will help you obtain the same result. –  Peter Grill Sep 23 '11 at 19:21
    
@Peter Grill: Yes, the PDF is LaTeX-created. How would you go about creating such a grid? (If I were an experienced LaTeX user, I wouldn't have to double-check if my settings worked out correctly in the first place. ;-) ) –  DevSolar Sep 23 '11 at 19:30
    
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I know that you are asking for a PDF viewer with such feature, but have you thought about using a screen ruler? It might not be the best thing since sliced bread, but I think it's an alternative. There are some free programs available for Windows, like Ruler or A Ruler for Windows. There's also ScreenRuler for Linux. Disclaimer: I have no idea how to use them. :-) –  Paulo Cereda Sep 23 '11 at 19:39
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3 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Free as in beer, but not as in speech, PDF XChange Viewer has a fairly comprehensive set of measurement tools that I find quite useful. It is, however, Windoze-only, I think.

Here's a sample:

enter image description here

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Windows only, but works quite nicely under Wine. –  DevSolar Sep 23 '11 at 21:32
    
Great description: "free as in beer, but not as in speech". :-) –  Paulo Cereda Sep 24 '11 at 0:23
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For Mac OSX users here are two options:

In Preview,

  1. open the Inspector (Command-I)
  2. Select the Crop and Rotate tab, whose icon looks like a small ruler. Change the units as required
  3. Now use the select area tool and the corresponding (printed) dimensions will be shown in the Inspector.

-OR-

Download Free Ruler, which displays a nice ruler on screen, though requires care in both setting the ruler DPI and ensuring that the PDF is viewed at 100% size.

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(from my comment to this answer)

Another suggestion is to use a screen ruler on top of your .pdf document. For Linux, I strongly suggest ScreenRuler:

ScreenRuler is a small GNOME based utility that allows you to measure objects on your desktop. It can be used to take both horizontal and vertical measurement in 6 different metrics: pixels, centimeters, inches, picas, points, and as a percentage of the ruler's length.

In Fedora, I know it's easily available through yum install screenruler. In Ubuntu is probably the same.

Consider the following example:

\documentclass{article}

\usepackage[top=1cm, left=3cm, right=2cm]{geometry}
\usepackage{lipsum}

\begin{document}
\lipsum
\end{document}

After compiling it, I opened the resulting .pdf file and ran screenruler:

Ruler

As DevSolar mentioned in the comments, if you zoom your file, you need to manually set the dpi resolution. :-)

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In Debian / Ubuntu / Mint it is apt-get install screenruler. I actually found this to be more comfortable than the measuring features of the XChange Viewer, and filed a feature request for the one shortcoming I found (ruler resolution not increasing at high DPI settings - the lines on the ruler always measure 6pt at once). Sometimes workarounds are better than what the OP requested. ;-) –  DevSolar Sep 24 '11 at 6:38
    
Very nice! thanks very much for this suggestion. I have been looking for this exact feature on linux. –  Ariel Apr 11 '12 at 14:33
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