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Ansyr Primer 3.1

Clinton Fitch | Chief Reviews Editor
August 5, 2003

Portable Document File, or PDF, was created by Adobe, Inc. and is perhaps one of the most versatile document formats available. With a simple reader, which is free from Adobe, users of Apple-based, Windows-based and Linux-based systems can share and view a common file. This saves both time and money for individuals and corporations as there is no need to generate multiple copies of the same document in different file formats. Further, the file size-to-file-detail ratio is excellent.

Two years ago, Adobe began developing a PDF reader for Pocket PC. This free download allowed users to view PDFs without having to access their desktop PC. For HPC owners however, Adobe has yet to write a reader.

Ansyr, a Bellevue, Washington based company, answered this need with their application, Primer. Primer, which is now in version 3.1, allows users to view PDF files just as they do on their desktop system and is the central application in their Mobile Office system. With Primer installed, plug-ins can be added to allow photo viewing, form data collecting, Digital Rights management and Digital Signatures giving users a multi-faceted application that is rich in features. This richness though does come at a price both for your wallet and your Handheld PCs memory.

Primer is a hefty 3.1MB install which for most HPC users will require an install on a Compact Flash card. Further, Primer requires a minimum of 8MB of Program memory (the memory used to run applications) to be available. Ideally, 16-24MB of Program memory works best. The lower the memory available, the slower the application will open files which can be painfully slow around the 8MB threshold.

The install process itself is straightforward and leaves little guessing on what will be installed and where. As indicated, it can be installed on a CF card without any issues.

Once installed and started, Primer opens with a common Windows File Open dialog box which users can use to navigate to the location of the PDF files on their HPC. With HPC 2000 devices, users can download PDFs directly from a website (such as CFDC) or can move them from their desktop system via ActiveSync. If users are using an older HPC, Ansyr has a plug-in available to correct problems some users experience while downloading PDFs from the web directly into Primer.

The time it takes to open a PDF in Primer depends on the amount of Program memory users have available (more is definitely better. Remember that your can adjust this in your HPC via the Control Panel) and the size of the file itself. On my Jornada 720, I have adjusted my memory settings to just over 22MB which greatly improved the performance on file viewing and opening. For example, when I opened my review of Ilium Software's Dockware Pro, it took me a full 15 seconds to open it with only 10MB of Program memory. When I moved my settings up to 22MB, this opening time was cut down to just over 5 seconds.

With the document open, users will notice that one page at a time is opened. To change pages in the document, tap the arrow icons near the page counter at the bottom of the display. Users can scroll up and down each page of the document using the slider bars on the right-hand side and bottom of the display. Additionally, by tapping the hand icon on the right-hand toolbar, users can simply tap-and-drag to scroll up and down or side-to-side on a document page.

The main Primer UI

Note the scrollbars on the bottom and right of the display as well as the toolbars for easy navigation and customization

The bottom toolbar of the Primer display is primarily for navigation. From here, users can open files, display the Table of Contents if a PDF has one and change the rotation of a document page that is open. Further, zooming in and out is available and navigation from page-to-page is done from this toolbar as well.

From the right-hand toolbar, users can adjust and get information on the PDF file that is open. This can range from finding general information about the file, the security settings of the PDF and the types of fonts used in it. Further, a variety of options available in Primer can be adjusted as well.

One of the more handy features of Primer is the ability to add notes to a document. Annotations is available off the right-hand toolbar and an unlimited amount of them can be added to a document. To add a note to a PDF file, tap the Annotation icon (the one just above the Help icon) and tell Primer to "Add Annotation". Next, tap the word or area on the PDF document that the note it to be added too. A small note window will open and users can type in whatever information they need about that word or area. Once done, simply close the box and a small note icon will be displayed on or near that word on the display (This can be turned off by having Primer hide the indicators on the Annotation menu).

Annotation menu

The Annotation Menu allows for users to add an Annotation…

Annotation inut

Add the text of the Annotation…

Annotation present icon

and a small icon will display over the word once it is completed and closed.

Another key factor in the speed in which Primer opens a PDF is the display quality of the file. Primer allows for the display to be lowered via the Options menu on the right-hand side of the display. This can be particularly helpful if users are trying to open a file that has a many number of graphics which do not necessarily need to be seen in their best quality. I found in using this feature that using a lower quality setting did not hurt viewing of the text greatly. To adjust the Display Quality, simply open the Options menu and using the slide bar to adjust level you wish to view. Remember that the higher quality view will cause a longer delay in opening a file as Primer as to draw the image more finely. I found that 99% of the time, the Normal setting is the best trade-off of quality versus load time.

Use the Options Menu to get to the Display Quality properties…


Then use the slide bar to select the level of quality you wish to see the PDF in on your HPC

Also under the Options menu are general options for Primer. Almost every aspect of the application can be customized including the Font options, Recent Files list, Image options, page orientation and many others. While for some, this will be seen as a bit of over-engineering, it is nice that Ansyr has put in the extra attention to detail that often lacks in HPC applications.

Almost any option in Ansyr can be adjusted from how images are displayed to how Primer starts

As Primer matures, plugs will be made available on the Ansyr website that will create more functionality in the applications. Available today are plugs that will allow Primer to be an image viewer and the afore mentioned PDF opening fix for Pocket Internet Explorer. Future plug-ins will allow for Digital Signatures and Digital Rights Management. There is no current release date set for these plug-ins but users can write Ansyr directly with questions and beta testing opportunities of these applets.

Primer 3.1 is an excellent application and is well suited for its stated purpose. If you use PDFs regularly at work, home or while you travel with you HPC, it will not disappoint.

The only real drawback to Primer is its hefty $79.95 price tag. It is by far the most expensive piece of software I have reviewed for HPCs. Ansyr's stated reason is due to development costs which is plausible but still makes the price difficult to stomach. To their credit, Ansyr does still offer Primer 2.3 which doesn't have as many features but will work on older HPCs and takes up a smaller amount of memory for $49.95. As I stated earlier, if you and/or your company use PDFs extensively to move data and information, Primer 3.1 is an excellent choice for your HPC. If however you want to be able to view PDFs for pleasure alone, it may be more difficult for you to justify the price.

The bottom line is if you need a PDF view, Ansyr Primer 3.1 is the way to go.

You can find out more information about Ansyr Primer 3.1 at the Ansyr website.

System Requirements

Windows CE 2.11 and above
SH3, SH4, StrongARM, MIPS

Cost: 3 Star Rating: Average
Usability: 4 Star Rating: Recommended
Built-In helps: 4 Star Rating: Recommended
Customer Service: 5 Star Rating: Exceptional
Overall: 4 Star Rating: Recommended

Ansyr Primer 3.1 can be found at the following URL.

More information on Ansyr Primer 3.1 can be found at


Cost: 3- Star Rating
Usability: 4- Star Rating
Built-in Help: 4- Star Rating
Customer Service: 5- Star Rating
Overall: 4- Star Rating