The quest for a HTML5 document viewer

Mats Oustad

Background

My first thought when we were planning the project was to go with something like Google Docs Viewer or a similar solution, but since the application will be running on the clients intranet, this was a no go. Neither the application nor the documents are allowed to be exposed to the internet. 

Html5 documents
We ended up setting the following criteria: 
  • On-Premise.
  • Work on a Windows Server and with .NET.
  • Support for PDF, both new and old MS Office formats.
  • Printing without leaving the touch application context.
  • Preferably support reading the documents from a URL or .NET stream.
  • No extra plugins to be installed on the client computers.

The search

The next step was start doing some research. I quickly ruled out writing everything from scratch as this would be a too big task in this project. So then we were left with the question, is there a  product out there, that could offer us a clean and simple document viewing solution and meet our criteria?

It turned out to be a bit harder than expected to find good candidates. Most other use cases I could dig up used cloud solutions, but after some intensive searching, I ended up with three that looked promising.

Accusofts Prizm Client Connect

Met most of our criteria, supports a vast array of formats, but had some drawbacks. It needs a seperate server installed to do the document translation. And judging by the example project they offer for download, it requires a lot of code written in order to make it tick. In addition to this it only offers the possibility to load the document from a file path.

Snowbounds Virtualviewer

Has to run as a separate website on the server, possible to extend how you load the documents by adding a provider, supports from file and URL in the example project. Though my testing with the URL fetching didn't always work so well. I also found the UI a bit too crowded and had a lot of features we just didn't need.

Though these two products probably would have done the job just fine, the third one I tested was the standout of the three and the one I went on to use.

GroupDocs Viewer for .NET
  •  It is lightweight compared to the others, just add one DLL
  •  It has a very clean and simple API.
  •  Initially didn't support the printing solution we wanted, but after talking to them and explaining the functionality we needed, they quickly came out with a new version that solved it.
Just to point it out, all three products requires a license to be purchased in order to use.

The code

To use the GroupDocs Viewer in a ASP.NET MVC application there is four steps you have to go through.

Step one: 

Reference the dll into the project.

Step two:

Add the following to Global.asax.

Step three:

Add some handlers to your web.config file.

Step four:

Final step is to add the following to your view.

Conclusion

After implementing and using Groupdocs Viewer in the project it looks to be working very well. I have tested with a lot of documents and so far so good. Everything I've thrown at it renders nicely and looks just as good as it would in a PDF viewer or MS Word.

Example of the end product

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