I use pdf-tools to read PDFs inside of Emacs and greatly prefer it to DocView. I just noticed that when I try to open a URL thar points to a PDF in eww, it uses DocView instead of the pdf-view-mode from pdf-tools. This is particularly annoying since DocView fails to display the PDF! Switching the buffer to pdf-view-mode manually then succesfully shows it. Can I configure things so that eww uses pdf-view-mode on the first try?

  • Take a look at line 403 of the source code in the attached link: bzr.savannah.gnu.org/lh/emacs/trunk/annotate/head:/lisp/net/… It may be on a different line depending on which version you are using.
    – lawlist
    Commented Dec 3, 2014 at 21:24
  • Thanks, @lawlist, after I asked the question I did find that was where doc-view-mode was called by setting (debug-on-entry 'doc-view-mode).
    – Omar
    Commented Dec 3, 2014 at 22:04
  • 3
    Does this answer your question? How to use pdf-tools (pdf-view-mode) in emacs?
    – Tyler
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 20:10
  • @Tyler, I'm not sure but I won't investigate whether it does or not because (1) this question was already answered in the year 2014, as you verify by scrolling down to the answer I accepted, (2) even that answer is unnecessary nowadays since with more recent versions of Emacs and pdf-tools what I wanted works out the box! (so I removed the code kindly suggested by T. Verron from my init.el a few years ago).
    – Omar
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 17:51
  • 1
    @Omar I think the phrase "Does this answer your question?" gets added automatically when you flag a question as a duplicate now? I didn't enter it by hand, anyways. I did flag this as a duplicate, because the linked question serves as the canonical answer to questions of the form "how do I get pdf-tools to work for X". Of course, your question was asked and answered before the other question was, but I think it's normal to do this when a comprehensive general answer addresses an older, more specific question.
    – Tyler
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 22:13

3 Answers 3


Warning: dirty work-around ahead

Since you "greatly prefer [pdf-tools] to DocView", is it safe to assume that using it to view all pdfs is acceptable?

The following code snippet will switch the document to pdf-view-mode anytime doc-viewis entered with a pdf document.

(defvar tv/prefer-pdf-tools (fboundp 'pdf-view-mode))
(defun tv/start-pdf-tools-if-pdf ()
  (when (and tv/prefer-pdf-tools
             (eq doc-view-doc-type 'pdf))

(add-hook 'doc-view-mode-hook 'tv/start-pdf-tools-if-pdf)

The behavior can be enabled or disabled by setq-ing the variable tv/prefer-pdf-tools to t or nil.

  • Oh, I had missed that doc-view-mode had a hook! I tried adivising eww-display-pdf and that didn't work (not sure why). I'll try your solution and report back.
    – Omar
    Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 13:11
  • Awesome, thanks! This does work (after you remove the parenthesis around tv/prefer-pdf-tools, which is not a function).
    – Omar
    Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 13:17

You can use an advise around eww-display-pdf to override the definition of doc-view-mode temporarily. With the new nadvice library this is as easy as:

(advice-add 'eww-display-pdf
            :around (lambda (orig &rest args)
                      (cl-letf (((symbol-function 'doc-view-mode) #'pdf-view-mode))
                        (apply orig args)))
            '((name . eww-display-pdf-tools)))

To revert back to the original doc-view-mode, use (advice-remove 'eww-display-pdf 'eww-display-pdf-tools).

I have opened Emacs bug 19270 to make the EWW PDF Mode customizable.

  • Cool! I tried adding advice to eww-display-pdf to just make it run pdf-view-mode :after it did its usual work, but that didn't work for some reason. It never occurred to me to swap out the definition of the doc-view-mode function (probably because I'm so used to lexical scope!).
    – Omar
    Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 14:28
  • Thanks for opening the bug report too. I would imagine lots of people would actually prefer eww to open PDFs in their customary external PDF viewer.
    – Omar
    Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 14:28

I use emacs-28, eww use mailcap to open pdf, custom it by open with pdf-tools:

(add-to-list 'mailcap-user-mime-data
               '((type . "application/pdf")
                 (viewer . pdf-view-mode)))

See Emacs - Help - pdf viewer for more information.

  • Are you from the future? I don't think Emacs 27 has been released yet (that's the pre-release build I'm using), let alone 28.
    – Omar
    Commented Jan 14, 2020 at 15:23
  • I use archlinux with the development version of emacs: aur/emacs-git [installed:] (74) (1.07) GNU Emacs. Development master branch.
    – xinfa tang
    Commented Jan 15, 2020 at 3:18
  • Amazing. Finally a solution that works! Thank you very much!
    – Ajned
    Commented Oct 23, 2021 at 8:33

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