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Document Viewer Guide

NOTE: On August 1 of 2022, the MFF Document Viewer received a major upgrade. The new viewer has support for touchscreens and is phone-friendly. It includes other improvements, most importantly the ability to scroll through the entire document without having to click page-advance buttons. This guide describes the new updated viewer.

Document viewer

This website contains over 2 million pages of declassified documents and reports. Whether arriving at a document via search, browsing the collection hierarchy, or following a link, you read these document pages using the document viewer.

This tool has many features, including the expected:

It also has some less-obvious features:

This tutorial provides a walkthrough of these features.


Also see the sidebar for Quick Tips, Touch Gestures list, and the Keyboard Interface.

Header: Banner, Menus, Breadcrumbs, Title

Document viewer header

The area above the document varies depending on whether you are on a phone-sized device. On larger devices, the black banner atop the page is the same as any other MFF page, including the navigation menu bar beneath it. Below the navbar is the usual "breadcrumb trail" link hierarchy, followed by the document title and sometimes a subtitle.

On phone-sized devices, the navigation menubar disappears as does the breadcrumb trail, to make more room for the document view. A "hamburger menu" icon in the upper-left of the black banner is used for navigation, and includes a special breadcrumb trail menu on it. The toolbar fits less icons, but a "More" button allows access to a second toolbar.

Banner. The black banner is the same as that atop any MFF page, except on phone-sized devices, where a new "hamburger menu" appears in the upper-left, replacing the navigation menu bar.

Navigation Menu bar (not present on phone-size devices). The navigation menu bar is the same as any MFF page, except on phone-size devices it is replaced with a hamburger menu in the banner. NOTE: on touch devices with the navbar, there no hover to make menus to appear, and clicking a navbar item immediately jumps to that page. Instead, press and hold a navbar item and wait for its menu to appear.

Breadcrumb trail (not present on phone-size devices). The breadcrumb trail shows you where this document lives in the hierarchy of documents. Each position is a link to the listing page for all documents in that "document set." On phone-size devices, use the hamburger menu and look for the "Document Sets" submenu.

Title and optional subtitle. Every document has a title. For documents which have a table of contents, which includes most reports, the subtitle of the currently-viewed section is also displayed.

Here is what the same header looks like on a phone-size device:

Document viewer header on phone-size device

Phone and Touchscreen Friendly

The MFF website is not particularly phone-friendly, requiring a lot of pinch-zooming to read and navigate. The updated document viewer is a first step toward fixing that. The interface adapts to make icons larger and features other phone-accessibility improvements. The phone's standard pinch-zooming and double-tap zoom-in work as they always have, but a variety of icons for zooming the document view itself usually makes those gestures unnecessary.

The interface adapts for phones in these ways:

Here is the hamburger menu in action, showing how the document set breadcrumb trail appears as a submenu:

Hamburger menu opened

see the Touch Gestures, Trackpads, and Mousewheels section for more info on the touchscreen features »

Scrolling the Document View

One of the biggest improvements to the Document Viewer is that the entire document may now be viewed without resorting to "next page" clicking. Simply scroll through the document like you would in a PDF viewer. These options are available for document scrolling:

Zooming the Document View

On touchscreens, you may use the standard "pinch zoom" to magnify the entire page including interface elements.

But there are many options for zooming just the document view, without affecting the interface:


Just above the document view is a toolbar full of handy gadgets.

Default toolbar:

Document viewer toolbar

Toolbar on phone-size devices:

Document viewer toolbar

And on touch devices with the second toolbar shown:

Document viewer toolbar

The icons and gadgets in the toolbar are individually discussed below:

Toolbar: tabs

Toolbar: page navigation icons

 • Page Label: displays page label and (N/N) page locator
 • Prev/Next: arrow icons to advance to previous or next page (or use Page Up and Page Down keys)
 • Goto #: launches popup with grid of page label goto links (or use G or # key)

Toolbar: thumbnails

Toolbar: quickzoom

Toolbar: zoom icons

Toolbar: fit width

Toolbar: page rotation icons

 • Rotate CCW: rotate counter-clockwise (or use [ key)
 • Rotate CW: rotate clockwise 180 degrees (or use ] key)

Toolbar: special tool icons

Special tool icons: These are OCR, Linkrefs, Search, and Printable page (all in second toolbar on small screens). These are discussed below:

Document text with OCR overlay

Document text with links to crypt references

 • WR116 (Warren Report, page 116)
 • 6WH451 (Warren Hearings volume 6, page 451)
 • AR250 (HSCA Assassinations Report, page 250)
 • AMTRUNK (cryptonym entry AMTRUNK)
 • 104-10400-10117 (RIF document with record number 104-10400-10117)

Toolbar: printable page icon

Toolbar: search icon

Toolbar: PDF format icon

Toolbar: help icon

Toolbar: document source

Tabs: Table of Contents, Document View, RIF Form

Toolbar: tabs

The top portion of the frame surrounding the document page contains from 1 to 3 tabs, depending on the document:

View Pages. The View Pages tab shows the scanned document pages, and has many features discussed throughout this guide. This view is present for all documents.

Table of Contents. The Table of Contents, if present, switches the page view to a listing of the document's sections and subsections. see the Table of Contents Tab section for more info »

RIF Form. The RIF Form tab is present for all documents which have 15-digit Resource Identification Form pages, created by the National Archives. The form will usually be the first scanned page in the document, but this tab presents the same data as an actual web form, showing each form field and its value. A third column present for most fields lets you click a link to run a special search, which then shows you all documents with a matching value in that field. see the RIF Form Tab section for more info »

Table of Contents Tab

Table of Contents tab view

Reports and some other documents feature a table of contents which can help navigate them.

Each entry in the table of contents list has the subtitle of a given section—this is a clickable link to the page which begins that section. You may also click the plus sign next to a section to open up a set of clickable page numbers within that section.

When viewing a document page, the title in the header will be followed by a subtitle. This subtitle is the name of the current section from the table of contents.

RIF Form Tab

Documents which have a National Archives Record Identification Form (RIF) feature an extra tab labeled "RIF Form". Clicking this tab shows a view of the form with three columns:

The red links in the right column are specialized search commands, which take you to a search results page showing all documents with the same value in that form field.

RIF Form tab view

Within-Document Search

The document viewer contains a within-document search feature which confines searches to the pages of the document being viewed. Click the Search icon (found on the second toolbar on a phone-size device) to bring up the Search popup.

Simply type in your search and hit Enter or click Find. The same search rules apply - quotes around phrases, etc. The popup fills with a list of page labels for pages which "hit" - click on any to jump to that page.

The Clear button is a convenient way to clear the search term input box.

The words in the term being searched are usually hilited by a yellow box overlay in the document view (note: this feature does not always work properly, depending on the complexity of the search term).

If you enter the document from the normal MFF search results page, the same yellow overlays appear, and the Search popup is automatically populated with the search term and results (you have to bring up the popup to see).

Within-document search popup

PDF Downloading and Viewing

The MFF makes PDF copies of documents available for downloading and viewing. This feature is restricted to signed-in users with a Pro Membership (or those at a campus with an Institutional Membership).

The PDF icon in the toolbar (also F key) initiates the PDF download process for the current document. That process differs widely on various devices and browsers, and is generally more straightforward on desktop and laptop computers than it is on tablets and phone. Here are some tips for various popular devices and browsers. Click the PDF icon and then:

Desktops and Laptops:



Other combinations of devices and browsers may have different procedures.

If you are not a Pro member or are not signed in, clicking the PDF icon will open this page in a new browser tab:

PDF Access Denied

Books and Essays

Document viewer

The Document Viewer also handles other types of documents, specifically books and essays.

Essays include both on-site (on MFF) essays and links to offset essays. Essay pages have the title of the essay along with its author and publisher, a big red button to read it, and sidebars showing other essays by the author and related pages.

Books are scanned, but due to copyright reasons the scanned pages are available for fair-use search results, but not displayed for reading. They feature a page similar to essays, with book cover and title/author/publisher, and links to related pages and other works by the author. They also feature a table of contents showing chapter titles.

A handful of books feature unlocked "preview" pages, which may be read online. In these cases, the unlocked chapters become links to those sections of the book. Clicking them results in a viewing experience much like that for scanned documents. The toolbar features a "BOOK" button which returns you to the main book page where you started.

Touch Gestures, Trackpads, and Mousewheels

Touch, Trackpad, and Mouse Gestures

Touchscreen, including smartphones, devices are supported, and include several touch gestures:


Trackpad devices are a little like a touchscreen and a little like a mousewheel:



All devices feature the following other actions:

Keyboard Interface

Many icons and gestures have associated hotkeys. For those which are letters, you may use uppercase or lowercase:

Note that these keystrokes will not work in certain situation, such as if a search popup is being used, or in Thumbnails mode. Also, in some browsers the P and F keys may be blocked by popup blockers.

Compatibility with Devices and Browsers

The Document Viewer has been tested on a wide variety of devices and browsers, and generally works subject to a few problems documented in the next section.

Recommended Browsers: Chrome on any device, Safari on Apple devices, and Microsoft Edge on Windows devices. Other browsers seem to generally work in limited testing (Firefox, Opera, DuckDuckGo, Silk) but may have minor issues.

NOTE: This version of the Document Explorer DOES NOT support Internet Explorer versions below 11. If you have an older Windows operating system such as XP, please download and use Google's Chrome browser with this website.

Tested environments include:

If you have a problem, please first check the see the Known Issues section » below. If your problem is not noted there, consider trying another browser such as Google Chrome. See the If You Have Problems section for how to contact us to report the issue ».

Known Issues and Mitigations

The following issues are known. If you have one of these problems, please follow the mitigation step(s) associated with it:

Rare but Serious Problems: Additionally, rare intermittent problems of a more serious nature have been seen:

If you experience these serious problems, please reach out at info@maryferrell.org and provide full details (type of device, operating system, browser, etc.) and whether these recovery methods have worked for you. See details below.

If You Have Problems

This Document Viewer is a complex piece of software, comprising over 7,000 lines of Javascript code. It makes use of advanced features such as the HTML5 canvas and touchscreen events. Like all software, it has bugs.

If you have a problem, please first please first check the see the Known Issues section » above. Also check that your device and browser is on the compatibility list »

We encourage users with problems to alert us to bugs or problems with this Document Viewer. Please email us at info@maryferrell.org. In order for us to help, IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION:

Thank you for your assistance in making the Document Viewer as robust and problem-free as possible.

QuickRef: Touch Gestures

  • One-Finger Scroll: One-finger scrolling of documents. When zoomed in, you can also pan sideways.
  • Two-Finger Pinch Zoom: Browser-based pinch-zoom of entire page including interface is available as expected. Also the browser's double-tap quickzoom feature works like normal, temporarily zooming the entire interface.
  • Double-tap Quickzoom - Double-tapping on some touchscreens with quickzoom the document view; on other devices the entire interface will be quickzoomed. In either case, double-tap again to restore previous zoom.

QuickRef: Trackpad

Trackpad devices are a little like a touchscreen and a little like a mousewheel:

  • Two-Finger Scroll: Use two fingers to scroll the document.
  • Two-Finger Document Zoom: Zoom just the document content on a trackpad using a pinch-zoom action.
  • Double-tap Quickzoom: Double-tap the trackpad while hovering over the document to invoke the document quickzoom feature; double-tap a second time to zoom back out.
  • Press and Drag Pan: When zoomed in, you may pan sideways by pressing and dragging in the trackpad.

QuickRef: Mouse/Wheel

  • Mousewheel Scroll: Use the mousewheel to scroll through the document.
  • Mousewheel Zoom: Hold down the control key and use the mousewheel to zoom in and out of the document.
  • Double-tap Quickzoom: Double-click while hovering over the document to invoke the document quickzoom feature; double-tap a second time to zoom back out.
  • Press and Drag Pan: When zoomed in, you may pan sideways by pressing and dragging the mouse.

QuickRef: Key Commands

Use these keys as shortcuts to common functions:

  • V: Next view tab (Table of Contents, View Pages, RIF Form)
  • PageUp: Go to previous page
  • PageDn: Go to next page
  • Arrow keys: 4 arrow keys scroll document view (hold shift key to scroll further)
  • G: open goto-page popup (also '#')
  • T: toggle Thumbnails mode
  • -: zoom out (also _)
  • +: zoom in (also =)
  • W: fit width
  • Z: quickzoom
  • [: rotate page counter-clockwise
  • ]: rotate page clockwise
  • O: toggle OCR text overlay
  • L: toggle linked references setting
  • P: open printable page in new tab
  • S: open search popup
  • H: open help popup
  • F: open PDF file in new tab
  • C: copy current page's OCR text to clipboard
  • M: open/close second toolbar ("More") on small devices only
  • ESC: escape key closes any popup

Note that these keystrokes will not work in certain situations, such as if a search popup is being used, or in Thumbnails mode. Also, in some browsers the P and F keys may be blocked by popup blockers.

Quick Tips

1. Navigation. There are multiple ways to navigate through the pages of a document - mousewheel, touch scrolling, toolbar icons and jump-to-page dropdown, table of contents if available, browser scrollbar, and arrow keys - see this guide for the details.

2. Zoom. You can zoom with icons, or with a pinch-zoom on trackpad. You can also double-tap with trackpad or mouse for "quickzoom" in and out. Try the "fit width" icon to show exactly 100% of the current page's width. Note: on touchscreens, pinch zoom and double-tap affect the entire screen, not just the document view.

3. Phone Features. If you are on a phone or a small tablet, the interface adapts in several ways: icons are larger, toolbar is split into two separate rows, the navigation menu and breadcrumb trail are removed from the main display to save room. Look for the "hamburger menu" in upper-left - that's where the navigation menu bar has gone, along with the document set "breadcrumb trail." There are other changes - see this guide for details. Make sure to take advantage of the touch gestures.

4. Within-document search. You can limit your search to just the current document using the search popup. Note: as always, you must be a signed-in member to conduct more than a handful of complimentary searches.

5. RIF Form view. The RIF Form tab is a great way to find other similar documents.

6. Auto-linked references. The "Auto-link refs" toolbar icon turns on auto-linking for well-formed references to commonly-cited reports, Warren Commission documents and exhibits, and RIF record numbers.

7. Searchable OCR text. Another toolbar icon lets you see the text the computer sees, which can let you know why a search failed and help you design better search terms given imperfect computer text recognition of poor-quality page images.

8. PDF Documents. With a Pro membership, you can download PDF copies of documents for offline viewing and printing.

See the relevant section of this page for more information on these and other features.

More Help

More more information which may be of use, see also the How to Search page and the general Help page. If you have further questions or suggestions for this page, email the MFF using the Contact Us link in the footer of this page.

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