Document Viewer Guide
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:
- Scroll through all pages in the document
- Adjust page magnification
- Access table of contents if there is one
- Download a PDF copy of the document (Pro members only)
It also has some less-obvious features:
- Within-document search
- Thumbnails view
- Rotate a page's orientation
- Convert well-formed references in the page (e.g., WR250) into clickable links
- See what text the computer's search engine sees on this page, and copy it to the clipboard
- View RIF sheet as a form, with "more like this document" links
This tutorial provides a walkthrough of these features.
QUICK LINKS TO TOPICS ON THIS PAGE
- Header: Banner, Menus, Breadcrumbs, Title
- Tabs: Table of Contents, Document View, RIF Form
- Phone and Touchscreen Friendly
- Scrolling the Document View
- Zooming the Document View
- Table of Contents Tab
- RIF Form Tab
- Within-Document Search
- PDF Downloading and Viewing
- Books and Essays
- Touch Gestures, Trackpads, and Mousewheels
- Keyboard Interface
- Compatibility with Devices and Browsers
- Known Issues and Mitigations
- If You Have Problems
Also see the sidebar for Quick Tips, Touch Gestures list, and the Keyboard Interface.
Header: Banner, Menus, Breadcrumbs, Title
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:
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:
- Hamburger menu: a "hamburger menu" in the top upper-left of the banner replaces the navigation menu bar, and includes a special "Document Sets" item to replace the (removed) breadcrumb trail.
- Toolbar: toolbar icons increase in size for accessibility, and some are moved to a second toolbar available via a "More" button. This second toolbar is persistent, staying present until button is pressed again. Some of these actions are complementary to a touch interface.
Here is the hamburger menu in action, showing how the document set breadcrumb trail appears as a submenu:
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:
- One-finger scrolling (touchscreens) - Use your finger to scroll through the entire document. If you are zoomed-in, you can pan left and right with one finger as well.
- Two-finger scrolling (trackpad) - On a trackpad, use two fingers for scrolling. To pan horizontally on a trackpad, you must press and drag sideways.
- Mousewheel (mouse) - The mousewheel can be used to scroll up and down.
- Next/Prev page icons - Two icons in the toolbar are used to auto-scroll to the top of the next or previous page.
- Goto page popup - An icon brings up a popup with a grid of page labels; click a label to jump to that page.
- Keyboard - The four arrow keys are used for scrolling and panning; hold the Shift key for a larger effect. Page Up and Page keys advance a page at a time.
- Scrollbar - On desktop computers with a visible scrollbar, you may grab the scroll thumb and drag to move through the document.
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:
- Two-finger pinch zoom (trackpad) - On a trackpad, pinch zoom affects just the document, unlike a touchscreen where the entire interface is zoomed.
- Ctrl-Mousewheel (mouse) - Hold the control key while operating the mousewheel to zoom the document in and out.
- Toolbar icons - The "-" and "+" icons adjust zoom magnification. A "fit width" icon adjusts the view so the current page's width fits the screen perfectly (documents come up in this mode by default). On phone-sized devices, a "quickzoom" button is available for zooming in on first tap and zooming back out on second tap.
- Double-tap Quickzoom - Double-tapping using a mouse or trackpad will perform a "quickzoom" on the document view. On a touchscreen, some browsers will do the same; some will instead quickzoom the entire interface, not just the document.
- Keyboard - Keyboard equivalents to icons: the "-" and "+" keys zoom in and out. The Z key initiates a quickzoom. All keys are case-insensitive. The W key invokes the "fit width" action.
Just above the document view is a toolbar full of handy gadgets.
Toolbar on phone-size devices:
And on touch devices with the second toolbar shown:
The icons and gadgets in the toolbar are individually discussed below:
- View Tabs: From 1 to 3 tabs affect what is being viewed. Always present is the View Pages, which shows scanned pages. The other two are a "Table of Contents" view for reports (and books with preview pages), and a "RIF Form" view for documents with a RIF id#. The V key may also be used to advance to the next tab. see the Tabs: Table of Contents, Document View, RIF Form section for more info »
- Page Navigation: While you can use a mousewheel, touchscreen, browser scrollbar, or even keyboard to scroll up and down through pages, the Page Navigation portion of the toolbar contains:
• 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)
- Thumbnails: Enter/exit Thumbnails mode, which shows 4 pages per row in miniature, and lets you jump to any page by clicking its thumbnail. In thumbnails mode, most of the tools are turned off (page goto and help are available), but you can scroll through the page thumbnails and click one to jump to that page in the normal view. Or just click the Thumbnails icon to return to normal page view (T key also invokes thumbnails mode). NOTE: Thumbnails mode is not available on phone-sized devices.
- Quickzoom: On phone-sized devices, a quickzoom icon appears in place of the thumbnails icon (thumbnails mode is not supported on such devices). Tap once to zoom the document in; tap again to zoom back out (Z key also may be used).
- Page Magnification: You can zoom in and out of documents with pinch-zoom on touchscreens, or via the mousewheel or two-finger trackpad while holding down the control key. But you can also click minus and plus icons to zoom in and out by standard amounts (in the second toolbar on small screens). The - and + keys may also be used in place of the icons.
- Fit Width: this handy icon modifies the zoom so that the current page's width fills the view. Each new document automatically comes up in this mode. Any time you zoom in or out, or even scroll to pages which feature a different width, this icon loses its red state to let you know you that the current page is not longer fitting perfectly. Just click it again to fit the current page (W key also invokes fit-width action).
- Page Rotation: Most pages have the desired orientation, but some may not, or there may be content oriented in multiple directions. The current page (hilited with black border) may be rotated by a special two-finger gesture, or with these icons (in the second toolbar on small devices):
• Rotate CW: rotate clockwise 180 degrees (or use ] key)
Special tool icons: These are OCR, Linkrefs, Search, and Printable page (all in second toolbar on small screens). These are discussed below:
- OCR (in second toolbar on phone-size devices): enable overlay of red Optical Character Recognition (OCR) text (O key may also be used). The search engine powering the website is driven by the text that the computer is able to recognize on the page. The quality of the OCR text is not as good as a human's ability to discern, especially for those documents which are handwritten or very faint or otherwise just hard to read. Using this feature can help you predict what the computer is likely to see and help you fine-tune your searches to catch as many hits as possible given imperfect OCR. NOTE: The C hotkey may be used to copy this text to your computer's clipboard. Again, quality may be poor and text may be out-of-order in places.
- Linkrefs (in second toolbar on phone-size devices): turn on a mode where many "well-formed references" to the Warren Report and its Hearings, 15-digit record numbers, crytonyms and other commonly-used patterns are recognized, and turned into clickable underlined links (L key may also be used). Here are a few examples:
• 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)
- Printable Page (in second toolbar on phone-size devices): Puts a high-resolution version of the page in a new browser tab, so it can be printed without the browser dressing (P key may also be used). For printing multiple pages, use the PDF feature (requires Pro membership).
- Search (in second toolbar on phone-size devices): Brings up a popup enabling within-document search (or use S key). See the Within-Document Search section for more info »
- PDF: The Adobe Acrobat PDF icon downloads or views a PDF version of the document (depending on browser) - or use F key. Note that books and journal issues have no PDF version. Also, a Pro membership is required to use this feature.
- Help: The help icon launches a popup which documents the toolbar icons, and the gesture and keyboard interface (or use H key). This information is also available on this page and for quick references in the sidebar.
- Source: The document's source appears at the right end of the toolbar, and for some sources is a clickable link to that organization's website. The MFF obtains documents directly from the National Archives and from a number of private sources. The Assassination Archives and Research Center is the source for some of our largest collections.
Tabs: Table of Contents, Document View, RIF Form
The top portion of the frame surrounding the document page contains from 1 to 3 tabs, depending on the document:
- Table of Contents (reports and books with preview pages)
- View Pages
- RIF Form (documents with 15-digit record number)
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
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:
- RIF Field Name. RIF field name (e.g., Agency, Record Number, From, To, Subjects, etc.)
- Value. This document's value for the given field
- ALL WITH ... For most fields, "ALL WITH ..." search links appear
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.
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).
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:
- Chrome: downloads pdf into tabbed area at bottom of browser; then just click tab to launch the pdf in a new browser tab
- Safari: downloads and automatically appears in Preview app
- Firefox: shows downloading popup and then automatically shows PDF in new browser tab
- Edge: shows downloading popup which presents "open file" link when complete; click that to open in new browser tab
- Safari: popup which asks "do you want to download?", click "download" then tiny progress circle in browser address bar, when completes that icon turns into downarrow. Click the downarrow and select "downloads", this open special app where you can pick from your downloaded pdf files and view them.
- Chrome: toolbar at bottom of page shows name of PDF file with "Download" link. Click it, and it then has "Open in..." link. Click that to bring up larger popup which has "Open in Downloads" link. Click that to show all your downloads; click the desired one to launch in a new Chrome tab.
- Chrome: automatically shows in new browser tab
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:
Books and Essays
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:
- 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.
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.
- 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.
All devices feature the following other actions:
- Double-Tap QuickZoom: Double-tap to instantly zoom in; the second double-tap zooms back out.
- Scrollbar: On desktop computers or generally where a visible scrollbsar is present, you may drag it to scroll through the document.
Many icons and gestures have associated hotkeys. For those which are letters, you may use uppercase or lowercase:
- 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 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:
- Mac OS: Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera
- iPhone iOS: Chrome, Safari
- iPad: Chrome, Safari
- Samsung Galaxy Android tablets: Chrome, Firefox, DuckDuckGo
- Android phone: Chrome, Firefox, DuckDuckGo
- Windows 7: Chrome, Internet Explorer 11, Firefox
- Windows 10: Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer 11, Firefox
- Windows XP: Chrome (NOT Internet Explorer 8)
- Microsoft Surface: Chrome, Microsoft Edge
- Fire Tablet: Silk
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:
- Orientation change may zoom interface (iPhone w/Chrome). On an iPhone with Chrome, rotating from landscape to portrait orientation causes the interface to zoom in, cutting off part of the interface and document. Mitigation: simple pinch-zoom to restore normal view. Or use Safari, which does not have this problem on iPhone.
- Portrait view clips off part of interface (Microsoft Surface, w/Edge and Chrome). On smaller Microsoft Surface devices, the entire page including banner and toolbar cannot be fully seen in portait mode - it is partially clipped off. Mitigation: use landscape mode only on this device.
- Trackpad pinch zoom affects interface, not just document (Firefox). On Firefox, the pinch zoom and double-tap actions zoom the entire interface similar to touch devices, whereas trackpad pinch zoom and double-tap in other browsers justs zooms document. Mitigation: use another browser such as Chrome, Safari, or Edge.
- P and F key commands don't work. Some browsers block the attempt to bring up another browser tab when invoked from keyboard. Mitigation: use the icons for these functions rather than keyboard, or turn off popup blocker.
- Reset to top of document (iPad). Under certain situations, finger scroll in a popup (goto page, search, help) can reset the document view to the first page. Mitigation: none.
- Reset to top of document on return from RIF Form search (Firefox, Android w/DuckDuckGo, Fire tablet w/Silk). Click on the RIF Form tab, then click one of the "all with" search links. Then hit backbutton, followed by Document View tab. As soon as you start to scroll, the view resets to the top of the document. Mitigation: ctrl-click "all with" link (if keyboard) to bring it up in another window, or use another browser such as Chrome.
- Browser sluggish (Android w/Firefox). The Firefox browser on some Android devices seems particularly sluggish, especially when scrolling. Mitigation: use another browser such as Chrome.
- Navbar menus won't come up (Android w/DuckDuckGo). On some browsers, clicking a navbar item immediately takes you to another page, without a chance to select from a menu. Longpress on the navbar menu item will usually do the trick to bring up the menu, but on some browsers this doesn't work. DuckDuckGo on Android has other issues and is not recommended. Mitigation: use another browser such as Chrome.
- Context menu appears with navbar menu (Android w/Firefox, Microsoft Surface w/Chrome or Edge). On mouse-based devices, hovering over a navigation bar menu item causes the menu to appear. But on some touch devices this doesn't happen, and clicking a navbar item jumps immediately to its page. You have to press and hold to get the menu. On a Microsoft Surface device with Chrome or Edge, doing so also causes a browser context menu to appear, with items such as Back, Forward, Reload, etc. Mitigation: make the context menu disappear without killing the navbar menu by clicking in the browser's chrome at the top of the window.
- Document scrolls under popup (most devices). When the search or help popup is displayed, mousewheel or other scroll actions focused on the popup will instead scroll the document under the popup (when the popup has been fully scrolled). Mitigation: none.
Rare but Serious Problems: Additionally, rare intermittent problems of a more serious nature have been seen:
- Browser Crash. On very rare occasion on devices with limited memory, the browser has crashed in testing - either the browser freezes up or the browser app crashes and closes altogether. Mitigation: if freeze, refresh browser; if crash, re-open browser or restart device. Avoid thumbnails mode, which puts heavy strain on memory use of browser.
If you experience these serious problems, please reach out at email@example.com 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
We encourage users with problems to alert us to bugs or problems with this Document Viewer. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. In order for us to help, IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION:
- Device and operating system (e.g., Dell Latitude laptop running Windows 10)
- Browser and version (e.g., Chrome version 101.0.4951.54 - find version using About menu item typically)
- A description of the problem. Please be as clear and comprehensive as possible, including steps to reproduce and whether this is a repeatable or one-time problem
- URL. Please include the page URL, copied from the browser address bar
- Screenshot. If at all possible, include a screenshot showing the problem.
Thank you for your assistance in making the Document Viewer as robust and problem-free as possible.