Quote Originally Posted by Stomme poes View Post
User testing at one of my old jobs showed that not using the target attribute on links to PDFs was BAD usability.

Every single user we tested on was a Windows user, and their regular browser was IE. They expected a link to a downloadable file to be separate from the web pages, every single time. When the users went to close the PDF, they closed the browser, which was never ever what they intended: they intended to close a separate window holding a PDF. When the 10th person accidentally closed their browser and looked all surprised, we had to fix the problem.
I'm amazed. I am a lifelong 'Doze user and at work I have no choice but to use IE, although at home I use everything but. I can't remember how long ago it was that I encountered a situation where IE opened a PDF natively rather than spawning Adobe Reader as a stand-alone application. Lots of years, at the very least. But either way, there are lots of sites out there that don't put target="_blank" on PDF links ... were these people really such slow learners that they got caught out each and every time they came across one? But then again, most people have target="_blank" configured to open a new tab rather than a new window, so surely these people would still end up closing down their entire browser session if IE was running the PDF through a plug-in?

Perhaps the solution here is to change your server settings so that PDFs are downloaded as Open/Save files rather than viewable, and that way people will always get the stand-alone PDF Reader, so won't have any room for confusion.

Back in the day, long long ago, you could type "target blank evil" into your search engine of choice and find several pages worth of diatribe against new windows. But since most of the world has already moved on the tabs, there's a whole generation who only know new windows as Javascript popups. The anti-target posts have dwindled as fewer people use them in the first place.
It doesn't matter whether the new window/tab is spawned by target="_blank" or Javascript, it's equally unacceptable either way. Perhaps JS is worse, because the new context is often even more badly-behaved than the old-fashioned way – and the main reason for that is that the perpetrator thinks he knows what size window you're going to get because he's specified it in the JS ... but then when the browser opens a new tab instead, it's just the standard full-screen size, so often looks horribly wrong. Not to mention the times when it opens in the background, so the poor user is left stumbling around wondering why the link doesn't appear to have done anything.