Viewing TIFF at the USPTO, installing the AlternaTIFF plugin

Being able to view TIFF images in your browser is not something many people really need to be able to do. Being able to view the US Patent Office patents because Google Patents or some other resource just doesn’t cut it for some reason is an example of where the need to view TIFF images is necessary.

Some of the options include:

  • The Vista photographs viewer can show TIFF files that are in the file system.
  • Apple Quicktime is both a plug-in and stand alone program but may have trouble with some compression methods used in TIFF files. It is what is often referred to as ‘crippleware’ as the free version doesn’t have all the features of the purchased version
  • Pima.gov – Another government site. The ‘interfering software’ section looks interesting. some other good tips, too.
  • shareware listing Vista as supported – shareware means payment is requested but not necessary mandated.
  • freeware means no payment is expected for these.
  • Black Ice has a free demo and says it is a plug in
  • The Huddled Masses really likes using google rather than the PTO
  • Cartesian inc has a free “lite” viewer
  • Steven Nipper reviews a whole bunch of patent viewing options (looks like an interesting blog, too)
  • InternetTIFF has a free 3 day trial, iffy as price a bit high. The USPTO says this one is free.
  • What you have to keep in mind is that some viewers are stand alone programs and some integrate with your web browser as a plug-in so you don’t need to download the TIFF image to your drive to view in a separate program but rather can see it as just another web page. Browser plug-ins need to be compatible with your browser of choice and you should check for this before downloading or installing them.

    The USPTO image viewing instructions for full page images lists two free TIFF image viewing plug-ins. Here are some notes on installing AlternaTIFF in a Microsoft Windows environment and the Firefox web browser.

    There are two problems with AlternaTIFF in a Vista environment. One is potential conflicts with other plug-ins that think they should be the TIFF viewer. The other is the conflict between the AlternaTIFF registration process and Vista security protections.

    The first problem is usually with QuickTime. You will need to run that program and then edit the preferences MIME page so Quicktime is not listed as the application for TIFF images.

    The second problem needs a couple of tricks. The first is to be able to unzip the Netscape compatible installation file provided as a self extracting archive. Vista usually treats zip files as if they were folders but a self extracting archive is an executable first. You will need something like infozip’s unzip to unpack the archive. The second trick is to run the Vista command prompt as administrator so you can do the unzip and then run the setup1.exe to install and register AlternaTIFF plugin.

    Trying to run the self extracting archive for the AlternaTIFF Netscape style plug-in installation and registration, even if run with administrative privilege, encounters security blocks. This is probably due to the nature of successive executables in the process. A manual unpacking and then running the setup program from a privileged command line seems to solve this.

    See also the previous post Searching the USPTO, TIFF images on the web.

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