Reflecting on DocViewer

Community Member
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Hello, everyone!

Many months ago, we outlined our plans for DocViewer from your input, and we have been working hard to deliver the items laid out in our plan. We are so grateful for the feedback we’ve received from the community as we work to make DocViewer even better. Your suggestions and ideas have been crucial in laying out the path.


We recently completed the final request on this list of most needed features. While we’re focused on the future of DocViewer and adding even more functionality, I thought it was worth taking a minute to reflect on some of the most recent improvements as we cross this milestone.  


This list isn’t exhaustive, and it doesn’t include the many back-end changes that have happened behind the scenes. As always, you can head over to the Canvas release notes for more information.


Recent DocViewer Changes


Annotation Comment Icons

Icons have been added to annotation comments, right next to the name. In order to keep things from getting too cluttered, the icon is only displayed next to the first comment and not on any replies made to that comment.


Ink Stroke Width Controls

Free draw annotations include three stroke widths. Or, in other words, you can now make your checkmarks, smiley faces or intricately drawn characters as subtle or as in-your-face as you need to. Go crazy.


Non-Author Annotation Comments

Previously, only the author of an annotation could make the first comment. This meant that other users who wanted to leave comments on an annotation could only do it if the author had already left a comment. But no more! Now any user can leave the first comment on an annotation.


Instructor Annotation Management

Ever had someone leave an annotation or comment that you didn’t approve of? Yep, so have we. It was driving us (and many of our users) crazy that only the author could delete an annotation or comment. So we fixed it! Instructors can now delete any annotations or comments for any user. This ability also applies to any custom role that is based on the teacher role.


Comment Truncation at 5 Lines

We’ve extended the amount of text that shows on a comments to 5 lines. Previously, comments were truncated after just 1 line, which made getting context and browsing comments tricky. Displaying 5 lines should help with that. As always, when you click a comment, the full comment is expanded.


Comment Display Order and Padding

When users click comments within a submission, comments retain their vertical order when the comment is aligned with an annotation. Additionally, padding around the comments has been reduced so there’s less wasted space.


Image Support

Drumroll please! DocViewer supports comments and annotations on BMP, JPEG, JPG, PNG, TIF, and TIFF images! Large images (or insanely massive 5k images—I’m looking at you photography instructors) are automatically scaled to a lower resolution so that the entire image can be displayed.


Limit Comments to a Single Page

The comment area is scrollable and reveals any comments that don’t fit on the page. And of course, clicking an annotation or comment will align the comment to the associated annotation.


Anonymize Instructor Annotations Setting

This assignment setting replaces instructors’ names with “Grader” when they leave annotations and annotation comments. For the purposes of this setting, we identify instructors as any role that has the “Grades - Edit” permission enabled.


All right, so that’s a recap of some of the recent changes to DocViewer. We’re excited for the future of DocViewer and appreciate all of your support. As always, please keep the great feature suggestions and feedback coming. We're excited to keep making DocViewer even better.




Engineering Note

The lead engineer for DocViewer wanted to use this milestone as an opportunity to add a few of his thoughts and comments from the technical team.


My reflections as the tech lead for the DocViewer project.


I first came to this project in September of 2017 and immediately was blown away by the skill and conscientiousness of the team I’ve been privileged to lead. From day one, it was very clear that the engineers were all very interested in improving the user experience of DocViewer for all of you. I’ve never been involved with a team that had such a customer focus in my 25+ year career.


This customer focus sometimes drives intense conversations about the right thing to do, since we are all opinionated about what makes a great experience, but we always arrive to a conclusion with changes we know will have a good chance at positively improving your experience.


And that’s what drives us: you. Sure, we are all technologists who enjoy working with and expanding on the latest technologies and this project allows us to explore that technical itch. (For example, a partial list of the languages and technology we use to bring you DocViewer includes AWS, Node, Javascript, React, Java, DynamoDB, Scala, Jenkins, Puppeteer, SQS, LibreOffice, and Docker. But even the full list with all its geeking potential pales in comparison to what providing a great experience for y’all means.)


When we get something right by you, we celebrate as a team as we read your comments and thanks. When we come up short, our first instinct is to understand how we can make things better.


Thanks, y’all, for taking the time in telling us what you need, and thank you for expressing your thanks to us. We feel honored to be a part of your success with Canvas. I’m looking forward to seeing what we, together, come up with next!



Tags (1)

Wow, , thank you for this summary of your team's awesome work to improve DocViewer!

I know that many folks in our Community are going to be incredibly excited about many of these enhancements, and I am especially excited about the ability to annotate images.

Thanks again, Jon! You and your team definitely R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.!


Community Member

I'm so excited to try these in action. Much needed. Much appreciated -- the end results, and all the team's hard work to bring this product up-to-speed. Well done.

Community Member

Any chance the known bug (File preview showing incorrect file contents‌ ) that mangles the contents of text files will ever get fixed?

About the Author
I worked at an Ed-Tech startup before joining Instructure and am now part of the Canvas product team. When not spending time with my family I can be found reading or playing board games.