Best free alternatives to Adobe PDF reader

11/12/2012 — 4 Comments

Most of my friends and relatives are using Adobe Reader to open and read .pdf files. I’m quite sure it’s not cause they tested all the readers and decided to use Adobe’s. Everyone is used to Adobe Reader but it’s not the best out there, not even close. There are many alternatives that are faster, more beautiful, providing much more options while using less memory.

Everyone owning a computer is using .pdf files, I mean the thing is standardized. And I’m quite happy about it, it’s a great format. But I’m not that much happy for Adobe Reader being as ubiquitous as  the files it’s opening. It’s quite slow and bulky compared to other readers, memory usage is way much higher, can’t work in tabs (unless you install an additional program) and level of customizing is very low. And I don’t want to mention the updating part!

There are so many readers out there that perform so much better than Adobe reader but still aren’t as popular because Adobe’ reader comes pre-installed on most computers, tablets or smartphones.


1. Foxit Reader – The fast, Small, Feature-Rich and Secure PDF Reader

Foxit 1


I’m a huge fan of Foxit Reader and I’m using it ever since I heard for it. It’s really fast, has tabbed views, automatically opens all files that were opened before you exited it, allows you to annotate documents and much, much more.

Also it’s a lightweight app, Foxit’s installation files are only 12MB compared to Adobe’s 40MB. It doesn’t have all those annoying splash-up screens, endless credits lists and plugins.

The best part of Foxit Reader is the ease of use. You have only one main toolbar (that you can easily hide to get more screen space) with all the important functions like zooming, text selection, image snapshot, search tool, rotation or full screen view, among others.

Only thing I don’t like about Foxit Reader is that it asks you whether you want to install a toolbar for your browser, and whether you want to set a certain website as your homepage. Yes you can untick both options, but still for users that just click next it might be a bit annoying. Other than that it’s flawless.

Foxit 2

Foxit also offers paid versions, so if you are some sort of pro user or need to edit your pdf files with easy, check out their store.


2. Nitro Reader – The only free PDF reader and creator

Nitro PDF reader

The Nitro PDF Reader is a great product that offers so much functionality in a free reader and far exceeds the functionality offered by other competing products, incorporating so much functionality you would typically find only in a PRO product. It offers an ability to quick sign a document, mark-up text, add notes, create pdfs from other formats and many other features in a really tiny package, “weighting” only 1.22MB.

The toolbar looks really like Microsoft’s Ribbon, and Nitro PDF reader has tabbed view too, just as Foxit Reader. It lets you convert almost any file format to .pdf too.

Ntiro Reader UI

Although Nitro Reader offers so many features for free that it’s really comparable to other paid readers, you can get Nitro Reader PRO which offers way much more than the free version. But unless you own a company and need great pdf editing tools, you won’t need the pro version.


 3. Sumatra PDF – the most lightweight PDF reader available

Sumatra PDF

Sumatra PDF is probably the ugliest looking PDF reader. It’s totally unbranded (as you can see on the picture above) the UI looks like we’re still in 90s and there is no support for tabbed view. But there is one thing Sumatra PDF is good at, and it’s probably the best in that field. Speed. It’s blazing fast.

Because it has no extra tools inside it works so fast. It has all the basics tools you need, like zooming ,searching, rotating and full screen, and none of the fluff that you don’t. If you’re frustrated by the slowness of some of the big-name PDF viewers, this could be exactly what you’ve been looking for.

Sumatra PDF UI
You could easily guess this one, unlike Foxit and Nitro reader there is no pro or business version of Sumatra PDF. But what it does feature is a portable version, meaning that you don’t even have to install it before opening pdf files.

4. PDF-XChange Viewer – faster and lighter on your PC’s resources

PDF XChange Viewer

The biggest PDF reader of all presented (although still smaller in size compared to Adobe Reader) is PDF-XChange Viewer. The toolbars of PDF-XChange Viewer look really similar to those of Adobe Reader, although with a few additional command icons.Keep in mind that after installation PDF-Cchange Viewer activates all toolbars so it will be really cluttered. You’ll have to hide the toolbars you don’t use to get that space back.

PDF-XChange Viewer not only has a document search box but also a web search toolbar that’s set first on (more engines can be added from Preferences). Also it’s the only PDF reader presented here that has OCR. Basically that allows you to turn a scanned image into an editable text.

PDF XChange Viewer UI

But heavy editing in the free version isn’t possible, so you’ll either have to purchase the PRO version or use Nitro reader for that.


So, what PDF reader are you currently using? Try these out, all of them are great and possibly better than Adobe Reader. Which when have you installed? Let me know in comments.


4 responses to Best free alternatives to Adobe PDF reader

  1. HI

    These are really the great Free PDF alternatives. I am using FOXIT. Thought it works very well but at times it get struck up when we I am using it on different machine which has different O/S configuration. But Still I prefer to use it

    Thanks for sharing the other free pdf readers as well.


    • Yeah, foxit is great. I’m using it too as mentioned in the blog post and there is no way I could go back to adobe reader. If I had to quit Foxit, I’d probably move to Nitro reader.

  2. I’m using PDF-XChange every day in my work and can say that it’s the really the best free alternative to Adobe. Most of all features (really you often need just theirs) are free and even non-free features you can try. In compare with others this pdf viewer works always stable, fast and wide customizable. Never had problem with it.

  3. Adobe Reader Alternatives super soft ………….
    its too easier our study problem

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