[Windows] Sumatra PDF is a lightweight, easy-to-use PDF reader

Sometimes less can be considered as more; such is the case with Sumatra PDF reader. It doesn’t have all the extra features found in Adobe Reader to slow it down, and that is the reason why Sumatra hits the right spot as many users who have PDF readers only use them to read PDF files and nothing else.

What is it and what does it do

Main Functionality

Sumatra PDF is for the sole purpose of reading PDF files, and nothing else. There are no confusing features, nothing here that would have the user straying too far from the simple goal of reading PDF documents. And that’s why we like it.

Pros:

  • Simple, easy-to-use user interface
  • Starts up very quickly
  • Designed for portable use

Cons:

  • Leaves a folder behind after uninstall

Discussion

Reading PDF files is a common task that is done on a daily basis by thousands of computer users, so having the right tool is very important. Sumatra PDF reader works well in this respect, because it lacks the advance features compared to the popular Adobe Reader but is very fast. Basic features like zooming in and out, book views, select single page, and facing page are all present, so the program is not too simple to the point where it is unusable.

With the built in Search Box, users can locate text within a PDF document with relative ease. The option to view PDFs in full screen and rotate pages make Sumatra PDF the defacto PDF reader for doing nothing else but reading PDF documents.

Probably the best thing about Sumatra PDF is the ability to put it on a USB drive to carry around. The software accomplishes this by being very small in size and portable. Putting it on a USB worked really well — we tested it across several different computers with different operating systems and found it to work as intended.

The only problem users might have with Sumatra PDF is the folder left behind after the program is removed. We don’t like junk being left back after an uninstall, and we sure believe you feel the same way.

Conclusion and download link

Sumatra PDF is good for what it is. What it says, it can do and that’s exactly what it does without any form of problems whatsoever. Apart from the junk it leaves on your computer hard drive, Sumatra is wonderful.

Price: Free

Version reviewed: v2.1.1

Supported OS: Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7

Download size: 4.3MB

Sumatra PDF homepage

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12 comments

  1. Paul D

    Thanks Eric989. I knew there must be a reason I never use Program Files unless I’m given no choice (actually it’s because my C drive is OS only). But then I also always disable UAC (all in Vista).

  2. Grantwhy

    @Eric989:

    The main problem is, it can ‘break’ portability (eg: leave information behind) and I think for a couple of programs it might stop them from working properly.

    ah, looking through the PortableApps forum, I found the following:

    “The Program Files directory causes issues on Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 in conjunction with UAC restrictions. Even with UAC disabled or when running from Windows 2000/XP, the location causes issues with several portable apps which switch to ‘local mode’ when they detect they are run from %PROGRAMFILES%. So, Program Files has never been a supported location for using portable software.

    Unfortunately, many users still installed their software there and then wrote in with problems or questions, many of which were either unsolvable without disabling UAC (which causes other serious security issues) or unsolvable at all in the case of certain apps that operate in local mode (storing settings in the registry or APPDATA) no matter what when installed to Program Files.”

  3. Jyo

    @r0lZ: Sumatra does in fact install the plugin for browsers. You need to make sure to check that option in the installation options. Perhaps you have other pdf plugins installed in your browser, so you need to disable those first. Note that the portable version doesn’t include the plugin.

  4. mukhi

    sumatra PDF is more than a PDF reader, i.e., it can read more file formats. as meldasue said, i don’t see a problem to read PDF in browser page either. yes, i like portable sumatra like any other portable software. other than some corporate use, adobe reader is really hopeless. i like foxit, too (portable).

  5. Grantwhy

    and there is a portable release of Sumatra PDF available on the PortableApps site

    http://portableapps.com/apps/office/sumatra_pdf_portable

    You don’t need to use the PortableApps software if you don’t want to, just make sure you use the SumatraPDFPortable.exe file to launch the program and remember to shut down the program before you shut down the computer (to avoid leaving personal information behind ;-)

    Yes, you can install it to a hard dive, but because of the way Window affects programs, don’t install it into Windows “Programs” directory :-p

    ps: there may be other sites offering portable versions of Sumatra PDF (and other programs) but looking at the PortableApps forums they a pretty strict about using software within the licence or with the permission plus making sure that the programs are not leaving personal information behind.

  6. meldasue

    @r0lZ: When I click on a link to a .pdf, it just opens Sumatra. It’s not ‘in browser’, but I don’t see that as a problem.

    For the things I do at work, I need the full Acrobat, but that’s mostly for the editing capabilities. For home use, Sumatra is perfect, and it doesn’t insist on running on start-up.

  7. r0lZ

    Afaik, Sumatra has no plugin for the browsers. It’s a pity, as we have to install another reader anyway, just to read the online PDFs in the browsers. (Firefox users can install the Mozilla PDF reader extension, but it has trouble with some PDF files.) It is also possible to save the PDF and open it from HDD, but it’s a waste of time. IMO, the lack of the plugin for the browsers is the major “con” of Sumatra.

  8. Paul D

    Great app. I have had it set it up as my default reader for some time, with Nitro also installed for when I need to do more than just read. Adobe Reader and Foxit are just too big, clunky and complex.