[Windows] Read, create, and edit PDFs with Nitro PDF Reader

Nitro PDF ReaderTrying to locate a good PDF reader is more difficult than it really should be. Every time I think I have come across a good one, I am hit with limitations and watermarks. Well, Nitro PDF Reader promises that it is different. The program says that you can create, edit and read PDF files. So let’s find out if that is true.

WHAT IS IT AND WHAT DOES IT DO

Main Functionality

Nitro PDF Reader is a PDF reader. However, instead of just letting you read PDF files, you are also able to edit and create them as well. The program will let you open up different documents (like ones created by Word and Notepad) and turn those into PDF files. It will even let you turn PDF files into a text document that you can edit.

Pros

  • Allows you to create, read, and edit PDF files
  • Can create a PDF from pretty much any file, thanks to Nitro PDF Reader’s virtual PDF printer
  • No watermarks on edited PDF files like with some free programs
  • Can turn PDFs into plain text (TXT) documents that you can edit
  • Supports tabbed PDF reading
  • Can create PDF files by dragging and dropping existing documents into Nitro

Cons

  • Editing features are basic and not as advanced as the paid version of Nitro. For example, you can highlight text, add text to PDFs, add notes, add comments, fill and save forms, and apply signatures but you cannot edit (remove/modify) existing text in a PDF or create forms.
  • Sometimes an error would appear when trying to create PDF files from existing documents
  • Keeps reminding you that you are using the free version of the program

Discussion

Nitro PDF Reader ScreenshotI’m just going to start off by saying, I really enjoyed using Nitro PDF Reader. As we go through the features you may be thinking that it sounds all pretty standard. However, keep in mind that this is a completely free program that does not include watermarks on your edited work. In terms of what it allows you to do, it offers more features than any other free PDF reader/editor on the market (that I know of).

Nitro PDF Reader allows you to create, read and edit PDF files. It is important to note that the pages that I edited did not contain any watermarks. This was a huge deal for me, as many other PDF editors I have used in the past included watermarks on their free programs. Not only that, but all of their features actually work…most of the time.

I did have a few problems with their feature of turning existing documents into PDF files. I was able to drag and drop files into the program with no problem. These would then be turned into PDF files. However, when trying to manually open one, I would get an error about 50% of the time. After opening it two, sometimes three, times I was able to get the same document to convert. Not sure what the error was, and it very well may have been on my end. However, it is something that you should keep in mind.

In terms of speed, it is a bit on the slow side when creating PDFs but not too bad for a free program. I was able to convert 6 pages into PDF format in 3 minutes. So you are looking at about 30 seconds a page. This is not bad, but I have seen a lot faster. Of course, those were not free programs, so it is hard to compare them. [Editorial note from Ashraf: 30 seconds per page is extremely slow, and I have had faster speed with Nitro. This slow issue may just be with Justin’s specific computer configuration or it may be some sort of bug — we aren’t sure.]

Another problem is the fact that they offer a pro version. From what I can tell, you get added features if you upgrade. Like the ability to combine files, advanced/full editing capabilities, convert PDF to word, etc. If you don’t want these features then there is no need to upgrade. However, as long as you are using the free version they will continue to show ads on the side or on the bottom, reminding you that you are indeed still using the free version.

CONCLUSION AND DOWNLOAD LINK

Overall, I am very pleased with Nitro PDF Reader… mostly because it allows you to do more than just read PDF files — you can create and edit them, too. The features they offer you actually work, and this is amazing to see in a free PDF program. If you are looking for a new PDF reader, creator, or editor, you may want to give this one a go. For the price (free), you are getting a lot of stuff.

Price: Free

Version reviewed: 3.0.10.7

Supported OS: Windows XP / Vista / 7

Download size: 1.6MB+

VirusTotal malware scan results: 0/43

Is it portable? No

Nitro PDF Reader homepage

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18 comments

  1. Rob (Down Under)

    PS If you’se are worried that it is a propriety format, IT IS NOT
    What it does is save a web page as web page complete, like has been done for decades (You know the one with the companion …._files folder)
    However it then zips those two into a single .maff file. It hides all that processing from you, and all you see is that single .maff file.
    FF is smart enough to then open the .maff file, and render it for you as a perfect display of what you saw originally. In addition it shows the link, so you can open the real page if you wish to.
    To prove that it is non propriety, you can get your zip program to open the .maff file, and you will see the two original files – ( .html and the accompanying …._files folder).

  2. Rob (Down Under)

    unMHT had trouble saving a web page recently, so I tried Mozilla’s own format MAFF
    It is brilliant
    It makes a smaller file, and has some nice extra abilities.
    It has the Crombie stamp of approval –
    If you use FF’s Addons page and search for mht you should see the download.

  3. Louis

    @cpusrvc : Thanks for the explanation, hehe just goes to show, I just learned something new after all these years :-) Putting an icon on the FF toolbar sounds like a great idea !
    If it’s just an informational (text based) page, I guess PDF will do fine, but (as I’m doing right now, looking at an online map of my city Guangzhou here in China), clearly PDF will not cut it, as it’s quite huge and detailed — so being able to open that exact map when offline in a browser would be just what I need, means I could carry that map around in my netbook !

    @RobCr : heheh, not really, although of course I know how to set a file type to open with a specific software as default, it still helped that you told me to do it with a browser, that part was what I didn’t know (for up to now, for some really bizarre reason, I’ve never heard of .MHT :-) )

    Well that’s one hole in my education fixed, thanks you guys, and thanks to dotTech as well Ashraf, for providing just the right kind of forum to have this kind of technical issue solved, unlike some other tech sites who either just dismiss you with a curt half-baked reply, if any, or throw some obscure programming code your way :-)

  4. RobCr

    @Louis:
    “how would one read such a article later which was saved in .mht ?”
    _
    Most browsers can open .MHT
    If You right click a .mht file and choose open with, you could select your favorite browser to ensure it can handle them.
    Then do the same again and tick always use this program (I am probably ‘teaching my grandmother how to suck eggs’ ?)

  5. cpusrvc

    In IE, forever, you were able to save a page in MHT format. A web page is written in HTML, and MHT essentially copies the pages in their original HTML format (I think adding a special header line) and combining it all in one file. All browsers that I know of recognize and open MHT files.

    One of the problems with printing a web page to PDF, is that most do not convert very well on some pages. I use FF a lot, and added “Print pages to PDF” add-on. For me, it gives the best rendition of the web page in a pdf, and you can put an icon on the toolbar to start it.

  6. Louis

    @RobCr : Yep, here in China the world still looks fine, it’s 04h00 on 22 Dec now, and I just looked out my window to doublecheck if the swimming pool on campus is still there — looks fine, I reckon it’s safe to go to bed now, the arks built were apparently a waste of money hehe !

    Thanks for that advice of .mht, I admit I’ve never heard of it, will will surely check it out, I also do run Firefox to save important tabs by category (using the excellent FF add-on “TooManyTabs” , which has an ‘equivalent’ in Chrome but only in name, it doesn’t work the same way and not usable), so I’ll check out that .mht feature).

    I mainly save (also in the 100’s) interesting articles for later reference –how would one read such a article later which was saved in .mht ?

  7. cpusrvc

    I’ve been using PDF-X-Change Viewer for quite a while. It is very good, but there are a couple of features I do not like. I installed Nitro Reader, which I liked, but apparently it does not allow you to insert images, which I do frequently, so I may stop using it due to that one missing feature.

  8. RobCr

    @Louis:
    I have saved 1000’s of web pages.
    I always create .mht files (single file). I use unMHT in FF, but I believe FF have also built this ability into their latest releases ?
    A saved .mht file is an identical rendering of what the live page looked like.
    I would never consider saving web pages as .pdf
    For my earlier color test post, I created .pdf files of web pages.
    They are not a pretty sight (compared to a .mht save)

  9. Louis

    @RobCr : Right, I did installed doPDF again now, and indeed it does print colour web pages as PDF’s now, in fact, so does PDFCreator — therefore the problem of only getting B & W pages a year or 2 ago must have been a Google Chrome bug in one of their unseen updates I guess.

    Since I now have the 3 options of outputting webpages to PDF, as a quick test, I made a PDF print of the doPDF download web page, using doPDF, PDFCreator, as well as the native ‘save as PDF’ in Chrome, and displayed all 3 pages in tabs inside PDF Xchange Viewer.

    I found the following for that same webpage on PDF :

    Worst was PDFCreator ( !)
    In the middle was doPDF
    Sharpest and clearest was the G Chrome PDF

    This of course only applies to PDF’s from webpages.

    I will test the above with other more richly detailed text- as well as graphics based webpages.

    For other documents, like Word doc’s etc, I will do some tests between doPDF and PDFCreator, to see if there are any discernible differences in quality of the PDF’s.

    At the end of all this, it seems I will probably retain using Google Chrome for making PDF’s from webpages, but may switch back to doPDF for making PDF’s from other documents, if the above results turn out to apply to general documents as well.

    Thanks for your input !

  10. Tom

    I take issue with the thoroughness of this review.

    So you know my biases, I use both PDF X-Change and Nitro Reader.

    There are no ads on the side/bottom of Nitro Reader. There IS an toolbar icon to upgrade to the Pro version.

    A Nitro Reader feature you completely missed is the ability to flatten forms. Another missed feature is that Nitro Reader will install a virtual PDF Printer (it is my default printer, FWIW).

    Additionally, I have never had conversion problems that you cite. Perhaps your installation is faulty,

    This is a READER tool not an EDITOR, so one should expect a limited set of capabilities. For basic form creation, Nitro Reader’s unique “Smart Alignment” text insertion tool is quite easy to use.

    For PDF markups, PDF X-Change offers arrows and geometric figure insertions (don’t expect text editing) that aren’t available in Nitro Reader, and X-Change features a basic OCR capability.

  11. Janetb

    I also use PDF Xchange Viewer as my default PDF app. Excellent annotation features. I only use Expert PDF Pro if I need to edit. If I had to buy an editor, I would get PDF Xchange Viewer’s full editor because of my good experiences with the free viewer. PDF Xchange Viewer faithfully maintains dropshadows, whereas the Visagesoft/Avanquest paid ‘professional’ viewer (Expert PDF) turns them into solid shapes–which is why I would never pay for it….

  12. Louis

    @RobCr : Ditto

    Except after I’ve used doPDF for quite some time , I began to notice (this was about 2 years ago, so could have been a bug since sorted out) that on larger multipage PDF documents it often omitted the last pages. A friend of mine at the time had the same problem on his machine. I then switched to opensource PDFCreator software, which I’ve been using since without a hitch. Be careful about that, since we often don’t check all the converted files for accuracy, especially if it’s for later viewing, and you may find an incomplete document later

    I also use PDF Xchange Viewer, and reckon it’s just about the best free PDF Viewer around (I must’ve tried all of them at some point !).

    @Justin : Note that these free PDF Editors often can only edit text inside PDF’s that had been saved as text format when the PDF file was created, sometimes the same-looking text isn’t text at all, but in fact graphics inside the PDF, which you won’t be able to edit (unless you shell out some money, there are commercial software that can do that, albeit with varying degrees of successs).

    If you do have a PDF (that isn’t protected, and it does have actual text inside (not in graphic format), simply use the hand select tool (such as found in PDF Xchange Viewer Free)), mark it, copy it and paste it in your Word document, where you can edit it further. And if need be, reconvert to PDF using PDFCreator or doPDF.

    Lastly, something I’ve noticed regarding printing out web pages as PDF — this can of course be done by the likes of doPDF and PDFCreator via the print command as normal, but invariably the output is in black and white — I lived with that grudgingly for a while, before I noticed by serendipity that using the ‘save as PDF’ function on Google Chrome browser (at that time it was also done in Chrome through the print command, but this was changed recently ) actually outputs the webpage as a original colour PDF file.

  13. RobCr

    I suspect that Janeth is correct.

    Justin,
    Have you tried using (installing) doPDF (When your other applications ‘print’ something, the doPDF virtual printer creates a PDFfile instead of a printed sheet of paper.)
    It has never faulted in creating PDFs for me, and I have never noticed any faults in the PDFs that it creates.

    For highlighting / annotiating / “Noting” I use PDF XChange viewer. Love that program.

    No wallets will be harmed by any of the above mentioned programs.