[Windows] Best free PDF reader — Adobe Reader vs Foxit Reader vs PDF-XChange Viewer vs Nitro PDF Reader vs Sumatra PDF

PDFs are one of the most common document formats. To read PDFs, you need a PDF reader. There are tons of PDF readers out there. What to know the best free one? You have come to the right place!

All of the programs reviewed here are capable of rendering the actual text in a PDF file quite well, but what sets a PDF reader apart from the competition are additional features such as tabbed browsing and annotations in addition to basic features such as searching for words, magnifying text and different types of navigation tools such as the hand tool and the select tool. Consequently these additional features are what will be mainly focused on in this review.

Most of you out there will only require a PDF reader to simply display text and might even question some of the extra (maybe even extravagant) features reviewed here today but for those of us who will do everything from replace text, fill out forms and sign documents digitally, take note! Below are the best free PDF readers out there for Windows. All of these programs are great as you will see and each one  of them has its strengths hence why I have more than one of them installed on my PC.

[Note: The sections labelled “Approximate Memory Usage When Idle” are just as they suggest — estimates — and usage WILL vary from user to user and PDF to PDF.]

Table of Contents

Best Free PDF Reader

foxit screenshotProgram Name: Foxit Reader

Developer: Foxit Corporation

Download Size: 15.0MB

Version Reviewed:

Requires: Windows XP/Vista/7

Approximate Memory Usage When Idle: 9.76MB


  • Read out loud option (allows you to have text read to you if for some reason you have to be away from the computer screen or if you are just multi-tasking)
  • Multiple ways of displaying documents:
    • Multi-tab browsing (allows for the opening of several files in a single instance of the program)
    • Single document interface mode (each opened file is opened in a new window)
    • Multiple document interface (multiple documents are opened using multiple windows which are grouped under a single parent window)
  • DocuSign® integration
  • Social media integration (Foxit allows users to login to their Facebook or Twitter accounts and then select text from a PDF document and share it on either network. Users can also share PDF documents via links on these networks.)
  • Both interactive and non interactive form filling supported
  • Documents can be emailed from directly within Foxit Reader
  • Highly customizable user interface (change skins and customize toolbars)
  • Easily add comments or additional text
  • Spell checker for text added


  • Does not allow for the creation of PDFs
  • Comes bundled with crapware (Ask Toolbar) during installation. Be sure to uncheck the relevant boxes to avoid installing Ask Toolbar.
  • Has some nagging messages in the program to install/upgrade to other components


Foxit Reader is both lightweight and powerful. Seriously, it loads in a jiffy.

The first thing you will notice is the well laid out user interface of Foxit reader. Added to that, you can also customize the program to further suit your liking. The options available for customization are as follows:

  • Ability to change between tabbed and classic toolbar mode. (With the tabbed toolbar mode the menu categories are laid out in a segmented fashion. You will find the relevant icons under tabs such as ‘Basic’, ‘View’ and ‘Edit’. With the classic toolbar mode the menus are in the classic list form where you just click a menu and see a list of available options.)
  • Ability to change skins and customize toolbars. (Changing skins basically allows for the changing of the colour scheme of the program. Customizing toolbars allow users to rearrange menu items such as the ‘open’ and ‘save as’ options.)

Several methods for displaying text (continuous, single page, facing or continuous-facing) are available with Foxit Reader. With the continuous and single page options, pages are displayed vertically while with the facing options pages are displayed side by side as well as vertically. There are also options for both replacing text and even adding text. Users can use the replace text option or the insert text option or even add a text box or use the typewriter option in order to carry out any needed additions or corrections. Users also have the facility of striking out text, highlighting it and underlining it. Conveniently users can also draw free hand shapes or choose from a list of predetermined shapes such as simple lines or ovals and polygons to name a few. If it is required, users can also user Foxit Reader to take a snapshot of a body of text in a PDF document which can then be copied from the clipboard to any desired location.

Along with bookmarks, several other powerful options are available:

  • Insertion of media such as images and even video
  • Links can be inserted
  • Ability to share via facebook or twitter (You can add a suitable message or post to your wall or a group wall with Facebook. With twitter you can choose to share the link publicly or send it as a direct message. With both services you can login directly from the program.)
  • Share via email
  • Javascript actions
  • Users can replace document colors (both background and text)
  • Addition of notes/comments
  • Attach any file type to the document
  • Sign documents using the DocuSign® service
  • Measuring tools are also available  for the measuring of the distance, perimeter or area of objects in a document
  • Hyperlinks can also be easily added

The feature set available with Foxit Reader was definitely surprising the first time I ever used it and users have access to the most advanced features without paying a dime. The only issue I had with this program is that it did not allow for the creation of PDF files.

If you need to make use of powerful PDF editing capabilities, you should definitely consider Foxit reader as it offers a ton of features but yet it is still easy to understand how to use it.

Runner Up

PDF-Xchange ScreenshotProgram Name: PDF-XChange Viewer Free

Developer: Tracker Software Products

Download Size: 18.6MB

Version Reviewed: 2.5

 Requires: Windows 7/2000/Vista/XP/Server 2008

Approximate Memory Usage When Idle: 3.41MB


PDF-XChange Viewer is another free powerhouse and it was honestly a close tossup in choosing between it and Foxit Reader for the number one spot.

XChange Viewer’s GUI is quite similar to that found in Foxit Reader when it is used in the classic toolbar mode, so users (like me) using both programs should have no problems switching between the 2 programs. XChange Viewer allows for tabbed browsing; this is practically a hallmark of a great PDF reader and provides several options for customising the user interface:

  • The font of the menu and toolbars can be customised
  • The common UI-font can be customised
  • The colors of the text used in documents can be changed
  • The background color can be altered
  • The color used to highlight and select text can also be altered

Also expected of a great PDF reader, users can make their own adjustments to the text already found in their PDFs. Users can add comments and sticky notes to files as well as highlight, strike out or underline text. You can even add your own text to documents directly or through some form of text box. Various shapes such as ovals or rectangles can be added to documents as well. Just as in Foxit Reader, measuring tools are also available allowing for the measurement the distance, perimeter or area of objects in a document. There is also a snapshot tool, allowing users to take a snapshot of a desired body of text. Conveniently, documents can also be emailed from directly within the program.

Below are some neat additional features:

  • OCR functionality allows users to convert images of text inside a PDF into an editable text format
  • Searches can be carried out through a search provider of your choice such as Google or Bing from directly with the program
  • Easily add hyperlinks to documents
  • Allows for the filling out of non-interative forms with they typewriter function but I am not quite sure if interactive forms are supported

I know what you are thinking already! How can this brilliant program be number two! Firstly, just let me say that it can not create PDFs (“But neither can Foxit Reader William!” is what I can hear you saying). However, there is also  the lack of support for digital signatures without having the Pro version. This is becoming increasingly important in today’s world and in fact major contracts are signed using digital signatures. Moreover, the support for adding media such as images and video found in Foxit Reader is not present with this offering.

Honestly most of us will not even use the digital signature functionality or even add images or videos to our PDFs but the fact remains that Foxit Reader supports it while PDF-XChange Viewer does not. Neglecting this, both are excellent programs and are highly recommended.

Honorable Mention 1

nitro screenshot betterProgram Name: Nitro PDF Reader

Developer: Nitro PDF Pty. Ltd.

Download Size: 1.60MB

Version Reviewed:

Requires: Windows Server 2003/Server 2008/Server 2008 R2/Xp/Vista/7/8

Approximate Memory Usage When Idle: 41.09MB


Nitro PDF is a simple, well laid out program which should satisfy the needs of most users.

The interface of Nitro PDF is similar to that of Foxit Reader when it (Foxit) is used in toolbar mode. It also allows for tabbed browsing. Nitro PDF’s strength comes in its conversion capabilities. Users can create a PDF document from a file, drag and drop a document which is desired to be converted to a PDF into the main window of the program or onto the desktop icon or just use the print option from any already installed program as on installation of Nitro PDF Reader, the program is installed as a virtual printer allowing for example a .DOC file to be ‘printed’ to PDF format. Conversely, users can choose to convert a PDF file to an easily editable plain text file or extract images found in a PDF file and save them as individual files.

Users are also given a choice of how to select text for copying to the clipboard. Users can either copy the text characters or simply take a snapshot of a selected body of text. Users can highlight text, crossout text or underline text. Provision is also made for the addition of text. Comments can be added as well as sticky notes.

Additionally users can sign and return documents quickly using QuickSign™.  Documents can be returned to the sender using the default mail client. This functionality can be accessed directly from the File menu. Users can also “fill, save, and submit any PDF form, including AcroForms™, and static or scanned forms, using Type Text”.

This may sound lame but Nitro PDF Reader has quite the extensive help database. Users have several options for improving their experience of using Nitro in one form or the other. Access is given to:

  • A user guide
  • A learning center
  • A knowledge base

Users can  also:

  • Ask a question
  • Share an idea
  • Report a problem
  • Access support tools
  • Check for updates
  • View information about the program or find out about upgrading to the Pro version of Nitro PDF

If you are having any difficulties using this already simple program, it is clear that your questions will be easily answered.

Take note that this program is not capable of adding media such as images and video to PDF files. Also document signing is allowed through QuickSign™ system but this is not the global standard for electronic signature while ‘Docusign’ is. Additionally users must physically write out their signature with Quicksign™ while DocuSign® allows for signatures to be digitally made. Generally an excellent program especially because of it’s PDF creation capabilities, Nitro PDF reader simply does not allow users to edit text to the degree that the previous two offerings do.

This program however, is still highly recommended as it is one of the best out there for reading and creating PDF files.

Honorable Mention 2

Sumatra ScreenshotProgram Name: Sumatra PDF

Developer: Krzysztof Kowalczyk

Download Size: 4.8MB

Version Reviewed: 2.2.1

Requires: Windows XP/Vista/7

Approximate Memory Usage When Idle: 44MB


Sumatra PDF’s strength is in its simplicity.

It is very straightforward to use and gives users just the bare minimum needed to view files minus features such as adding comments or adding and replacing text. Also Sumatra PDF is capable of viewing the following file formats: PDF, ePub, MOBI, CHM, XPS, DjVu, CBZ, CBR.

Sumatra PDF is the program to use if you just want to read a PDF so it may come in handy for reading literature such as novels. It also allows for the viewing of more exotic formats which the other offerings don’t allow. (I know this review is about PDF readers, but I’m just saying…) Plus it has a totally portable version, so you don’t even have to install it.

While ranking Sumatra PDF as #4 may make it sound like a bad program, the reality is Sumatra PDF is still a very good and viable PDF reader. Some may even consider it better than others.

Honorable Mention 3

2013-02-18_012000Program Name: Adobe Reader

Developer: Adobe Systems Incorporated

Download Size: 135MB

Version Reviewed: 11.0

Requires: Windows

Approximate Memory Usage When Idle: N/A


Adobe Reader is the pioneer when it comes to PDF reading simply because its developer, Adobe Systems, is the inventor of the PDF format. However, over the years Adobe Reader has gotten more bloated and bloated and has many security holes (due to a combination of poor Adobe programming and the fact that it is a frequent target of attacks due to its popularity).

As a PDF reader, Adobe Reader is still a viable option and is used by many. However, it is slower and more bloated than all the previous programs we have mentioned. We are only featuring Adobe Reader here as a shout out to the pioneer… and to answer questions of “how does Adobe Reader rank?”

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  • Amina Stun

    I prefer PDF-XChange too. And now Editor has portable version! And it’s so featured. Amazing!
    Foxit looks nice but has a lot of bugs, even in simple and useful things.I’ve just checked its new version. So, back to PDF-XChange

  • AmiyR

    Oh yes! I thought Foxit wasn’t good on my computer, but probably it’s common issue. PDF-XChange works better. Just one what I want more from PDF-XChange Editor – I need portable version!

  • Stephen Hawking (no, not THE Stephen Hawking!)

    I’d pick XChange over the others any day, though the review must be very old (or under informed), because the XChange Editor is wayyyy better than the Viewer. Those that prefer Foxit obviously haven’t seen the Editor, Foxit is pretty terrible and doesn’t open MANY of the PDF’s that I need to open, that XChange can.

  • Paul D

    [@mani] Don’t know about reliable. It’s certainly illegal.

  • melen001


    Hi misu…
    Sorry…. you can get it here >>>>> http://foxit-reader.soft32.com/ <<<<<

  • melen001

    Hi misu …

    Foxit Reader version can be downloaded from here >>> http://www.foxitsoftware.com/Secure_PDF_Reader/ <<< … enjoy …

  • misu

    @melen001: On Febr25, there was only version 7.06…. on their site. How can you talk about 7.0.8.–?! Where did you get it? Thanks.

  • melen001

    The new Foxit Reader V is much more than just a reader. It now has a reader, virtual printer and writer/creator. It’s faster than Adobe Acrobat and much lighter. I downloaded from the Foxit site and there was no added software or adware included during the installation. I have set Foxit as my default PDF reader and it has performed flawlessly… give it a try… enjoy …

  • jared

    [@Paul D] @Paul D: They’re spammers that post links to the crap they’re getting paid to post.

  • jared

    @Paul D: They’re spammers that post links to the crap they’re getting paid to post.

  • Paul D

    [@fkluner] Give us a break. The topic is about pdf READERS. That’s not a pdf reader. A pdf reader sits on your PC and allows you to open and read a pdf with one click – not jump through hoops to send the file to a website.

    The responses to this topic are getting quite absurd.

  • fkluner

    This is best for windows to read pdf file.
    College Essay Editor services

  • Paul D

    [@jekarrep] [@jekarrep] And that has NOTHING to do with this thread topic.

  • jekarrep

    Windows is better than all other operating system.
    academic editors available

  • fasyabk

    This is really best for working.
    Editing services for academics

  • jesuna

    Adobe reader is the first one all over the world.Everyone use this.
    Academic proofreading services

  • floridasazul

    Wait and invest your time.
    Editing services for academics

  • Peter Pan

    When comparing different PDF viewers it is very important to compare the visibility (quality) of the PDF on the screen, not only the functions and speed. This is NOT being done in the review, nor in the comments.

    I compared both Foxit Reader and PDF X-change Viewer and they are quite different. I compared text, as text shows best how the rendering qualities of the products are::
    – at 800% the text in both viewers is presented on the screen at about the same quality.
    – at about 100% there is a visible better representation of Foxit over PDF X-change – in PDF Foxit the text is much sharper as in PDF X-change!

    As reading text is the hard part for our eyes I would happily recommend Foxit over PDF X-change!

  • Jay

    I never liked Foxit Reader and dont even talk about Adobe..

    Although not listed, my vote goes to Notable PDF.
    It’s a PDF viewer that can do everything listed above and more.
    Cloud-based with unique features, definately matches those stated above.

  • Rockstring

    I like Foxit Reader for its simplicity and I’m finding it even better than CoolUtils PDF Viewer, which I’ve been using for several months

  • MegaManToo

    I didn’t like FoxIt Reader. It seemed to worm its way into everything, wanted to be registered, and had too many buttons, bells, and whistles. If I want obnoxious, I can go with the Free Adobe Reader.

    My favorite Free PDF Reader alternative has been and continues to be Sumatra PDF. The portable version of that has been good as well. The Sumatra PDF by default saves your location in each document when you exit so that you don’t have to remember where you left-off reading. Nice.

  • priti

    nice post

  • Rob (Down Under)

    Did we ever find out which version Trev (Down Under) was looking for ?
    And did we find out if he got it ok ?
    Rob (Down Under)
    PS I know that you are all thinking –
    Since we are both ‘Down Under’, why didn’t I just ring him ?

  • Trev (Down Under)

    [@Tom] Thanks, I see what you are saying. Download PDF-XChange Lite (Editor) Home/Academic “Non-Commercial Release” version. “No strings or catches”. (Not evaluation version).

  • RealBull

    Oh, no! Not that Babylon bar, I hate that thing. Sorry about that, I didn’t know about the toolbar. Actually this viewer became freeware recently and I’m sure the sponsor is Babylon.

  • thegreenwizard

    [@Paul D]
    Yes, but this one doesn’t install clean without the Babylon bar. I’ve tried twice and I always got a error message. Soooo… out.

  • Paul D

    [@thegreenwizard] If you rejected every program that tries to install extras nowadays, you’d never install anything

  • thegreenwizard


    Yes, but it wwant to install Babylon tools bar. It’s hard to get ride of it, then NO, thanks, no place for it on my PC.

  • RealBull

    And ANOTHER free PDF viewer is here:

    Altarsoft PDF Reader

    Program for viewing and editing PDF files.

    Main Features:

    – open / save pdf files
    – zoom in / zoom out
    – rotate page
    – encrypt pdf file
    – decrypt pdf file
    – add annatations
    – add bookmarks
    – add watermarks
    – add attachements
    – covert images to pdf file
    – merge file with another pdf file
    – merge pdf documents
    – insert blank pages
    – insert pages from pdf file
    – insert text from text files
    – extract selected pages
    – extract images
    – extract text
    – split doc into single pages
    – split doc into images

  • Jeff

    Besides the benefits described above, Foxit Reader is an unbeatable research and collaboration tool. For anyone who wants to find anything in a PDF, come back to it, and/or share work with others, Foxit offers an unmatched set of highlighting and annotation tools, excellent options for leaving readable comments on a page, and the ability to create unlimited bookmarks. Best of all, Foxit will enable the user to do this on almost any PDF document, whereas Adobe finds some reason to disable their similar (but vastly inferior) functions on 80 – 90 % of documents.

  • Paris

    My vote goes to Sumatra PDF. Super fast to load and easy to use. As stated, if all you need is a PDF reader, then Sumatra is the gold. I’ve tried the others but have come back to Sumatra:)

  • Hal

    I love PDF Xchange been using now for about 4 year…..anything to get adobe off my computer, or at least parts of it….LOL

  • Tom

    [@Trev (Down Under)] No watermark if installed correctly (it’s confusing, I know). Remove with Revo, Try again, but download the “non-commercial” version, and DO NOT enter anything in the reg screen.

  • Rob (Down Under)

    [@Trev (Down Under)]
    I have only ever had one complaint about PDFXChange viewer, and that is – every time I have to go to their web site to download the free program, I have to give up injecting drugs for at least 48 hours in advance. The reason that I have to do that is to clear my head, so as to increase my chances of downloading the correct program.
    Were you intending to get the free version of the viewer ? If so then the Lite is not the free version (of the viewer).
    I started the download of what I believe to be the free version, and copied the link for you –
    PS I hope it is all that it is CRACKed up to be.

  • Guido

    PDF-XChange Viewer is the best !!
    Signatures is very simple with the stamp, and you can secure by a password or re print to another pdf file.
    And i have never seen watermark … ( Are you sure of that Trev (Down Under) ?).

  • Trev (Down Under)

    [@V] PDF-Xchange Lite free evaluation version leaves a watermark.

  • kevbo

    I moved from Foxit to PDF-Xchange Viewer a few years ago; can’t remember now why, but I think it was because Foxit started to bloat up. On the strong recommendations of the early posters here, I installed Nitro a few days ago and have been using it. I still like PDF-Xchange better for my uses, it is more feature rich without feeling cluttered to me, so i will be un-installing Nitro. For PDFs requiring signatures, I use the same method as thegreenwizard. As I recall, I had to apply transparency to my scanned signature before adding it to the Stamps menu. Thanks to William for the review, as well as all the other pertinent posts.

  • BearPup

    [@jayesstee] I know that Firefox has started warning about a lot of plugins lately, primarily as a result of the Java scare. Pleased to say that no such warning appears with the Sumatra plugin. :)

  • jayesstee

    You might want to be aware that my Firefox automatically disabled “Foxit Reader Plugin tor Mozilla” with the message: “! Foxit Reader Plugin for Mozilla is known to be vulnerable. Use with caution.”
    Noticed it about the time of the Java scare.
    Nitro is my favourite :=))

  • Ashraf

    [@RealBull] [@BearPup] I agree. Excellent review. Thanks William!
    [@V] This is true. However, William’s point is non of the readers aside from Nitro PDF Reader come with a PDF printer built-in. You can couple standalone PDF printers with any of the readers, if desired, not just XChange.

  • onedeafeye

    I use Foxit Portable. That avoids having to watch for crapware, and I don’t recall any nagging about other installs either.

  • Tom

    IMO NitroPro wins hands down. Foxit’s social media features are a huge “con”, along with its incessant ads (yes, I know you can hack around that). PDF X-Change is a cluttered mess, although its simple OCR capability can be helpful. NitroPro’s built-in virtual printer is first-class, and it’s ability to save “flattened” PDFs is unmatched by any free reader AFAIK.

  • thegreenwizard

    I use PDF-Xchange and I digitally sign with my own signature about 12 documents a week. It very easy : you scan your signature and import it into PDF-Xchange (stamp) et voila…
    For added security I print everything again back to PDF with CutePDF and I have a secure PDF form. I wouldn’t be able to work if I did not have it.

  • BearPup

    I was remiss in not thanking William for his hard work and efforts (even though I disagree with the results). My apologies.

  • catman

    @ PaulD: http://dottech.org/97090/adobe-reader-is-hit-with-new-zero-day-attack-avoid-immediately-to-stay-safe/
    Until Adobe reader fixes all the problems I’ll stay away!

    I installed Foxit to replace Adobe. Should I need the OCR capability then i will try PDF-XChange Free.

  • V

    While PDF-Xchange Viewer cannot create PDF’s, PDF-Xchange Lite certainly can, and PDF-Xchange Lite is also free for non-commercial use.

  • RealBull

    Nice article/review. Because of this article, I’m going to give Foxit a try, again. Thanks for your hard work!

  • BearPup

    As my original comment makes clear, I am a fan of Sumatra, and this review doesn’t change that opinion. What I do feel is “unfair” is that we were asked for our views on the best reader, and not on the best reader plus all these other “features”.

    So perhaps reader+ goes to Foxit Reader, etc. But for a straightforward reader, I still think Sumatra is the best.

  • Ashraf

    This article has now been updated by William to include dotTech’s full review on Best Free PDF Reader for Windows. Enjoy, and thx for all the feedback and comments everyone!

  • snowd

    I’d like a pdf reader that I could use to click through all the pages of each pdf in a folder so when it gets to the end of one pdf it opens the next one and goes on to it. I could do that by forming a big pdf of all the smaller ones, but I’d rather keep them separate, so I can add new ones in between the others in the folder without remaking the big pdf.

    For those who may have missed it, the free-for-personal-use PDF-XChange Viewer — http://www.tracker-software.com/product/pdf-xchange-viewer — now has OCR (Optical Character Recognition) built in. I’ve tried it on scanned pdf files that don’t already have the text layer with them, so they aren’t word-searchable with most pdf readers, and it seems to do a good job.


  • michael clyde

    @ ashraf,
    when i first ran across xchange viewer i was under the ASS-U-M(E)PTION that it was the one and only. okay, maybe that was 27 1/2 years ago so…
    i did just goooogle for a viewer that could “search for text”,
    i got 61,300,000 hits, so possibly there is one or two others out there that can perform this greatest of feats.
    i do stand behind my comment about the printing variables like, scalability, composite view breakdown etc… actually i’m sitting so i’ll sit behind the comment.
    it does have a built in ocr application with multiple language support

    hope that’s the only time i’m wrong today,
    michael clyde

  • Mike


  • Paul D

    It’s probably worthwhile to cross-reference this to a new DotTech article

    Adobe Reader is hit with new zero-day attack, avoid immediately to stay safe


  • Paul D

    @JC: IMHO, that’s how the Nitro internal updater is/was intended to work. There were some pretty major changes from v2 to v3, so I believe an uninstall/fresh install was the way to go.

    You should have a separate uninstall for Adobe Reader.

    I’m no techie, but I was under the impression that AIR is for developers, not end users.

    Some information on ARM – http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/startups/AdobeARM.exe-25493.html

    I think Adobe X is the reader. X = Roman numeral 10.

    Bottom line. You don’t need AIR, and if you uninstall the reader you won’t need ARM

  • Nitro all the way. Although I just tried to update it from v2, and it said “no updates available” that “it IS up to date”. However CNet has version 3, which I downloaded. So the internal updater somehow wasn’t accurate.

    I also sometimes use Lightning PDF, but that’s not a free product. Its more of a PDF creator/editor from Avanquest, but it also reads PDFs.

    I’d like to uninstall Adobe Reader and do not use it, but I’m not 100% sure what you can uninstall. I seem to have several Adobe programs on my system without it being crystal clear what they all do. “Adobe X” for one example. Adobe AIR? Adobe ARM?

    I’m an old DOS guy. What do I know?


  • I like to use Sumatra to open PDF files. It’s pretty simple but has all the basic functions that I usually need for .pdf files: read, print, etc. The best thing about it is how quickly it loads! No more having a cup of coffee while waiting for Adobe to load. And it’s open-source freeware and portable.

  • RealBull

    I used to use Nuance PDF. It’s a good free PDF viewer, but I had to leave it for Nitro.

    Here is a PDF viewer that seems to have almost all the features that you can ask for. I have no interest to install it, so I’ll leave it up to the reviewers or anyone else who wants to try it out. Be sure to download the FREE version:


  • RealBull

    @Rob (Down Under):
    Well I feel Nitro 3 has improved over Nitro 2. It seems lighter to me. I don’t know about it being complex to install, it doesn’t seem like it. The biggest change was it having a plugin for browsers.
    Yes, I know about that “We’re the only PDF viewer to create PDFs…yap, yap, yap” is a lot of hot air. Using a pretend printer driver is NOT like selecting various images and documents and making a PDF.

  • Ashraf

    @michael clyde: Can’t pretty much all PDF readers search for text inside PDFs? o_O

  • Patara

    I was searching for this answer today as have a new system.
    I decided to give the Free Nuance PDF Reader a try so it would be great to see it compared to other Free versions.

  • Rajesh Ghadye


  • michael clyde

    you can SEARCH for text inside .pdf files with PDF-XChange Viewer. i haven’t seen another that could search. i do a lot of printing of rc aircraft plans and i’m constantly sizing up or down from the original .pdf file and it seems to offer more versatility than any other.

    i also like the built-in reading application in adobe Xl

    michael clyde

  • michael clyde

    you can SEARCH for text inside .pdf files with PDF-XChange Viewer Free. i haven’t seen another that could search. i do a lot of printing of rc planes plans and i’m constantly sizing up or down and it seems to offer more versatility than any other.

    i also like the built-in reading application in adobe Xl

    michael clyde

  • Paul D

    @Michael Rainey: It’s not unwanted advertising, it’s the incessant popups offering add-ons (some free, some not) every time the program opens. They may well have stopped doing it now, but it has come too late for me. It turned me off Foxit quite some time ago. I may not be the most demanding user, but Nitro does everything I want and more.

  • Paul D

    @AFPhys: It was a one-off 2 years ago. I don’t keep souvenirs. However, I believe (but I can’t prove) that the document was authored in Acrobat with security features that prevented it from being printed other than thru Adobe Reader. It doesn’t matter how good the alternative printer programs are (and yes, I too have printed barcodes in other readers) if the author has been restrictive with his/her security restrictions.

    In fact, I did not say barcodes (plural). I gave one instance where I had to reinstall Adobe Reader. I think I was still using Foxit at the time, but I don’t believe it was a Foxit problem.

  • Rob (Down Under)

    Good, if you have managed to update via their web site, then I am happy to leave the ‘Live Update’ problem unsolved.
    PS I updated my Foxit, and downloaded their Manual, and opened it in both Foxit and PDF-XChange.
    I give the tick of approval on that test to PDF-XChange, as using F11 to go Full Screen, remembers that I like ‘fit to width’
    But OTHERWISE Foxit is not bad.
    When I next need to do some highlighting and commenting, I will compare the two programs again.

  • Jeanjean

    @ Rob

    PDF-XChange run just fine even after the problem with LiveUpdate.
    I have no proxy.
    The last screen before the error message is
    the download request for the update of…LiveUpdate.
    To update PDF-XChange itself, i must go on their site and download the last version.

  • AFPhys

    @Paul D:
    I hope that you will provide the reviewer a copy of this problem file (or link to it, or a better description) so these programs can be properly compared. I have seen barcodes rendered properly on Foxit.

  • Michael Rainey

    Foxit gets my vote. It is bigger than it used to be, but still quite fast and feature-rich.

    I haven’t noticed any unwanted advertising when running Foxit.

  • Tom

    Nitro 3 Reader for all the reasons offered by RealBull, and for its ability to “flatten” forms. And its virtual PDF printer is a nice bonus!

    I’ve completely weaned myself from PDF X-Change, which in my opinion is #2.

  • Rob (Down Under)

    Perchance do you have PDF-XChange running ?
    I did not have it running when I ran the Start Menu’s Live update.
    If that is not the problem, what is the last healthy screen (dialog) that you see, prior to the action that triggers the error ?
    Also do you have a proxy ?
    I am unsure whether my internet is via a proxy, but I just chose to tell it not to use the proxy.

  • Jeanjean

    @ Rob
    Thanks for details.
    I just try again the LiveUpdate via the start Menu.
    Message : “LiveUpdate must be first update (every time)”.
    I agree, the program is downloaded. Then during the install, i receive an error message and Live Update PDF-XChange must be closed ! (XP-sp3)

  • Rob (Down Under)

    I suppose this is the page to raise possible concerns regarding suggested PDf readers ?
    I found that I have Nitro reader 2 on my PC. Tried auto update, but that failed.
    Uninstalled it, which took a long time. Is it a bit like a Goa’uld ?
    Which semi relatedly, brings me to my next question. It pats itself on the back for being the only free reader to create PDF’s. However digging deeper it does that by doing the old pretend printer that can be printed to a PDF file(instead of the printer).
    Nothing wrong with that concept, as I use DoPDF to do that same function.
    If I did install Nitro reader 3, is it going to be a fairly complex install, and is the ‘print to PDF’ going to be threaded into that install ? (And possibly confuse DoPDF or confuse me ?)
    Is it going to be a Goa’uld ?
    PS Ashraf does the red underline spell checker only work (or work better) in the Edit page, rather than in the posting page. I am fairly sure it does more underlining in the edit page ?

  • Rob (Down Under)

    I just had their compare products page open.
    You are correct, both functions are listed, and marked as not being available for the free version

  • RealBull

    For me, I need Nitro PDF viewer because I need that digital signer and the image extractor. I believe PDF-Xchange and Foxit don’t have those functions (last time I checked, they didn’t. Correct me if I’m wrong now). Adobe has a digital signer, but it lacks in other tools.
    In addition, Nitro has other tools, too such as typing, markups, notes, create PDF and convert to text. And to top it all off, it is very light and fast.

  • Rob (Down Under)

    Regarding Live Update, It worked for me
    This is the About info which I reckon is up to date now –
    Version 2.5 (Build 209.0)
    (Feb 8 2013)
    PS Nobody answered and Google did not help, so took a punt, and tried using the default (Pro).
    It said invalid something, and I then ticked the Free option, and it installed Fine.

  • Rob (Down Under)

    PDF_XChange Viewer as it has always worked, and I can do mark ups
    PS Because of Jeanjean’s post 32 –
    I tried the Live update (From the Start Menu shortcuts).
    It appears to be working fine (I did not tick use Proxy).
    It then shows a dialog which has the Pro version ticked but has FREEVERSION in the Serial key textbox.
    OR SHOULD I instead tick the Free Version which says –
    Free Version – Password = Trial
    I was a Business/Systems Analyst for 20 years, and I cannot analyze that.

  • Jeanjean

    PDF-XChange Viewer (but the “Live update” don’t work properly)

  • Tenderfoot

    Foxit PDF reader is free and extremely light on resources and very fast. Has nice integration with major browsers and has worked well for me for several years. Can be downloaded from http://www.foxitsoftware.com/downloads/ . The home page is http://www.foxitsoftware.com


  • kevbo

    PDF-XChange Viewer is my standard. It only failed me once, under the same circumstances njwood60 mentioned earlier; submitting an interactive form, but that was once in the last 4 years or so that I have been using it.

  • Jim Carter

    @Paul D: You would be assuming incorrectly. Our customers are loyal and very communicative. If they have problems, they aren’t shy about sharing them. Your “spam” remark doesn’t even make sense.

  • Jake

    PDF Xchange Viewer. Hands down

  • Paul D

    @njwood60: Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and use Adobe Reader. I once bought an event ticket online. It arrived as a PDF including a barcode. Nothing but Adobe Reader would print the barcode correctly (I tried quite a few, believe me), and the barcode was what got you admission to the event. Let’s face it, Adobe owns the PDF format, so they’ll always have the inside running.

    But that one instance aside, Sumatra and Nitro cover all my needs.

  • Dee

    I agree with Mongoplus….. Nitro PDF Reader is the best. I’ve tried almost all of them.

  • Bub

    As others have said, Sumatra and PDF-XChange are both very good (I use PDF-XChange, myself), whereas FoxIt and Adobe have turned into bloatware.

  • Mongoplus

    Wow!! No mention of Nitro PDF Reader. I use to use PDF-XChange when Nitro PDF put out their reader.

    It comes packed with a virtual printer. You can do mark ups and much more.


  • I use PDF-XChange viewer and very happy with it

    Be aware though that non-adobe pdf-viewers may not correctly render interactive pdf forms created by adobe.

    I know PDF-XChange doesn’t, nor does the PDF reader built into Google chrome

    I had a pdf form I had to fill in and it wouldn’t submit – turms out you had to use Adobe reader for it to work

    I don’t know if there are any 3rd-party readers out there that do correctly handle forms but I’d be very interested to know and wonder if it could be included in the review.

    Happy to supply a form if you need one for testing

  • Frank D
  • Kerry

    Foxit Reader for me , install run and no hassles and fast.

  • Paul D

    @Jim Carter: From which I assume you install it and walk away, leaving the customer to deal with updates, upgrades, spam additions etc

    Sure, it works, but it’s a dog to maintain.

  • Jim Carter

    I’ve installed Foxit Reader several hundred times for our customers. In almost every case it was a substitute for Adobe Reader. I’ve never seen it fail to open a PDF or produce an error message.

  • Godel

    Sumatra. I used to use Adobe, then Foxit when I found out how bloated and bug ridden Adobe had become.

    I got sick of having to set up Foxit the way I liked it after every upgrade. Surely they would have had enough brains to save your setting during an upgrade? Eventually some feature I liked couldn’t be set up properly in Foxit’s toolbars and I junked it.

    If you just want a reader, Sumatra is very small and very fast and does the basic job well.

  • V

    PDF-Xchange Lite – Free for non-commercial use; creates and views PDF’s. It’s (one of) the (only) free viewers that allows extensive note-making. The Lite version includes pdf-xchange reader.

    STDU Viewer is less capable but more flexible; reading not only PDF but djvu, epub, & many others

  • Hello Ashraf, dottechies,

    The best PDF Reader I ever used is Sumatra PDF
    I strongly recommend it as it’s light and very fast :)

  • JohnB299

    Pdf-XChange is my favorite

  • BearPup

    As a straight (plain) reader my vote goes to Sumatra. Besides being free, its
    • very light on resources
    • has a nice ‘page width’ button for enlarging what you’re reading
    • has numerous page viewing options, both presets & user specified
    • allows for renaming, saving, & printing
    • handles pictures & drawings without a problem
    • integrates with Chrome, Firefox, IE, & Opera, and,
    • its blazingly fast.

    I’ve used it for years without any problems or complaints.

  • fdottechk

    If you still use Adobe, here is info Ashraf posted sometime back.

    CS2 System Requirements

    •Mac OS X v.10.2.8–v.10.3.8. PowerPC® G4 or G5 processor
    •Microsoft® Windows® 2000/Windows XP. Intel® Pentium® III or 4 processor




    Serial number

    Creative Suite 2 Mac CS2_install_Mac.pdf 1130-0412-8377-1896-9751-5759
    Win CS2_install_Win.pdf 1130-1414-7569-4457-6613-5551
    Acrobat 3D 1.0 for Windows Win AC3D_1.0_Volume_NACK_WWE.zip 1159-1414-7569-3493-5006-5653
    Acrobat Standard 7.0 Mac 12001748.dmg 1016-0414-2428-7157-5404-6669
    Win 22001904.exe 1016-1415-6379-6184-1333-2468
    Acrobat Pro 8.0 Mac APRO8_Mac_WEB_WWEFG.dmg 1118-0416-1130-3724-2927-7040
    Win APRO23_Win_ESD1_WWEFG.exe 1118-1414-1955-8737-8172-0350
    Audition 3.0 Win ADBEAudition_loopolgy.exe 1137-1004-8571-6848-7845-8029
    GoLive CS2 Mac GL_CS2_UE_NonRet.dmg.bin 1033-0415-6162-2671-3431-0993
    Win GL_CS2_UE_NonRet.exe 1033-1418-1610-5696-5209-0095
    Illustrator CS2 Mac AI_CS2_IE_NonRet.dmg.bin 1034-0416-0740-0527-2887-2375
    Win AI_CS2_IE_NonRet.exe 1034-1415-6230-2341-2884-9398
    InCopy CS2 Mac IC_CS2_UE_NonRet.dmg.bin 1036-0414-4367-5110-5897-2432
    Win IC_CS2_UE_NonRet.exe 1036-1419-3531-6378-2148-9313
    InDesign CS2 Mac ID_CS2_UE_NonRet.dmg 1037-0413-9961-4063-8457-1098
    Win ID_CS2_UE_NonRet.exe 1037-1412-5094-8316-6812-7982
    Photoshop CS2 Mac PhSp_CS2_English.dmg.bin 1045-0410-5403-3188-5429-0639
    Win PhSp_CS2_English.exe 1045-1412-5685-1654-6343-1431
    Photoshop Elements 4.0/5.0 Mac PSE4_Mac_WWE_ESD1.dmg.bin 1057-0410-8218-6295-1699-9560
    Win PSE_5.0_WIN_ESD1_ENG.exe 1057-1414-3729-7573-7352-1206
    Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0 Win PPRO_2.0_Ret-NH_UE.zip 1132-1280-4900-7476-5108-8019

  • Carl

    Samatra PDF Reader is a freeware very light and works brill with all verions of windows….. Including Windows 8 …http://blog.kowalczyk.info/software/sumatrapdf/free-pdf-reader.html..For the download :)

  • Woodman59

    I used to be able to autoscroll with Nuance PDF Reader…which was very useful with songs – but I can’t seem to do that, now.

    Can you autoscroll with PDF-XChange viewer?

  • corno

    I have tried quite a few of them (Sumatra, Foxit, STDU, and, yes, Adobe too), but PDF-XChange viewer I liked best. It has been my default PDF viewer over the last two years. Second comes Adobe, which, however is more heavy on resources (though not as much as five years ago) and a bit of security risk.

  • PixelWizard


    Me too… PDF-XChange Viewer stands out. Have used it for years, after trying almost every other one mentioned so far.

    I’ve gotten responsive, friendly “customer” service too when I had questions.

  • Paul D

    It depends on what you want.

    I have Sumatra and Nitro installed. Sumatra is my default because it is a small, lightweight and blazingly fast READER. But that’s all it is. If I want to do anything more advanced I use Nitro.

    Foxit used to be the best. But over the years they kept adding “features” to it, some useful, some not, some free, some not. I got heartily sick of being offered “upgrades” every time it opened. Now it’s nearly as big and clunky as Adobe Reader.

  • Seamus McSeamus

    My personal favorite is PDF-XChange Viewer.

  • William

    I like PDF-XChange viewer from http://www.tracker-software.com/product/pdf-xchange-viewer
    I have been using it for years to annotate for my own or others use (highlight, circles, boxes, text notes, etc.). Recently I’ve used the OCR function, which is very handy for scanned images of documents.

  • Strahd

    Doug beat me to it, but Foxit Reader rules them all.

  • PDF-Xchange is what I used in Windows days.

    LibreOffice opens up PDFs for editing.

  • Ashraf

    Here are some I can think of:
    -Adobe Reader
    -Foxit Reader
    -Nitro PDF Reader
    -Sumatra PDF

  • Doug

    My all time favorite PDF reader is Foxit reader.