The best free PDF viewers

PDF is one of the storage formats for digital documents most important in the technology industry. Like any format, it needs applications capable of handling it and there is no lack of supply as you will see in this post where we will offer you some of the best free PDF viewers, for Windows and other platforms.

PDF was initially developed by Adobe as a document format and later approved as an open standard by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). From then on, its popularity increased due to its advanced features, such as the possibility of including any combination of text, multimedia elements or hyperlinks; the multiplatform support since its structure and appearance does not vary when used indistinctly in the main systems (Windows, Mac, Linuxâ¦) or its security features such as the possibility of encryption and digital signature.

Free PDF viewers

There is a wide range of solutions (free and commercial) capable of handling this format, although it is worth noting that their support varies quite a bit from the mere ability to read its contents (as the main web browsers on the market and the free solutions we are going to list do) to the possibility of creating, editing and converting them to and from other formats.

Beyond the basics, there are other applications that offer advanced features such as encryption, OCR or electronic forms. Here are some of the best among the free ones that – at a minimum – offer the ability to read.

Adobe Acrobat Reader DC

We must start with the application from the company that initially developed the format. Now a de facto standard, it stands out for its clean and elegant interface and maximum performance. Generally speaking, if a PDF does not work with Acrobat, it will not work with any of the alternatives. In addition to reading, in the tools tab you will find a lot of advanced options for editing, combining, exporting and signing documents, but they won’t work unless you end up purchasing a commercial license. Available from the Adobe website in free and commercial ‘PRO’ versions with a free trial period. Also offers extensions for use in browsers such as Chrome.

free PDF viewers

Sumatra PDF

If you are looking for (only) free PDF viewers, surely here is the best alternative to using web browsers. It does not have editing capabilities, but it is very fast loading this type of files at an enormous speed, supports tabbing and has a good number of keyboard shortcuts for handling it. It also supports additional file types including eBooks in ePub and Mobi formats and comics in CHM, CBZ and CBR formats. It is not only free, but also open source and is additionally available in a portable version that requires no installation. Available on their website.

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Foxit Reader

It was one of the first alternatives to Adobe’s Acrobat Reader and its main interface features a large number of editing tabs covering a variety of advanced options, text markup, typewriter option, form handling, digital signatures and others. Unfortunately, some of the more advanced options are greyed out as they are only available with a paid commercial license. Still, it is perhaps the most feature-rich and customizable free reader. In addition to Windows, it supports all other major platforms, Linux, Mac and mobile systems, in a very complete offer that also includes browser plug-ins.

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Nitro PDF

If you use the Microsoft Office collaboration suite you will feel right at home, because its interface is practically a carbon copy with the Ribbon ribbon in front. It has everything you could ask from an application of its kind and advanced functions for forms or signing documents with digital identification. You can also add notes, extract images or convert a PDF to a plain text document. While Nitro PDF Reader is free, you can’t get that version directly. You have to download the trial version. After the trial time, you will lose quite a few options, although there are some basic ones that can still be used for free.

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STDU Viewer

With less specific functions for PDF than the two previous ones, it stands out for its viewer functions and presents itself as a universal reader for technical and scientific documents. Thus, in addition to PDF, it supports TXT, Comic Book Archive, DjVu, MOBI, EPub, various image formats and others. The strong point of STDU Viewer is the management of several different documents at the same time. Not only can you open documents in tabs and expand a navigation pane, but you can also create and navigate bookmarks and highlights, view thumbnails of open documents and split windows to compare different pages within the same document.

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PDF-XChange Editor

Very similar to Foxit in capability and customization, although perhaps with a somewhat less ‘clean’ interface and more resource-intensive in execution. It offers a good set of free functions (70% of the total), including editing and annotations. Additional features are paid for, but can also be used in exchange for a watermark. The Ribbon toolbar is highly customizable and includes additional features such as customizable dynamic stamps. Available on their website.

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Web Browsers

The main web browsers on the market, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Edge, are all available have integrated support for PDF and is a good way to view this type of documents for speed and low resource consumption. Moreover, they work on any platform, be it Linux, Mac or mobile. On the other hand, not all PDFs are supported and in addition to this do not have access to any editing and/or advanced features of those discussed for the above dedicated applications.

On the latest versions of Windows operating systems, Microsoft Edge is the default browser for viewing PDFs although it can be changed in Settings > Applications > Default Apps > Choose default apps by file type. It works very well. When you run a PDF a separate tab opens with a toolbar and functions for searching, adjusting the zoom level, printing, sharing, saving or adding to favorites or Reading List.

Chrome’s PDF interface is very similar, while Firefox’s support for PDF is just as good. The truth is that for the bulk of consumers, web browsers can compete (reading only) with free PDF viewers. If you are looking for something else, any of the applications listed above will do. If you need to create such documents, edit them, combine them, export them and other advanced features, you will have to buy one of the commercial versions.

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