Alternatives to Adobe Reader
I have to deal with a lot of PDFs, and Adobe Reader just takes too long to open. Are there any good, free alternatives for PDF viewing?
Free Alternative PDF Viewers
Lots of people have been unhappy with the slow launch time of Adobe Reader, and the large amount of system resources it uses. As a result, several alternative PDF viewers have arisen, and they're all free. Check out one of these free PDF viewers as an alternative to Adobe Reader...
Foxit Reader is a lightweight, free PDF document viewer. You'll love the super-fast launch speed, and since it is compatible with the official PDF Standard, it can do just about everything Adobe Reader can do, but faster.
Oh, and did I mention that Foxit Reader is small and fast? The download file is only about 3MB, or TEN times smaller than the ponderous 35.7MB Adobe Reader download. After the quick download, installing Foxit Reader took me about 20 seconds. While installing Adobe Reader 9.1, I stopped counting when the wizard informed me that "This may take several minutes." And if you're concerned about the post-installation disk space footprint, consider that Adobe Reader will consume about 200MB of hard drive space, as compared to 7MB for Foxit.
Now let's get down to running the programs. One of the things I've always hated about Adobe Reader is that it takes forever to start. Adobe's version 9.1 is much faster than older versions, but if you don't have the latest, expect to wait 10 or 20 seconds for all sorts of splash pages to roll by. Foxit Reader takes about a second to load up a PDF on my computer. That's nice. And Foxit uses a lot less RAM memory while it's running too. After starting Foxit Reader, I opened the Task Manager and it showed that Foxit was using less than a megabyte of RAM, before loading a PDF. Comparing that to Adobe Reader, Task Manager show AcroRd32.exe consuming 27MB and Adobe_Updater sitting on another 10MB of RAM. Even after closing Adobe Reader, the Adobe_Updater needlessly remains in memory. And when opening PDFs from within the browser, I've noticed that sometimes the AcroRd32 module remains loaded, even after closing the PDF.
Foxit Reader has a nice annotation feature that allows you to draw graphics, highlight text, and make notes on a PDF document. You can also convert the PDF document into a simple text file. But watch out for a few little things during the installation. If you're not paying attention, the wizard will also install the Foxit Toolbar, change your browser start page to Ask.com and put "convenient" eBay links on your desktop. Just uncheck those boxes if you don't want all that extra stuff. Foxit Reader is available for Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista, Linux, mobile devices, and the U3 smart drive.
Mac PDF Viewing
You can download Adobe Reader for Mac OS X, but from what I've read, it has all the same drawbacks as the Windows version. And for most people, there's really no need to do so, since the Preview feature in Mac OS X will display most PDFs just fine, and is already configured as the default PDF viewer. Safari also opens PDFs directly in the browser window. There was a Mac version of Foxit Reader in the works a few years ago, but that project seems to have been abandoned. One caveat, if you work with PDFs that have fillable forms, you may need Adobe Reader for Mac.
The PDF-XChange Viewer is another alternative. PDF-XChange has some interesting features, such as the ability to type directly into a PDF page, even in documents that are not forms-enabled. You can also add comments and annotations, in text or image form, or export pages in text BMP, JPEG, TIFF, PNG and other formats. PDF-XChange can also fill and save Adobe forms.
PDF-XChange is available for Windows and also comes in a portable version. A paid PRO version offers many additional features, such as PDF creation and integration with MS Office.
Sumatra PDF Viewer
The Sumatra PDF Viewer is yet another free PDF viewer. It's a small open-source PDF viewer for Windows. Krzysztof Kowalczyk, the creator of Sumatra, decided to give priority to simplicity and minimalism in his design, so you won't see a lot of fancy features -- just a basic PDF viewer.
Sumatra starts up very fast, and because it's just one file with no dependencies, it's perfect for use as a portable app on your USB drive. Sumatra has an active user community, and has been translated into dozens of languages. And since it's open source, you can even download and view the source code, if you want to learn how it works, or add a new feature.
Adobe Reader Light
I should also mention the Adobe Reader Light project. A couple of clever people have figured out that the Adobe Reader install files can be modified to remove some features and plugins that the average user has no need for. If you don't mind mucking about in the install files with a text editor, and then modifying some entries in the Windows registry, you can end up with a smaller, faster variant of Reader. But since doing that violates the Adobe license and copyright, you can't just download a ready-made Reader Light executable file. My opinion is that creating your own Adobe Reader Light is a waste of time, since you have Foxit Reader and others that don't require any geeky modifications.
Got comments or questions about alternative PDF viewers? Post your thoughts below...
Posted by Bob Rankin on 24 Jun 2009
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Alternatives to Adobe Reader (Posted: 24 Jun 2009)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved