6 Alternative PDF Readers For Windows

Files stored in PDF (Portable Document Format) provide a versatile method of transferring documents without losing formatting and other effects. The file format was originally created by Adobe, however since in recent years Adobe’s PDF reader has become bloated and difficult to use. In this article I will look at six free alternative PDF viewers.

1. Foxit

Foxit is one of the best alternatives to Adobe Reader.

Firstly, opening a PDF document is almost instantaneous without any noticeable lag. It also does not have any problems handling large documents, images, or any other complicated graphic.


Additionally, Foxit comes with a bevy of useful features, such as a note-taking tool, a highlighting function, and it is even possible to manipulate the text within certain PDF documents. You are also able to fill-in digital PDF forms and save them for later completion. The only criticism of this reader is the the intrusive ads that push its paid products.

Finally, we would like to mention that during installation it is a good idea to enable Safe Reading Mode this ensures that malware attached to PDF files is not able to infect your computer.


In addition to this long list of features, Foxit provides a number of “add-ons” completely free. These include a jpeg decoder, JavaScript support, Firefox plugins and a spell checker. There are also a few pad advanced add-ons, including the PDF Editor and the PDF Creator

Foxit Reader is free and can be downloaded from Foxit Reader 4.3.

2. Sumatra PDF

The principle goal of Sumatra is to provide a fast and simple PDF viewer.


It does not come with many frills, however it loads files quickly and has a number of keyboard shortcuts that make browsing through documents a breeze.

Sumatra supports a number of other formats, including XPS, CBZ and CBR. It can be downloaded from SumatraPDF 1.5.1

3. PDF-XChange Viewer

PDF-XChange is similar to Foxit Reader, it comes with a large feature-set and has speedy load times.


You can browse PDFs using its tabbed or thumbnail view,  perform annotations, add comments, and draw a variety of shapes to mark-up the document. Some of the features, such as text extraction require an upgrade to the “Pro” version.

You can download a free version from PDF-XChange Viewer 2.5.195

4. Nuance PDF Reader

Nuance is arguably the slowest PDF reader as it loads after a splash page.


It also feels slower when browsing and the feature-set is not as complete as Foxit or PDF-XChange. However, it does come with the basic features such as text annotation and commenting and as a bonus there is a free PDF to text converter.

Download Nuance PDF Reader (requires email verification)

5. Google Docs

Google Docs comes with its own PDF reader which is useful in a crunch as it works on any computer connected to the internet.

In addition to viewing PDFs sent to your Gmail account, Docs allows you to upload PDFs from your computer and convert them if necessary.


Once uploaded you are able to view the PDF. Unfortunately, Docs does not come with any other features, such as the ability to manipulate the PDF.


Although Docs lacks features found in most PDF readers, the fact that it is available in the cloud makes it incredibly useful when you are at a computer without a PDF viewer installed.

6. Google Chrome

Like Google Docs, Chrome is a featureless PDF reader. It is useful when you wish to view PDF files without downloading them to your computer.


Clicking on most PDF links on the web automatically launches Chrome’s built-in reader. It is then possible to save the loaded PDF document to your computer.


My clear favourite is Foxit Reader as it combines a complete feature-set with speedy browsing of PDF documents. If you want pure speed I would recommend Sumatra, however for a feature packed product, look no further than PDF-XChange or Foxit Reader. To ensure that you can access PDF files from any location Google Docs or any other web based viewer works best. Finally, for ubiquity, I would recommend simply installing Google Chrome which handles most PDF files on the web without a problem.

Abhiroop Basu

Abhiroop Basu is an opinionated tech and digital media blogger. As a doe-eyed twenty-something, he started his first blog TechComet to comment on anything tech-related that caught his omniscient eye.

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