8 Alternative PDF Readers For Linux

Linux users, regardless which distro you are using, it bound to come with a default PDF reader that you can use to read PDF files. In Ubuntu, that software is Evince. In most instances, Evince works well for me. It can remember the page where I last stopped and allows me to print without any problem. However, when it comes to big complex PDF files, this is where Evince starts to stutter.

If you are yearning for a better (or faster) PDF reader, here are several options for you.

1. Adobe reader

Adobe reader is the old granddaddy of all PDF readers. At 60+ MB, it is also the bulkiest and most resource-intensive among them all. In term of features and rendering quality, it is also the best. Features included in Adobe reader include commenting capability, interaction with forms, detach and locally save attachment, extended search capabilities and so on.

Adobe reader also comes with a Firefox plugin so you can view PDF file directly in your Firefox browser.

Installation: You can install Adobe Reader in Ubuntu via the Ubuntu Software Center

2. Foxit

Foxit is best known for being a lightweight alternative for Adobe reader. It used to be only available for Windows, but now has released a Linux version too.

The Linux version of Foxit does live up to its name. It is speedy and the quality of rendering is superb. There are also features such as a marquee select function where you can select an area and copy it as image. It also comes with a one-click full screen mode, great for those who like to read PDF ebooks on their desktop. Highly recommended.

The Foxit PDF reader is currently not available in the repository, so you have to download the deb (or tar) file from its website.

Download Foxit PDF reader

3. Google Chrome

All beta and dev version of Google Chrome come with an inbuilt PDF reader that you can use immediately. It is very minimal and only comes with the zoom in/out feature. The rendering quality is good (much better than Evince). If it comes with a search function, it will be a good replacement for Evince.

4. Okular

Okular is more than just a PDF viewer. It is more of a universal document viewer that supports documents of multiple formats.

One good thing about Okular is that it allows you to annotate on the PDF file, which most software don’t allow. The bad thing – it does not write the annotation to the files, so if you open the same file on another PDF reader, the annotations will not be around.

Read the full review of Okular.


XPDF is another popular PDF reader for Linux. It supposes to be a lightweight and efficient PDF reader, but I find it to be terribly slow and ugly. Some of you may like it, but it is not my cup of tea.

XPDF can be found in Ubuntu Software Center.

6. Apvlv

For those who loved Vim, I am sure you will love Apvlv too. Apvlv is a vim-like PDF reader and it is specially built for speed. It is fast and extremely lightweight. If you are familiar with Vim, you will feel extremely at home with Apvlv.

Download Apvlv

7. Zathura

Zathura is well-liked by many people in the Linux community, mainly because it is highly customizable. It is a command line based PDF viewer (like Apvlv) but it allows you to customize to your liking. Things you can configure include the appearance, keyboard shortcuts, toolbar etc.

Download Zathura

8. MuPDF

MuPDF is a lightweight PDF viewer written in portable C and is tailored for high quality anti-aliased graphics. For a lightweight PDF reader, I prefer MuPDF much more than both Apvlv and Zathura, mainly because it is fast, provides high quality rendering and doesn’t take up plenty of space. One thing though, when you first start using it, it will take some time to get used to its control interface.

Download MuPDF


Damien Oh started writing tech articles since 2007 and has over 10 years of experience in the tech industry. He is proficient in Windows, Linux, Mac, Android and iOS, and worked as a part time WordPress Developer. He is currently the owner and Editor-in-Chief of Make Tech Easier.

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