Best Free Non-Adobe PDF Reader



This category includes desktop programs that can be used for reading and annotating PDF documents, other than the slow and bloated Adobe Reader. While I will admit that the Adobe product has improved in both speed and features in recent years, it still lags behind some of the products reviewed here.

My personal criteria for rating the PDF reader include the following factors:

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Rated Products

PDF-XChange Editor  

It serves as a PDF viewer plus basic editing requirements

Our Rating: 
License: Free (Limited features)
Loads reasonably fast; can print PDFs; extensive annotation; allows filling and saving of Adobe PDF forms; can extract text and images, magnify text, manage document properties and security; Can OCR image based PDF documents.
Some advanced features are included but not free. When such features are used, resulting PDFs will be watermarked.
Read full review...

Foxit Reader  

A worthy contender to open and accurately render pdf files

Our Rating: 
License: Free
Fast, modern user interface, can fill and save both forms and form data, provides extensive annotation and review features. Social media interface. Can insert and validate electronic signatures.
No OCR capability. Users need to take great care during the install process to avoid a variety of unwanted components and system changes, the make-up of which is changed regularly. User manual must be downloaded separately.
Read full review...

Sumatra PDF  

A simple and light pdf reader

Our Rating: 
License: Free (Open source)
Small, fast, source code available.
Few features - it's basically just a viewer, image quality is not the best.
Read full review...

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This software review is copy-edited by Jojo Yee. Please help edit and improve this article by clicking here.

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Average: 4.4 (291 votes)


Strange the entry was not there until a 2d install, but I am glad to hear it works. Thanks for getting back as this will help others wanting to disable the Cloud.


Did Nitro PDF Free failed in your test or you didn't test it yet?

Nitro was carefully evaluated in preparation for the writing of the full PDF reader review above and, as a result of your post and the recent interest in it, I gave it a second look. While it does provide the standard functionality for a PDF viewer, it just doesn't measure up to either PDF-XChange Viewer or Foxit. The installation annoyance started at the official download site for the free version of the reader, which required a name and email address before permitting download of the installer. This seemed a bit intrusive given that it is available without giving up identification data elsewhere. This was compounded by the fact that the installer masked the choices to opt out of setting Nitro as the system default and browser PDF reader behind an optional "configuration" button. When opening Nitro, the first thing that struck me was that half of the wide toolbar was useless whitespace. While the toolbar can be collapsed, the wasted space when visible limits the real estate available for the real work of displaying the PDF. For testing all of the reader candidates for inclusion in the review, I've assembled a group of 10 diverse PDF files of varying size, contents and complexity. The rendering of these files convinced me that the conclusion not to recommend Nitro was correct. My impression was that Nitro was generally slower in opening most, if not all of the test files than either PDF-Change or Foxit. Nitro also failed to render files with large graphics with the same clarity and quality as the other readers. In filling out a form containing a variety of different field types, Nitro was the worst performer in properly recognizing and supplying data to the field. With regard to features, ability to configure, appearance and performance, PDF-XChange and Foxit remain the choices for full featured PDF readers. Sumatra, which is only a simple viewer is clearly smaller and faster and stands as a recommendation for those reasons only.

I have been using Nitro for about a year. The key selling point for me was its ability to paste my signature into forms. Once I setup my signature (including a password), I have the ability to paste it opaquely with resize into a PDF file anywhere I want. You must provide the password associated before you can paste a signature and once you paste it the document is locked, so make sure all is correct first.

This feature has been a real time saver for completing and submitting forms. Before, I had to print the signature page, then sign it, then reassemble and send.

I also did not like the "ribbon" tool bar, but its easy to collapse and restore, and you can configure the remaining top bar to include any elements you use regularly. I include open, save as, zoom, rotate, sign, find and a few others.

I do not like the Nitro browser plugs, so at install I opt out of them.

Nitro also includes a PDF print capability that works like the Bullzip printer.

Also, you can download it from

If you click the big "download free" button, you will be asked for your email and the downloader will determine if your system is 32 or 64bit then start the appropriate download.

However, lower on the page are links to manually download either the free 32bit version or the free 64 bit version. Those will start the download immediately without asking for an eMail.

Thanxx for the info.

Please be patient. Our editors will reply to comments as soon as they are able to. Software evaluation takes time as I'm sure you can appreciate. MC - Site Manager.
I briefly took a look at the newly released PDF-XChange Editor Free version. In my cursory view, it seems to add little in the way of free features that are not currently found in the PDF-XChange Viewer. There is one major difference between the two products that I found a bit annoying. In the free version of the viewer, menu choices that are fully functional only in the Pro version are clearly labeled as such on the drop down menu. On the free version of the editor there is no warning label. As a result, when using the free editor, the user can go through a number of steps in a complex process (such as combining two files) before receiving a warning that the finished product will contain a "Demo" label unless the user purchases the full version. If I discover additional differences that are an improvement over the free viewer, I will include it in these comments.

And neither manual nor autoupdate is there in PDFXchange Editor.

According to their forum, a new build is to be released soon. Dont know what fixes/new wil be there.

Well, according to my reading some of the responses here, I still support Foxit as NUMBER 1.
Very easy. I also use its PDF Printer (creates PDFs) and it is the only viewer/creator combo that DOES NOT PUT WATERMARKS on the PDF I create.
That 1 trait is why I DO NOT support the "free" version of PDF-Xchange at all.
Foxit give a well rounded product for my needs, and like I stated above, it does so without TAMPERING with the PDF output. Yes, I consider adding a watermark tampering. Unless I am the one adding a watermark.

Does Foxit free allows to convert pdf to word or excel?

Foxit does not provide that conversion capability. Gizmo's recommendation for Best Free PDF Tools ( suggests the free online conversion tools offered by Nitro for Word ( and Excel (

I think Nitro PDF Free also has create/edit without watermarks, m I right?

Foxit free doesn't have password protection, right?

PDFXchange Editor Free Final version is going to be released today i.e Oct 21, 2013. Lets see what changes/new features it brings. This Free Editor/Viewer combo is going to replace Free Viewer i.e no further fixes/updates to Viewer.

Just went to Nitro's site. The product no longer appears to be free. They have Nitro PDF Pro, and when you get that, you get a 14 day trial.
So, as far as I was able to see, since it isn't free, it doesn't rate.

Apparently Nitro has a separate website address for the free reader - I have no idea if it does what CyberWolf64 is looking for:

Which free PDF readers has create/edit functions without any probs i.e no demo labels or some kind of marks or unwanted trial software watermarks on the PDF?

I use PDFs extensively for personal study, so I like to mark up the documents I'm reading. I currently use xxxxx on my Android tablet, and it is very good. I am soon going to buy a Windows 8 tablet and what I would like to know is which PDF reader for Windows responds best to a touch interface.

I was user of foxit reader until it failed at "restore last view setting". it happened before 1+ year ago.

lol, foxit reader still has same bug in 08-XX-2013:

Well Gizmo's decision to announce his avoidance to Foxit Reader due to the "ask" toolbar and added software being unavoidable must have worked. I just downloaded it (Foxit) and there was NO software added. I think Foxit got the message Gizmo. Ya dun gud.

Thanks for the heads up! I just downloaded and installed the latest version and no "Ask" toolbar. I'll be revising the review as soon as I have the opportunity to investigate any other recent changes.
Qiqqa Free - Essential software for PDF and research management: Features: - Powerful PDF viewing, annotating, management (Top-notch built-in PDF reader with annotating, highlighting, automated jump links, tablet sync, and so much more.) - Unique tools to reference, understand, discover - Save time and produce better work
Qiqqa is indeed a powerful research and knowledge management tool. While its strengths lie in the organization, management and citation of academic and business reference material, it is clearly overkill as a PDF reader.
Genius PDF is a Free PDF, eBook and Comic Book Reader:
At your suggestion (Thanks!), I took a look at GeniusPDF. The installation process is fast and easy, and thankfully did not include any annoyware. I found it slower than Sumatra in loading and rendering files containing large graphics and also found that the larger graphics were degraded more in the zooming process. The authors were kind enough to cite the open source Sumatra software in the "About" credits. As indicated this software may provide a decent choice for those interested in reading comic and ebooks on the PC platform.
Sumatra has released a new version of its reader. The good news is that it allows the user additional options to customize the user interface. Unfortunately the changes can only be achieved by editing a text file. Although some users may appreciate this feature, it doesn't seem to fit with the Sumatra website philosophy that the "simplicity of the user interface has a high priority"

I installed all of the Sumatra PDF viewer, the Nitro PDF viewer, the PDF-XChange viewer and the Foxit PDF viewer. I don't compare the possibilities of the software! For me it was interesting to compare the visualising of one and the same PDF file.

I took a file with text (letters) and at the same zoom level compared one and the same place of the text how it looks on screen.

Sumatra PDF viewer and Nitro PDF viewer fell behind with not so good quality.
PDF-XChange viewer and Foxit PDF viewer are with a much better quality of displaying, with Foxit being a bit better than PDF-XChange.

Hence I would vote for Foxit reader - as good viewing, for which the reader is ment, is for me the most important characteristic of a "Viewer"!

I have used a lot of non-adobe free readers. I agree that Foxit night show pages a little bit better, but it is unable to handle hyper-links. Adobe and PDF-XChange does not have any problems. All other free reader/viewers I've used have problems.

I have been using Sumatra a long time; using it now with Windows 8. An excellent and fast little program. It's updated regularly.

When you update the article, it's easy to assume that all info is updated...

I installed PDF-Change Viewer on Windows 7 Home Premium a few months ago when Foxit had security problems. After a few files it would 'close' but not go away, and couldn't be shut down in Task Manager. After a couple of attempts my system would lock up. Uninstalled and reinstalled and it just happened again. It's a nice program but there is an issue, so I'm uninstalling and going back to Foxit.