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.
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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)


I am not aware of any widely reported general compatibility problems between PDF-XChange Viewer and Windows 7 Home Premium. In my experience using them together for several years I have not encountered the problem you are reporting. Your issue could be with the specific .pdf files that you are trying to view or with some incompatibility with other software installed on your computer, for example with your anti-virus software. I'm sorry that you this recommendation doesn't work for you.

I don't understand how the file or Kaspersky could be the reason the program can't be closed, even in Task Manager. There's a lot to like about it, until it crashes and locks up my system. I have to do a forced restart (power off-on). The first time I had to use System Restore to get Windows working right. As I mentioned, thinking the executable itself somehow got corrupted, I uninstalled it, and downloaded and installed a fresh copy. After last night's crash I decided to give up. The file that killed it last night was about 35 MB, and I think the one that caused the first crash was of similar size. So maybe it just doesn't like big files? I'd say give the program a try, and see how it works for you. It just didn't work out well for me.

Now that you mentioned Kaspersky I took a look over at the Kaspersky forum ( and there are several reports of similar problems with their antivirus software and PDF-XChange viewer in the 2009-2010 timeframe. You might take a look at these reports and track down a solution. My experience is that PDF-XChange does not have a problem with large files. I have loaded 100MB+ files with no difficulty.

Thanks. Read through the comments, including the ones in German. They seem to refer to the Kaspersky firewall, Kaspersky Internet Security. I have only the a-v version. But it got me to inspect the log, as the a-v checks apps when loaded. PDFX-Change Viewer never got flagged by Kaspersky. I guess I could add it to Trusted Applications, but for now I'll go with Foxit.

Many types of Windows programs can be so affected by security software although granted this is usually connected with HIPS or behavior blocking components. If an AV has some sort of "trust level" filtering, then this could also be the culprit. I've also seen the same mix of programs react different on XP and 7. MC - Site Manager.

I guess, but it's too late when the application is already open. :) Good old foxy Foxit is doing fine.

Very true. I too have been using PdfXchange Viewer since a long time, and haven't faced any kind of problems. I earlier used it on XP, and now using it with Windows 8.
Foxit Reader no longer provides the .msi version which previously didn't have any toolbar bundled along with the software.

You really MUST include Nitro Reader. One thing I need to make a lot of PDFs "readable" is the ability to convert them to plain text, eliminating tiny serif fonts and eye-tiring long lines. Nitro does excellent text conversion. It also extracts images better than most.

I gave up on Foxit and its naggy ways as soon as I tried out Nitro. The divorce is final.

Have to say, though, that for Plain-and-Portable you can hardly beat Sumatra, and it does some ebook formats rather well too.

I agree.
The feature with Nitro Reader I like best is the ability to add my digital signature to a document.

It is possible otherwise:
- print the document
- sign the paper
- scan the document, and convert back to PDF. What a pain!

However, its markup abilities are pathetic in comparison to PDF XChange Viewer. So I'm using both, depending on what I need done.