Get a Better PDF Reader

Looking for a free alternative to the Adobe PDF reader? Here are some suggestions:

For light use

If you only need to read PDF documents occasionally and are not editing or creating your own PDFs, Sumatra PDF offers a light-weight reader without a lot of frills. It can also read e-book formats epub and mobi. It’s small and portable. The download is 2.3 MB; compare that to Adobe’s 36 MB. There is also a slightly larger version with an installer. The developer’s site and download is at this link.

You can also download the application and read a review at Softpedia.  Both the current version 2.2.1 in a zipped portable form or a new pre-release version 2.2.6841 with installer are available.

If all you want to do with PDF files is read them, this application is hard to beat. Works in Windows XP on up. It is a 32-bit application but I have used it in 64-bit Windows 7 with no problems.

For editing and creating PDF files

If you want to do more than just read PDF files, the free Nitro Reader has a surprising number of features. It has been recently updated to version 3.0.4.6. The developers site is at this link. The download and a review from Softpedia are here.

Among its many features. Nitro can create PDF files from a large assortment of file formats, extract text and images, let you add text to pages, mark up text, and more. It works in Windows XP on up and has a 64-bit version. All in all, you get a lot of features for a free application. An example of the interface is shown in the graphic below,

Nitro PDF reader

Security considerations

Adobe Reader is the grandfather of PDF readers but it became bloated and has suffered a constant parade of security issues. Whether the applications mentioned here are inherently safer from malware exploits, I don’t know. Adobe has recently added sandboxing to its reader, which the company says makes the reader much more secure. But Adobe Reader is subject to heavy attacks from malware writers because of its widespread use. The applications mentioned here are on far fewer systems and may therefore be safer by the simple principle of obscurity. However, PDF documents are a major vector for malware and proper caution must be used whatever reader you employ.

Other readers

For a discussion of some more free PDF readers, go to this older link at Gizmo's.

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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs several websites with Windows how-to's, guides, and tutorials, including a site for learning about Windows and the Internet and another with Windows 7 tips.

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