Even though they’re over 25 years old, PDFs are still one of the main types of documents on the internet. Whether you’re trying to access your W-2, a contract, or an eBook, it’ll probably be in the form of a PDF. But to view these important documents, you need to download a PDF reader on your computer.
There are hundreds of PDF readers and some can cost you almost a thousand dollars per year, so we sifted through the internet to find the best free PDF readers that you can download online.
Below, we created a list of 15 of the best free PDF readers whose capabilities range from only viewing PDFs to creating, editing, and securing them.
Foxit Reader is like the Google Docs of PDF readers. You can create, share, and secure your PDFs all on the cloud. To create PDFs, you can upload scans, convert Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, and Excel sheets, and even combine multiple PDFs into a new file.
If you want to collaborate with someone on a PDF, you can grant and revoke document access, track who opens your document and view their activity, edit, comment, and also notify readers about new updates to your PDF.
Foxit reader also provides multiple security options to keep your PDFs safe and private, like passwords, digital signatures, and encryption. If you create PDFs regularly for your job and need a way to collaborate on the same file, Foxit would be a good option.
Adobe’s free PDF reader, Adobe Acrobat Reader DC, connects to the Adobe Document cloud and other cloud storage systems like Box, Dropbox, and Microsoft OneDrive, letting you open, view, share, and comment on PDFs from anywhere and on any device you want.
Acrobat Reader DC coolest feature is that it can read text out loud, guiding you along any document that’s challenging to read. Adobe’s free PDF reader is great for any busy professional who needs to annotate PDFs on the go or on their commute.
Javelin PDF Reader is a straightforward PDF reader that lets you launch and print standard and encrypted PDFs, annotate them, and bookmark them. Since its download size is two MB and it doesn’t have extra features like editing, the PDF reader is fast with a simple and clean user interface. If you want to read and take notes on PDFs quickly, Javelin is probably the PDF reader for you.
Google Drive is the most accessible PDF converter and PDF storage system. On the platform, you can convert any of your documents, presentations, and sheets into PDF files and upload any PDFs to it for your own viewing purposes. If your only use for PDFs is viewing them or converting files into them, Google Drive is the best option for you.
5. Your Web Browser
Web browsers like Google Chrome, Firefox, and Safari all have integrated PDF readers. To view a PDF on your browser, all you have to do is click on the PDF link. You can also open PDF files that are already stored on your computer by dragging them to an open tab in your browser.
Additional features included in most browsers' PDF readers are rotate, download, print, and adjust text size. If you don’t need to convert files into PDFs and you only need to view PDFs, you don’t need to download a PDF reader. You can just use your web browser.
Nitro Reader has a reputation for striking a good balance between usability and advanced features. The platform has an intuitive and slick interface, but you also have access to a wide variety of tools to create, review, secure, and share PDF files. To create new PDFs, all you have to do is drag and drop your documents into the reader. Then, you can design your PDF draft with custom colors, font embedding, and orientation.
When you want to review a document, the PDF reader’s review pane helps you edit, comment, and address feedback. To secure your PDF files, Nitro Reader uses QuickSign to password-protect and sign your documents. Sharing documents is also simple and secure -- you can share documents with anyone since the PDFs you create in Nitro Reader are compatible with almost every other PDF reader. If you’re a PDF power user, Nitro Reader could be your best option.
PDF-XChange Editor is one of the more robust free PDF readers out there. You can create, view, add notes, record and attach audio, highlight text, attach files, strikethrough words, and add signatures. But the PDF reader’s coolest feature is its Optical Character Recognition tool -- it can scan printed documents and convert the text into a searchable document. If you need to create, edit, and share PDFs at work a lot, PDF-XChange Editor could be the PDF reader for you.
Even though SumatraPDF lacks some advanced features like annotation, document signing, and form-filling, Sumatra PDF provides an intuitive and fast reading experience -- it has multiple viewing modes like single page, book, and presentation and shortcuts that help you navigate any PDF file. If you just need to read PDFs for work, consider using SumatraPDF.
Slim PDF is one of the smallest PDF readers in the world, taking up just 15 MB of space on your computer. Despite its tiny size, this free PDF reader comes with a lot of advanced features that complement core functionalities such as those allowing you to print, search, zoom and rotate PDF files.
If you are looking for a solution that strikes the perfect balance between being lightweight and powerful, Slim PDF is a great choice. It’s available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
With over 50 million downloads, PDF Reader Premium is one of the most popular PDF readers for Apple Devices. It has powerful functionality that lets you view your PDF in multiple tabs, annotate your document with images and sticky notes, organize your files with tags, sign signatures and fill out forms on your PDF, and store and transfer PDFs through a variety of cloud services. Anyone who frequently uses PDFs for work should consider downloading PDF Reader Premium.
Even though Preview is the pre-installed PDF reader on every Mac, it’s more powerful than you think. On Preview, you can view and annotate your documents, combine documents, fill out and sign forms, edit images, share files, and even export a password protected PDF, if there’s sensitive information on your document. Preview is the best choice for someone who wants to use one PDF reader for personal and professional matters.
Skim is PDF reader that was originally designed to help academics read and annotate scientific papers in PDF format, but they’ve now improved their functionality to let anyone view any type of PDF file on the reader. On Skim, you can highlight text, take notes, take snapshots, export notes as text, and integrate with third party apps like BibDesk, a bibliography manager.
Soda PDF is one of the best PDF readers for reading visual documents like digital catalogues, magazines, and comic books -- you can even view files in 3D. The app also lets you create and edit PDFs from scratch. Soda PDF sells an online PDF platform too, so they drive demand for it by offering free PDF tools on their website like convert to PDF, convert from PDF, merge, split, & compress, sign & secure, and insert elements like watermarks and page numbering. You can use these online tools as a proxy for a downloadable PDF reader if you want to save space on your computer.
Haihaisoft Reader is a fast, low memory PDF reader. It’s only three MB, so it has basic functionality like rotate, full screen, presentation mode, search, and zoom. Even though it’s small, it still supports over 40 languages and has high security -- it only connects to the internet with the user’s permission. Haihaisoft is best for casual PDF users.
Originally published Aug 22, 2018 6:00:00 AM, updated April 29 2020