November 4, 2009
Three Great Alternatives to Acrobat Reader
|Three Great Alternatives to Acrobat Reader
By Scott Nesbitt – October 18, 2009
If there's one type of file that's become commonplace, it's the PDF (short for Portable Document Format). It's rare that you don't see files that have the extension .pdf on the Web. In the workplace. And just about everywhere else.
The most popular piece of software for viewing and printing PDF files is Acrobat Reader from Adobe. But like much software out there, Acrobat Reader has gained a bit of flab over the years. The current Windows version weighs in at just over 25 MB, while the Mac OS and Linux version tip the scales at 41 MB and 43 MB.
Let's face it: that's pretty hefty for something that's meant to display files. Sure, Acrobat Reader has some pretty nifty features but most people can live without them. Luckily, Acrobat Reader isn't the only PDF viewing software around. There are some great alternatives to Acrobat Reader and this TechTip looks at three of them for Windows.
If needs are simple and you just want to view or print a PDF file with a minimum of fuss, then SumatraPDF is the app to go with. Even though simple, does what needs to do far more quickly and just as smoothly as Acrobat Reader.
The interface is bare bones. It consists of the menu bar and a tool bar, and that's pretty much it. Even the toolbar is quite minimalistic. It contains buttons for opening a PDF file, moving between pages, jumping to a specific page, and searching for text in the PDF.
One useful feature actually maximizes your computer monitor's real estate. All PDF readers have a side pane that displays a table of contents that enables you to quickly jump around the document. Depending on the PDF reader, this pane is visible even if the table of contents is empty. When empty, the pane takes up screen space, and you need to scroll or resize the view to reader the PDF properly. SumatraPDF, on the other hand, only displays the pane if the table of contents exists. It remains hidden the rest of the time.
If you use PortableApps (a suite of Open Source applications that runs off a USB flash drive), there's a portable version of SumatraPDF. You can take it anywhere you want.
Evince is a default document viewer for the GNOME desktop under Linux. Some enterprising Open Source programmers have also written a Windows version. The Windows version is on par with its Linux cousin for features and speed.
Evince is billed as a simple document viewer. It lives up to that billing, although it's nothing to sneeze at. It opens PDFs faster than Acrobat Reader, and about on par with Sumatra PDF. It has an even more spartan interface than SumatraPDF.
As far as viewing PDF files goes, Evince does everything that SumatraPDF does. Unlike SumatraPDF, Evince allows you to open a copy of a file or view it in what's called Presentation mode. Presentation mode, which you trigger by pressing the F5 key on your keyboard, treats the PDF file like a slideshow. Each page is an individual slide, with a black buffer on each side. When giving talks, I use Presentation mode to display slides that I've converted to PDF.
Evince isn't just a PDF reader. It can also view files in a number of other formats, including OpenOffice.org Impress (sort of), Djvu, TIFF, and most common image formats. Overall, it's a very flexible application that comes in a fairly small package.
If you want an application that has many of Acrobat Reader's best features but without the bloat, you definitely want to give Foxit Reader a close look. It's probably the best alternative to Acrobat Reader on Windows. And it's free.
Foxit Reader doesn't just read PDF files. You can also email a PDF from within the application, select a portion of the screen and save it as an image, and convert a PDF to text. Foxit Reader also enables you to add notes to a PDF. The notes appear as a yellow sticky icon in the file. Just double click the icon to read or edit the note.
Remember when I said Foxit Reader was free? I wasn't lying. You can get additional features that enable you to edit PDF files — for example, adding, editing, and deleting text, drawing graphics and inserting hyperlinks — with the Foxit Reader Pro Pack. That will set you back $39.95 though.
There are a few. If you don't mind something that doesn't look incredibly pretty, check generic viagra canada out Xpdf. Originally written for UNIX and then Linux, Xpdf does a good job of opening and rendering PDF files. It's nothing fancy, but it works.
If you have a Google Docs account, you can use that to view a PDF file. Just log into Google Docs and click the Upload link on the left side of the toolbar. You can also save PDFs to Google Docs from Gmail. Once you've uploaded the PDF it appears in the documents list. Just double click the file to open it. The viewer only lets you view and print the PDF.
Acrobat Reader is a big, powerful piece of software. Maybe a bit too big and powerful for the job that it does. If you don't want to deal with the bloat, there are a number of options available. You might be sacrificing some features and functions, but unless you use those features and functions regularly you probably won't miss them.
What's your favorite replacement for Acrobat Reader? Why not share it by leaving a comment.