Free PDF Readers / Viewers

Fast and versatile viewers for PDF documents

Free PDF Readers / Viewers

These free utilities allow you to read or view PDF files, that is, documents using the Portable Document Format ("PDF"). Some of these provide additional facilities like the ability to annotate your PDF files (that is, add notes), convert the PDF to other formats, use bookmarks, etc. A few of them are also portable in the sense that you can simply copy the program to a USB flash drive and run it on other systems without having to reinstall.

Some of the programs listed are regularly used by people as an Adobe Reader replacement, since they tend to be lightweight (occupies little memory and is fast to start up) and are often less of a target of malware. On the other hand, I have noticed that not all PDF software are created equal; some do not appear to render the colours ("colors" in US English), and perhaps other things as well, in a document in the same way as Adobe Reader.

If you want to create a PDF file, you can do it by using any word processor that supports the format, or install a PDF printer driver that allows you to use any program that can send its output to a printer. (The PDF printer driver intercepts the request, and offers to let you save as a PDF file instead.)

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Free PDF Readers / Viewers

Sumatra PDF: A PDF Viewer for Windows (Windows)

Sumatra is a free, open source PDF reader for Windows with a simple interface. It is designed to be portable, start fast, with no external dependencies, so that it can be easily placed on a USB drive and run from there. It is released under the GNU General Public License (an open source licence).

MuPDF (Windows, Linux)

MuPDF is a PDF reader with support for all the non-interactive PDF 1.7 features and a small footprint (that is, it doesn't need much resources to run). It is licensed under the GNU General Public License.

Cool PDF Reader (Windows)

This free PDF reader claims it's the "world's smallest PDF viewer/reader" at only 650 KB in size (at the time I wrote this review). You can either get the version with the installer, or the standalone version which you can dump onto a USB flash drive for use on any computer. The reader not only allows you to view and print PDF files, it can also convert PDF files to a variety of file formats, like ASCII text, BMP, GIF, PNG, WMF, EMF, and EPS.

Adobe Reader (Windows, macOS, Linux, etc)

[Warning: be sure to remove the ticks in the checkboxes for the additional programs ("offers") before downloading, or you will end up other unrelated programs on your system, in addition to this.] Adobe Reader probably needs no introduction. It was created as a companion tool to the full Adobe Acrobat product (which allows you to create PDF files). There are versions available for Windows, Mac, Linux, Solaris, AIX, HP-UX and mobile platforms. It is generally slower to start up than the other free PDF viewers listed on this page.

Skim (macOS)

Skim is a PDF reader and note-taker for Mac OS X. Besides viewing PDF files, you can add and edit notes, highlight important text, make snapshots for easy reference, preview the document's internal links, use bookmarks, export notes as text, give presentations (and use its built-in transitions facility), read the document full screen, etc.

Okular (Linux)

Okular is a universal document viewer for KDE that supports the viewing of PDF files, Postscript, DjVu, CHM files and file types. It supports text selection, annotations, extraction of embedded files, etc. It is based on KPDF (see elsewhere on this page).

KPDF (Linux)

KPDF is a PDF viewer for the K Desktop Environment (KDE). You can search through your PDF files, select text, etc. If you use KDE, it is probably already included. Only the source code is available here. This editor is based on the Xpdf PDF reader listed elsewhere on this page.

Evince: Document Viewer (Windows, Linux)

Evince is a document viewer that allows you to read PDF, Postscript, DjVu, TIFF and DVI files. It allows you to search through the documents, has a page thumbnail feature that allows you to skip to the page you want from a thumbnail preview, has support for document indexes (indices) and the viewing of encrypted documents. It was originally developed for GNOME (a Linux window manager) but has since been ported to Windows as well.

Xpdf (Linux)

This is an open source PDF viewer that includes a PDF text extractor and a PDF-to-PostScript converter. It runs on the X Window system under Linux, Solaris, OS/2, VMS, DOS and Unix-type systems. The conversion and extraction tools are also available for Windows and DOS. The program is licensed under the GNU General Public License.

Gpdf (Linux)

This was a PDF viewer for GNOME, now superseded by Evince. Only the source code is available at this site. The viewer is based on the Xpdf viewer. (Both Evince and Xpdf are listed elsewhere on this page, the page you are reading now.)

PDF-Xchange Viewer (Windows)

[Update: this software has been discontinued.] This free PDF viewer has the usual features of being able to read PDF files using PDF format 1.0 to 1.7 (ie, created by Acrobat 8), add comments and annotations to any PDF files, add custom stamps, mark up pages with text and objects, type directly onto a PDF page (and not just in forms), export PDF files to image files (eg, BMP, JPEG, TIFF, PNG, etc), extract text from a PDF file (note that this is not an OCR — the text you want to extract must already be in text form in the PDF file), etc. It also has a portable version that you can use from memory sticks and CDs.

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