Three Free Alternative PDF Readers

Adobe Acrobat DC is slow, bloated and constantly flogging other Adobe products; so I’ve replaced it with three free alternative PDF readers. Just because Adobe owns the PDF format, you don’t have to use what they give you.

All of these substitutes use fewer system resources than Acrobat Reader DC, which notoriously chews up RAM and refuses to give it back. It’s been known to produce ‘out of memory’ errors even on machines with 16GB, 24GB and 48GB of RAM. Hilarious. Not.

The installer alone is now a 105MB file and installing it can swallow 900MB of disk space. Really? 900MB for a PDF Reader? It’s madness. The nagware inside the Reader would be forgivable if this really was best in the industry. It’s not.

Sure you can use browser extensions in Firefox, Chrome and Edge, but you can do more with a standalone PDF reader application. And some of the best are free.

Each of these has replaced Adobe Acrobat Reader on different machines in the family with no regrets.

In no particular order:

Sumatra PDF is lightweight, Open Source and there’s an even lighter mobile app to accompany the desktop version. It doesn’t have many other features than reading, but you can open documents in multiple tabs. It does support other document types including ePub and Mobi, comic books in CBZ and CBR.

NitroPDF has been around a while now and sits beside MS Office in look and feel. Nitro supports PDF forms and signing documents with a digital ID. The paid version supports scanning, format conversion and all kinds of editing.

Foxit Reader is well established and has a lot of features for free, including text markup, PDF forms, digital signatures, and more. The paid version has yet more features. Foxit has options to customise shortcuts and the ribbon toolbar. It’s not a lightweight, but it’s better than Adobe.

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