7 Best Linux PDF Viewers — And Adobe Reader Is Just One Of Them
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Need to read a PDF file in Linux, but don’t know how? Well, it’s not so much of a problem these days. As recently as 2008, PDFs were tightly controlled by Adobe, who owned and had developed much of the proprietary format. Fortunately, the software company opted to make PDF (short for Portable Document Format) an open standard.

This is one of several reasons why finding a PDF viewer or reader is now so simple on Linux. In fact, there are so many around that you’re spoiled for choice. Some are better than others, of course, but which ones should you be using?

1. Adobe Reader 9

If you’ve switched from Windows or macOS, there’s a strong chance that you’re already familiar with Adobe Reader. While Adobe Flash is set to be retired Adobe Is Finally Killing Flash... in 2020 Adobe Is Finally Killing Flash... in 2020 Adobe has announced it's killing Flash. This is it, with Flash going away for good. No comebacks, no last-minute reprieves, gone but not forgotten. Read More  it seems likely that Adobe Reader will march on.

7 Best Linux PDF Viewers -- And Adobe Reader Is Just One Of Them muo linux pdf apps adobe reader9

But is it available for Linux?

Well, yes, it is. It wasn’t always the case, however, but in the past few years Adobe has renewed its efforts to produce a fully cross-platform PDF reading experience. Unfortunately, though, you probably won’t find it in your distro’s software center. Instead, it requires manual installation.

Begin by opening a terminal and installing these prequisites:

sudo apt-get install gtk2-engines-murrine:i386 libcanberra-gtk-module:i386 libatk-adaptor:i386 libgail-common:i386

Next, add a new repository (we’ll remove it later) and update it.

sudo add-apt-repository "deb http://archive.canonical.com/ precise partner"

sudo apt-get update

You can then install Adobe Reader

sudo apt-get install adobereader-enu

Once installation finishes, the latest version of Adobe Reader should be installed on your Linux PC! Just remember to uninstall the repository.

sudo add-apt-repository -r "deb http://archive.canonical.com/ precise partner"

sudo apt-get update

You probably know all about Adobe Reader. In short, it is the industry standard PDF viewer, and comes with support for signatures and copying text out of documents.

2. Evince

Shipping with several distributions, Evince is mainly found as the default PDF viewer on the GNOME desktop environment.

7 Best Linux PDF Viewers -- And Adobe Reader Is Just One Of Them muo linux pdf apps evince

You can find it in most repositories, and Evince can be installed in Linux with

sudo apt install evince

A lightweight and easy-to-navigate PDF reader, Evince also loads documents very quickly. Unfortunately, graphic-heavy PDFs can take a while to load — worth keeping in mind if you’re planning to read some e-magazines or comics.

Pages can be bookmarked, and copies of documents saved. Beyond zoom, this is the pretty much the extent of Evince’s abilities.

3. Okular

Meanwhile, Okular is the default PDF viewer for the KDE Plasma desktop environment. As such, it can be found in Linux operating systems using KDE, such as Kubuntu. Okular is more feature packed than Evince, and along with PDFs can easily handle file types like Postscript, DjVu, CHM, XPS, ePub, TIFF, ComicBook, FictionBook, and several others.

7 Best Linux PDF Viewers -- And Adobe Reader Is Just One Of Them muo linux pdf apps okular

Okular can be simply installed in the command line with

sudo apt install okular

Once you have Okular installed, you can export the contents as text, add bookmarks, and annotate. All in all, this is a competent, open source alternative to Adobe Reader. If Okular is already installed on your Linux system, you don’t need anything else!

4. Foxit Reader

Perhaps the most well-known non-Adobe PDF reader on Linux, Foxit Reader is a cross-platform alternative to Adobe Reader. As you would expect, copies can be made with Foxit Reader, and it also offers a comprehensive review/commenting system.

As useful as Foxit Reader is, it does have a slightly complicated installation. To get it on your computer, you can either download the free reader from the website, or do it entirely in the command line, which is quicker.

7 Best Linux PDF Viewers -- And Adobe Reader Is Just One Of Them muo linux pdf apps foxit

Run the following commands, one at a time.

wget http://cdn01.foxitsoftware.com/pub/foxit/reader/desktop/linux/2.x/2.1/en_us/FoxitReader2.1.0805_Server_x64_enu_Setup.run.tar.gz

tar xzvf FoxitReader*.tar.gz

sudo chmod a+x FoxitReader*.run

./FoxitReader.*.run

That will launch the installer. Follow the wizard through to the end, then run FoxitReader to start viewing your PDF files.

There is also a 64-bit version which you can download by changing the link in the wget instruction:

wget http://cdn01.foxitsoftware.com/pub/foxit/reader/desktop/linux/2.x/2.1/en_us/FoxitReader2.1.0805_Server_x86_enu_Setup.run.tar.gz

Make sure you know whether your system is 32-bit or 64-bit, so you select the right option!

5. Atril Document Reader

If you’re using the MATE desktop environment, then you should already be familiar with Atril Document Reader. This is a fork of Evince, and is available as a pre-installed component of the MATE environment. Atril is lightweight and comes with a compact selection of features.

7 Best Linux PDF Viewers -- And Adobe Reader Is Just One Of Them muo linux pdf apps atril

Along with the thumbnail browser in the left-hand column, Atril Document Reader supports page bookmarking, and if you want to tweak the user interface, there’s a toolbar editor function.

Installation if you’re not using the MATE desktop is straightforward. In the terminal run:

sudo apt install atril

A few moments later, the PDF reader will have been downloaded and installed. As with all of these tools, you’ll typically find Atril Document Reader in the Office menu on your Linux desktop.

6 & 7. Don’t Forget Your Browser!

There’s one other way you can view a PDF file: in your web browser. If all you need to do is view documents and other PDF files, then there’s probably no need to bother with a viewer app. Simply download the PDF file and open it in your browser. Both Mozilla Firefox (pictured) and Google Chrome support viewing PDF files.

7 Best Linux PDF Viewers -- And Adobe Reader Is Just One Of Them muo linux pdf apps browser

You can even view files downloaded to your computer using your browser. Browse for the file, right-click, and select Open with > Select application. Choose the browser you want to use, and wait for the file to open.

How well this works will depend on the complexity of the PDF document, and how many tabs you have open. If you face any stability issues, try one of the dedicated PDF readers listed above.

There are now so many ways to read PDF files on Linux. Which is your favorite? Tell us what you use for reading your PDF documents in the comments box below.

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  1. Gazoo
    September 26, 2017 at 11:23 pm

    One more for the list: QComicBook
    Pretty good at text-based pdfs with some graphics. Struggles on large PDFs that are strictly images.

  2. dragonmouth
    September 26, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    I use Okular for reading PDF files and Master PDF Editor for editing them. Both programs come standard with PCLinuxOS.

  3. vinod Kumar
    September 11, 2016 at 3:11 pm

    where can i download adobe reader for kali linux os. In official adobe website there isn't linux version only showing windows and mac versions.

  4. Vivian
    March 31, 2016 at 8:24 pm

    I'm frustrated by my inability to find a Linux PDF reader that will let me scale page size for printing. Evince only pretends to; a "scale" option appears in the print pop-up, but it makes no difference what you set it to; the printout is the same. Okular only allows scaling for what appears onscreen, not for printing. Can anybody recommend a PDF reader that will let me custom-scale my printout? Thanks.

  5. TGIF007
    January 31, 2013 at 10:57 am

    Adobe's Acrobat Reader for Linux is very out of date.

    Their last release for Linux was version 9.5.3, while Windows and Macs are up to 11.0.1.

    Not only is it lacking support for the latest versions of the PDF file format, but it's scheduled end-of-life (and end of all support -- including security patches) is June 26, 2013.

    Time to move on to something else, unless Adobe has a sudden (and quite unexpected) change of heart.

    Given their dropping Flash for Linux other than the built-in support in Google Chrome, I don't think Linux is on their radar anymore.

    Let's just hope they continue to publish all new enhancements to the pdf file format so that the Linux tools can keep up.

  6. Beirapadua Greaser
    January 26, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    my distro came with evince. but I change it with okular.
    thumbs up for okular :D

  7. Febri Yanto
    December 27, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    qpdf, just suits me... just alternative of sumatra pdf i use on windows

  8. Frank Schmeisser
    December 6, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    As someone who mostly makes old hardware fly with minimalistic linux distros, I mostly use epdf or xpdf, which are barebones, but get the job done.

  9. Vishal Srivastava
    December 6, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    Whoa, now this is some sort of surprise for me. I always considered Adobe Reader as the only PDF Reader. Thanks for the intel!!

  10. Pratik Patel
    December 3, 2012 at 6:15 am

    Can you tell me, which fonts you're using in this KDE screenshot above for menubar?

  11. Sebastian Hadinata
    December 2, 2012 at 9:03 am

    I use evince, the default PDF reader that comes with the linux distro that I use.

  12. Anonymous
    November 26, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    Annotation ability of "Okular" gives it an edge over the others... Its the best!

    • Hélder Pereira
      November 28, 2012 at 6:23 pm

      Quite right. And that is why I have Okular installed even on my GNOME. Evince is still the default and just for reading stuff, it's fast, light and delivers. But when I need to take notes, Okular it is. It is worth every bit of extra KDE bloat.

  13. Lazza
    November 25, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    I (almost) always use Evince. But at least once I had to use Foxit (I believe the Windows version with Wine, which is more updated) in order to properly save a PDF after I filled some forms. Evince save broken PDFs when you fill the forms. The most stupid thing is that even the original Adobe Reader does not allow you to save PDF forms, when Foxit Reader does! Sadly, it's a lot proprietary so usually I simply use Evince, it's pretty nice.

    • Lazza
      December 11, 2012 at 7:08 pm

      Well it's fast to load and show files, open source, has a nice fullscreen view without toolbars (Okular for example requires you to disable them in the preferences IIRC), has the features one really need (copy text regardless of the "user protection" of the PDF, print the pages you want, zoom, export images, etc.) without much of the "bloat" you can find in Adobe Reader. Also the fact it ships with Ubuntu means no other software to install.

  14. Eucadio Novelo
    November 25, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    Wow i didn't know that there was a version of Foxit reader for Linux

    • Anony_Mous
      November 25, 2012 at 7:39 pm

      I didn't know that either.

      • Danny Stieben
        November 25, 2012 at 7:50 pm

        Glad I could share it! :)

    • XLinuxUniverseSRB
      March 20, 2016 at 12:11 pm

      Qpdfview the best PDF reader for Linux. ;) :)

      sudo add-apt-repository ppa:b-eltzner/qpdfview

      sudo apt-get update

      sudo apt-get install qpdfview

  15. ahmed Fouad khalil
    November 25, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    go ahead linux, from time to time more applications added and more usability we can gain

  16. Lisa Santika Onggrid
    November 25, 2012 at 10:54 am

    I like Evince and Okular's interface. Tired with Adobe Reader since it's so bloated. Why go for monstrous software if something under 5MB can do the same?

    • Danny Stieben
      November 25, 2012 at 7:49 pm

      If people don't need the very specific features such as Read Out Loud, then the 5MB packages will do just fine. :)

  17. Efi Dreyshner
    November 25, 2012 at 1:32 am

    I am using Evince most of the time,
    But when I am using KDE, the best (built-in) option is Okular.

  18. Damien
    November 24, 2012 at 11:21 pm

    I am surprised that you mentioned Foxit since the Linux version has not been updated for the past 3 years. It used to be good, but has become outdated with poor support. Adobe reader is very resource intensive. I used eVince. It is not the best, but it get the job done.

    • Danny Stieben
      November 25, 2012 at 7:48 pm

      I have to agree, I usually don't like including older software. But FoxIt has always worked for me for my own uses, so I found it good enough to include.

  19. juan david gil
    November 24, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    thumbs up for foxit!

  20. Anon
    November 24, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    My distro comes with evince installed, and I quite like it. I have issues with Adobe because it's not FOSS. However, that's not to say that all proprietary software is bad. Back when I was a Windows user, I really liked CCleaner. Btw, a good PDF viewer for Windows is Sumatra PDF.

    • Lisa Santika Onggrid
      November 25, 2012 at 10:55 am

      I use Sumatra. Too bad it doesn't handle EPUB that well. Haha, it's called Sumatra PDF for the reason, eh?

    • Danny Stieben
      November 25, 2012 at 7:47 pm

      I've occasionally heard about Sumatra, but I've never really looked at it. I suppose now's a good time to do so.