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Microsoft Office and Adobe Reader are two of the most popular and well-known programs, supporting equally common file formats. But when you don’t have or don’t want to use these programs, what should you turn to instead?

There are a number of great light alternatives out there for viewing Office and PDF files. You don’t need to clog your system down with unnecessary bulk; instead, check out these small and quick offerings from elsewhere.

Be sure to head to the comment section afterwards to let us know how you recommend viewing Office and PDF files without using the usual programs.

Alternatives to Microsoft Office

Office files are completely ubiquitous. They’re used everywhere, from work to school, and it’s expected that you have a way to open them on your computer. Those who don’t actually run Office may find that troublesome, however. Here are our favourite ways to open Office files without the suite.

1. Office Viewer

Office Viewer is one of the best because it comes straight from Microsoft and allows for Office viewing without being connected to the Internet. Available for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, these completely free pieces of software will allow you to view and print your desired format without having Office installed, although you won’t be able to edit anything.

word viewer

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The Word Viewer in particular supports a range of different file formats, like .doc, .docx and .rtf. Development on the Viewers has stopped now, simply because Microsoft now offers other ways of viewing Office files, but they’re still great choices for offline viewing.

2. Office Online

Office Online is entirely browser based and supports Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. Files can be created, opened and edited all within the comfort of your browser. In fact, it can also handle PDF files.

word online

While not as feature rich as the actual programs themselves, Office Online is an incredibly good alternative considering it’s free. You can even collaborate on files live with others. Plus, it’s all tied into Microsoft’s ecosystem, meaning you can open files straight from other services like Outlook and OneDrive.

3. Google Drive

If you’re more of a Google person 4 Surprising Ways Google Will Soon Impact Your Life 4 Surprising Ways Google Will Soon Impact Your Life We won't be seeing interstellar spaceships and time travel machines any time soon, but here are a few Google projects that are going to change the way you live within the next few years. Read More , have no fear because Google Drive is here. Google offer their own online services called Docs, Sheets and Slides – Word, Excel and PowerPoint respectively. Much like Office Online, you can open and edit Office files straight from your browser. It also supports PDF, as an added bonus!

drive excel

If you have an Office file on your computer, then you can just upload this to Drive. You can view it speedily, but if you want to make changes then you can just as easily do that. The great thing is you can even save it again in the original format, forgoing the need to use anything Office related entirely.

Alternatives to Adobe Reader

PDF saw the light of day in 1993 and the format is still going strong, used to display documents across all systems. Designed by Adobe, the format became an open standard in 2008. Although Adobe Reader is the most commonly used method for viewing PDFs, it isn’t the only way. We’ve listed our favourite Adobe Reader alternatives 4 Very Light Alternatives to Adobe Reader 4 Very Light Alternatives to Adobe Reader Read More in the past and these three are some of the best modern methods.

1. Within the Browser

The three most popular browsers What Web Browser Do You Use, & Why? [MakeUseOf Poll] What Web Browser Do You Use, & Why? [MakeUseOf Poll] The Web browser is an essential tool, allowing us to access the wealth of information contained on the Internet. But what Web browser do you use? And why? Read More (Chrome, Firefox and IE) all have built-in support for viewing PDFs. This means that you don’t even have to download the file or install any additional software for checking out any PDFs you come across.

browser pdf

In fact, the PDF doesn’t need to be online to be viewed within the browser. If it’s saved to your computer, you can still view it just fine. Just right click the file, select Open with and then choose your browser (click Choose default program… if you always want PDFs to open this way).

PDF plugins do exist on the various extension stores, but these were intended for earlier versions of the browser. With PDF support built right into the browser, using these could cause compatibility issues, so be sure to disable them if you’ve got one in use.

2. Sumatra PDF

Have you ever found Adobe Reader to be sluggish? It’s undoubtedly a bloated program, which is why Sumatra PDF is a much better choice. At less than 5MB, this program cuts out the unnecessary features and provides a simple and quick PDF viewing experience.

sumatra

You can still search within the file, zoom and print – it’s even capable of viewing some eBook and comic book formats 4 Android Apps For Reading Your PDF Comic Book Collection 4 Android Apps For Reading Your PDF Comic Book Collection Do you have comics saved in PDF format, or are you just looking for a good comic book reader? Check out these amazing Android apps. Read More . It’s entirely free and also comes in a portable version that doesn’t write to the registry, perfect for use on a USB stick.

3. Foxit Reader

While not quite as lightweight as Sumatra PDF, Foxit Reader is still a small and speedy program that is suitable for those looking for a bit more action in a PDF reader. It’s equally as free, but also comes with a more advanced set of features.

foxit

Customisable multi page displays and the ability to have your PDF read aloud using text-to-speech Read Aloud As Google Text To Speech Gets New High Quality Voices For English Read Aloud As Google Text To Speech Gets New High Quality Voices For English Google's text-to-speech Android app gets a significant update with a better interface, natural sounding voices in English, and support for more languages. This news should be pleasant to the ears. Read More are just some of the extra features on offer here. But even if you don’t make use of them, Foxit Reader is still a great choice for viewing PDFs. It’s small, quick and has a modern Office-style interface How To Tweak The Windows And Office Ribbon Menu How To Tweak The Windows And Office Ribbon Menu That pesky Ribbon Menu. Ever since its introduction in Office 2007, I’ve been struggling to come to terms with it. I much preferred the Office 2000/2003 method of “hiding” tools that you don’t use often... Read More .

What Do You Use?

These are some of our favourite programs and methods for viewing Office and PDF files without having the full suite or Adobe Reader.

If you don’t need all the fancy features or don’t want bulky programs, then these offerings will serve you just as well, if not better.

What method do you use to open Office and PDF files? Have we missed out a light and speedy program from this list?

Image Credits: White feather Via Shutterstock

  1. gelo
    August 15, 2016 at 9:15 am

    a foxit user for years,i just discovered sumatra!thank you!

  2. Somoud
    April 15, 2016 at 7:19 pm

    Your article saved my life. I have not known Sumatra PDF before. Thank you very much.

  3. Gordon
    February 5, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    Libre Office and Google Docs.

  4. Ron Gorran
    February 23, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    According to my personal experience , Kingsoft Office Suite Free and Foxit Reader work very nice.

  5. Kevin
    February 23, 2015 at 11:33 am

    Office Starter 2010 should have been mentioned in this article! A stripped down version of Word and Excel 2010 (with ad little advertisement bar advertising for other Microsoft products, but for me that's not annoying) that is fully compatible with Word and Excel documents.
    However it is hard to find. But you can download it from here: http://www.techspot.com/downloads/6255-microsoft-office-starter-2010.html
    And there is a torrent circulating with all installer files for all languages.
    For PowerPoint I use PowerPoint Viewer from Microsoft, download here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-US/download/details.aspx?id=13
    I agree that as a PDF solution Sumatra PDF works really well, when used for just viewing. It does not contain editing capabilities.

  6. Michael Linneer
    February 23, 2015 at 4:29 am

    Preview on OS X is much more user friendly and less resource hungry than Adobe Reader.

  7. Von Adam Martinez
    February 22, 2015 at 5:21 pm

    As a power user, I still use MS Office an Adobe Reader.

  8. Devesh Prabhu
    February 22, 2015 at 8:31 am

    I've been using PDFlite, which is a free open-source PDF reader for more than 6 months now and its far more better at opening PDF files and also CHM (MS Help) files.

    • savior
      November 13, 2015 at 10:05 pm

      pdflite is nothing but a ripoff of sumatra pdf. they literally take sumatra's source code, tweak a couple things, and slap their branding on it.

  9. Peter Stewart
    February 21, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    I use Google Drive/Docs - improving daily - and Foxit Reader.

  10. Dan
    February 20, 2015 at 11:35 pm

    Softmaker FreeOffice + PDF-Xchange Editor.

  11. Jayson
    February 20, 2015 at 7:54 pm

    Can sunatra edit pdf forms? Coz i remember it couldn't, which lead me to reinstalling adobe acrobat reader.

  12. GraveDigger27
    February 20, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    The article should probably be changed to " 6 light alternatives to Microsoft Office and PDF files" . Don't think OpenOffice has much to do with this one...

    • THX4theFish
      February 20, 2015 at 5:40 pm

      well. it' quality journalism ....

    • Jeremy
      February 20, 2015 at 5:47 pm

      I think that's because the title should have been something more like "6 Light Alternative Programs that can Open Microsoft Office and PDF Files"... Bad wording in the original title. Personally, I'm wondering why they didn't list OpenOffice or LibreOffice as an alternative to Microsoft Office.

    • Joe
      February 22, 2015 at 11:19 am

      Sorry for any confusion! You're right, this article isn't about Open Office, but rather 'open' with a lower-case 'o'!

  13. Paul Werner
    February 20, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    I've been using Sumatra PDF for some time at work once they blocked Chrome from opening PDF files.

    • Joe
      February 22, 2015 at 11:18 am

      Why did your work block Chrome from opening PDFs? Was there a security vulnerability?

    • Paul Werner
      February 22, 2015 at 9:31 pm

      I can't say for sure since I'm not in the department making the decision but I first noticed it when I couldn't upload some file types in Chrome and I could in IE. Same thing happens when trying to view PDF files too. Strange but I guess they have a reason for it.

  14. radrick
    February 20, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    I have been using PDF-XChange Viewer for years and it meets my every need.

  15. BrentC
    February 20, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    I've used Foxit for quite a few years. The commenting features allow me to quickly add relevant information to scanned receipts and bills to document expenses.

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