4 Very Light Alternatives to Adobe Reader

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Adobe Reader and the Portable Document Format (PDF) were a boon to Internet communications when first introduced. Finally, there was a way of sharing documents while preserving the formatting, regardless of the word processor software you used to create it. As time went on and PDF popularity increased, for some reason the Adobe Reader seemed to become bloatware. It went from a download size of 2 MB to as high as 32 MB, with version 9.0.  The installed size of the program is around 133 MB and it can seem to take forever to load. Have you ever clicked on a PDF link just to give yourself time to get some coffee?

Sure, the latest version of Reader has more bells and whistles, but you just want to read the flubsy PDF! Just open it like a web page and read it like a web page. Well, I went a-searching and here are some light alternatives to the hefty Adobe Reader.

FoxIt Reader

foxitDownload Size: 3.56 MB
Installed Size: 7.14 MB

The FoxIt layout is very similar to Adobe Reader and has a lot of the same functionality. You can add notes, zoom, search on text, view the document without images and more. It opens so quickly though!

Some of the more advanced functions are only available if you opt-in to FoxIt’s updates and eBay toolbar. The bills have got to get paid somehow I suppose. Overall, a fine piece of software backed by over 50 million downloads of it so far.

PDF-Xchange Viewer

pdf_xchangeDownload Size: 17.9 MB
Installed Size: 25.5 MB

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When you open PDF-Xchange Viewer, it is readily apparent that it is more than just a PDF reader. You’ll find all of the functions you would in FoxIt without having to sign up for updates or the eBay toolbar. That’s always a plus to me. Yes, the download is larger and it does take up more space when installed than FoxIt, however it also offers you the ability to customize its appearance and how it functions. You can set the threads to use for image rendering, amount of RAM to utilize, and text and image rendering quality amongst other things.

Perfect PDF Reader

perfect_pdfDownload Size: 22.4 MB
Installed Size: 14.6 MB

Yes, there seems to be a discrepancy there, doesn’t it? The download package contains some additional software that isn’t necessary for the base functions of Perfect PDF writer. That fact alone leads me to believe that the name Perfect is, yet again, a misnomer.  Why do companies insist on claiming perfection?

The interface is reminiscent of Office 2007 with it’s little orb thing in the top left corner and similarly confusing layout of menu items. You may be able to surmise that I am not a fan of Office 2007 as well.

Perfect PDF Reader has a limited tool set, making it essentially just a PDF reader. The one option I really don’t understand is the Open in Reader shortcut. Isn’t the point of this to take Adobe Reader out of the equation? Overall, I wouldn’t recommend Perfect PDF Reader.

Cool PDF Reader

cool_pdfDownload Size: 632 KB (That’s right, less than 1 MB.)
Installed Size: 632 KB (No coincidence here.)

Cool PDF Reader is a straight-forward executable to read PDF’s with. Open it up, navigate to the PDF you wish to read and boom, there it is. You can zoom in, zoom out, page forward and backward and well, that’s about all.  If the name of the game is something small and fast to simply read a PDF, this is the winner. If you download the standalone version, you can also run it without permissions or from a USB drive.

Which one is best? That’s truly dependent on what your tastes are. For me, I like PDF-Xchange because it has some neat editing controls. FoxIt obviously has something going for it, based on the sheer number of downloads. Perfect PDF will appeal to the neophyte user whose first introduction to software included Office 2007. Cool PDF is definitely for the purists.

There are many other PDF reader options out there – which one do you use? Why do you use it? Let others know about it in the comments.

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Comments (52)
  • Mark King

    Foxit is a lot faster than adobe’s readers.

  • Tom

    Or just use a (pdfescape.com) web based PDF viewer. This one even lets you edit your PDF files or fill in your PDF forms

  • Mida

    Foxit is my favorite what is amazing about foxit its speed i really dont understand why adobe can’t make their reader fast like foxit, is it really that hard?

  • Tana

    I might have tested it just for the sake of it but since I do need to read the pdfs I had to do something. Needless to say, on Linux the same pdfs are pretty fast, so it must have been a Windows/Acrobat issue. But with PDF-Xchange Viewer even when 2-3 1,000+ page pdfs and a bunch of other files are open, it is still pretty fast. Thanks again! :)

  • Tana

    Thanks for the cool suggestions! I have been working on a project with really fat pdfs (CISCO certification training stuff – i.e. pdfs of over 1,000 pages) and Acrobat drove me mad. I know that a computer is never fast enough but in my case it was a torture – and I do have 1GB, which is not exactly next to nothing.
    I tried Cool PDF but it couldn’t handle very well the fat pdfs, especially when I tried to zoom it to 150%. However, PDF-Xchange Viewer works like a charm, even with a pdf of 1,000_ pages, filled with lots of network diagrams! Great stuff!

    • Guy McDowell

      Hey Tana,
      That’s really good to know! I wouldn’t have thought to test it with a PDF so large, since that seems exceptional. So it’s great to know what works well with PDF’s of that size. Again, thank you!

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.