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PDF is the standard format for transferring documents online. Microsoft’s Office Open XML and Open Document formats are rather irrelevant. It’s a software developer’s dream come true.

But as we all know, Adobe is not the only company offering PDF readers and writers. There is no question that better, free alternatives to the ever so (un)popular Adobe Acrobat Reader exist. One example is the Foxit Reader.

To be fair though, we have to recognize that Adobe’s Acrobat Reader has come a long way. It may appear slow because it comes with many great and some not so necessary features. On the other hand, some of the latest improvements show that developers don’t turn a blind eye to the competition and the latest trends. So if you prefer to use the original software – or for some reason have to – read on!

Earlier this month Adobe Reader 9 was released. In all honesty, it seems to load faster than ever. Looking at the new features overview that’s just what Adobe promises. Version 9 also supports swf and flv files, introduced as “Native Adobe Flash®” support, and allows working with Acrobat.com (beta). Here’s a list of all of its features.

Now let’s have a look at some of the things you can do to improve your PDF experience with Adobe Reader.

Since version 8 you can customize the toolbar, adding and removing tools as you need them. Go to >Tools, >Customize Toolbars… and check all the options you can’t live without.

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Before:

After:

Also with version 8 came the possibility to include bookmarks, comments and attachments in the search, along with the option to search just the current document or all PDFs in a specific directory on your computer.

For enhanced reading you should know your shortcuts:

[Ctrl + Shift + H] activates automatic scrolling.
[Ctrl + H] puts the document into reading mode, omitting all tool- and navigation bars.
[Ctrl + L] toggles the full screen mode.
F8 removes just the toolbars.
F9 makes the menu bar disappear.

If you can’t keep your eyes open long enough to read a whole document, here’s a feature you will love. Since version 6 Adobe Reader has a built-in text-to-speech synthesizer called Read Out Loud. You will find it under >View >Read Out Loud. Admittedly, it’s very simple and there are much better text-to-speech tools out there. However, it’s already included, it works and doesn’t require any maintenance.

To keep your browser from freezing when opening a PDF document, you should disable the >display PDF in browser option under >Edit >Preferences >Internet.

Under >Preferences you can also disable the Splash Screen in the >General category >Application Startup section.

What makes using Adobe Acrobat Reader easier for you? If you’re not using it, which changes could convince you to return?

  1. richardmeii
    December 6, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    I am looking for an “add on” to Adobe Reader’s “Read Out loud” function that moves the cursor to and highlights the word that is being read. This kind of add on would make it easier to follow along as the file or page is being read.

    • Tina
      December 7, 2008 at 6:21 am

      That sounds like a function that would make a lot of sense.

      You should suggest this as a feature for the next Adobe Reader release. Adobe has a form on their homepage for this purpose: http://www.adobe.com/cfusion/mmform/index.cfm?name=wishform

      Or try the Adobe Reader user forums, maybe someone will pick up the idea and develop an add-on: http://www.adobeforums.com/

      Let us know once you discover such an add on!

  2. Clancolin
    August 1, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    I tried Foxit. but its watermarking of pages was a turn-off for me.

    I've been using PDF-Xchange Viewer for ages now and it's quick, light, I can understand the icons and I can thoroughly recommend it. If you want to do fancy stuff, there are Lite, Standard and Pro version available, but for just replacing Adobe Reader, the Viewer is all I need.

  3. Ankur
    July 29, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    Foxit Reader of 6Mb have all useful function that a pdf reader needs. Its very compact,ultra Fast and most of all its completlely free.
    What you want more from it............

  4. scott
    July 29, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    We were just so sick of all the security bugs and slow load times. Using Secunia, there seemed to be an insecurity reported every week, Our org removed it and installed FoxIt Reader. Haven't looked back. Small and fast. Good stuff, and no more continuous updates

  5. Rarst
    July 29, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    Last year there was legal demand dropped at my work to delete all pirated (not that we have need Photoshop and such so that was not a problem... no idea what was the original reason) Adobe products including Reader.

    After much work and grief from users it was done... And then we were told Reader is actually okay and we can install it back. But we didn't. Using Foxit Reader since. :)

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