Best Modern PDF Reader: Windows 8 Default Or Adobe Reader Touch?

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The default PDF reader that comes pre-loaded with Windows 8/8.1 isn’t bad, but it has some stiff competition coming from Adobe with their Windows 8 version of Adobe Reader. Both of these apps have their advantages and disadvantages, but which should you use on your Windows 8 device?


By default, opening up a PDF in Windows 8/8.1 opens up the aptly-named Reader app. It’s a pretty basic PDF reader, but I’ve actually grown to like it; it’s perfect for sketching notes in the corner. As seen below, page numbers will appear in the upper left as you scroll onto a new page, but then disappear once you stop scrolling.


The odd thing about writing notes with a stylus is that as you write, it creates jagged straight lines, and then once you lift your pen from the screen, it smooths those jagged lines out to create the letter you were trying to draw. The result is rather normal writing, as seen above, but it means that you have to write slowly. Try to write quickly and the computer can’t keep up — you’ll get completely illegible scratches instead. Microsoft should really take a hint from their own Windows 8 OneNote app, which has great stylus support, and use that here.


Pinching to zoom out will give you an overview of the PDF as seen above, allowing you to scroll quickly through large amounts of pages. You can simply tap on a page to open it from there.

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Swiping in from the top or bottom of the screen (or right-clicking if you’re without a touchscreen) brings up the tabbed view and the options along the bottom. You have a search feature, viewing options, save and print functions, and under the More button you have options to rotate the page or view information for the file. The tabs along the top make it very easy to have open multiple PDFs and switch quickly between them, and it’s a major advantage over Adobe Reader Touch.

Adobe Reader Touch

After using Reader, Adobe Reader Touch is simple to use because it follows a similar user interface. Below, you can see that page numbers appear along the bottom rather than the top, but they have the same effect of appearing when scrolling and then disappearing so as not to block the page.


Reader Touch also features the same viewing modes, either one page at a time or one long continuous scroll. Pinching will again allow you to see an overview of all the pages.


The biggest differences here are in how you will take notes. My stylus is useless in Reader Touch, as all notes are taken with the keyboard. There are also options for highlighting, striking through, and underlining parts of the text. These are accessible from the Comments button in the lower right, shown below.


As you can see above, there are familiar options for searching and view modes, as well as printing and saving. The additional button here is Comments, which we’ll talk more about in a second. Along the top, you’ll see that there is no tabbed browsing, so opening another PDF file requires backing out and selecting another file. The Bookmarks button in the top right is handy if your PDF has bookmarks built-in, but there is no way to insert bookmarks from within the app.


Above is the screen that you’ll see after clicking the Comments button. Here you have the options to leave a note, highlight, strike-through, or underline text. Each of these options is customizable from the color to the opacity; all you have to do is right-click on the text that has been formatted.


Notes are easy to leave as well. A small notepad will appear in the middle of the screen with your name and date. This note will then be accessible by a yellow chat bubble that can be moved anywhere on the PDF.


That’s all there is to Adobe Reader Touch. For text edits and for use without a stylus, it is a very competent PDF viewer.


At the end of the day, I tend to use Reader the most for it’s tabbed viewing and for its stylus support. However, if you’re without a stylus, Adobe Reader Touch offers much more useful tools like notes, highlighting, strike-through, and underlining.

If you’re not a fan of modern apps and just want to stick to the desktop, we also have 6 of the best PDF readers for Windows, and Chrome even has a very functional built-in PDF reader. While you’re at it, brave Windows 8 adopter, you might want to follow these tips to improve your machine’s speed.

What do you think of these PDF readers? Do you have an alternative that you prefer? Let us know in the comments.

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