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free pdf readerWhen it comes to PDF, Mac users have everything they need built in, supported natively by the OS. Creating a PDF How To Easily Create & Annotate PDF Documents [Mac] How To Easily Create & Annotate PDF Documents [Mac] Read More is as easy as printing a document, while reading and modifying How To Dissect & Assemble PDF Files Using Preview [Mac] How To Dissect & Assemble PDF Files Using Preview [Mac] Read More one can be done from Preview. Most users probably never bother to look for alternatives, and therefore might miss out on one good alternative free PDF reader called Skim.

This is a PDF reader and note-taker for OS X which was originally designed to help users read and annotate scientific papers in PDF. But it is also great for viewing any PDF document.

Focus On Readers

The first thing that I noticed from Skim was the unique features of the table of contents pane on the left. Chapters that I have read are marked differently to unread chapters. And if you hover your mouse above a specific part of the document, Skim will show a quick glance of the content. I think this is a very useful feature for doing quick skimming.

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This table of contents pane also allows you to do a quick search on a specific word or phrase from the document. This feature will be very handy if you are dealing with a very thick text book with thousands of pages. You can choose to see the results by words or by relevance.

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If you want to focus on your reading and free yourself from distraction, go to “View – Presentation (or Fullscreen)” menu.

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Skim will show only the document with other things blocked out.

02a Presentation Mode.jpg

If you combine the feature with “Tools – Rotate” menu

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Along with “PDF Display – Single Page” and “Zoom To Fit” under the “PDF” menu,

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You could turn your MacBook into a nice eBook reader -athough holding a laptop sideways is a little bit uncomfortable.

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Focus On Learners

Skim lets users create notes easily within the PDF document. So if you find something useful in the book or you want to be reminded about things that you need to do regarding the text that you read, just add some notes directly on the page.

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There is another kind of note called “Anchored Note“. This type is used for longer notes. You can assign a title and icon to it. It resides on a page as a small icon and will pop up if you double click on it.

03b Anchored Note

To further the ability to annotate documents, Skim also allows users to draw circles, rectangles, and lines; and also to highlight the text.

03c Annotate Document.jpg

Another tool that can help users in their learning is taking snapshots. You can take “snapshots” of important sections of a PDF document, to keep them on your screen for easy reference. This way you don’t have to leaf back to the section every time you want to see it.

03d Take Snapshots.jpg

All of these annotations and snapshots could be found quickly by using Notes Pane. You can show/hide the pane via “View – Show/Hide Notes Pane“.

03e Show Notes Pane-1.jpg

If you need to remove one (or more) of the notes, you can do so by right clicking on the item(s) within this pane and choose “Delete“. It’s possible to use other basic editing commands here such as Copy, Edit and Select. Choosing “Show” will bring you the notes from wherever you are in the document.

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These are only a few basic features of Skim that I was able to explore during my short encounter with it, but it covers what ordinary users need. Power users might want to dig deeper to more advanced features such as AppleScript support; Interaction with LaTeX, SyncTeX, and PDFSync; and Integration with BibDesk and other third party applications. Refer to the Help menu for more help.

What do you think of Skim? Have you tried it? Do you know any other good free PDF readers that we might have missed? Please share them using the comments below.

  1. darrennie
    August 3, 2010 at 1:30 am

    And with the "Issues" mentioned recently about Preview being more hackable then previously thought, it is nice to have an out. Nice program.

  2. nm
    July 30, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    Great post Jeffry. You're so right - I've never thought of looking for an alternative PDF reader, but there are so many features here that will come in handy.

  3. thurana
    July 30, 2010 at 2:54 am

    Hi David,

    I tried to find more info on this but couldn't find any. Sorry.

  4. Bakari
    July 29, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    Thanks for this, Jeffry. I’ve always thought someone could develop a better PDF reader than what Apple‘s Preview app provides. This app is ten times better.

  5. Bakari
    July 29, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    Thanks for this, Jeffry. I’ve always thought someone could develop a better PDF reader than what Apple‘s Preview app provides. This app is ten times better.

    • Anonymous
      July 30, 2010 at 12:58 am

      Your welcome. This one is a keeper.

  6. David Levine
    July 29, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    This seems like a useful program. Will it allow you to view PDFs within a browser? I know Chrome is working on this support for Mac, but I'm wondering if Skim will provide this for Safari, Firefox, and others.

    • Anonymous
      July 30, 2010 at 12:54 am

      Hi David,

      I tried to find more info on this but couldn't find any. Sorry.

      • David Levine
        July 30, 2010 at 1:05 am

        Thanks for checking. I'll install it and see what happens.

        • Aibek
          July 30, 2010 at 11:11 am

          let us know!

        • David Levine
          August 15, 2010 at 7:54 pm

          I just got around to testing Skim and found that it does not support viewing PDFs within a browser.

        • Aibek
          August 16, 2010 at 5:40 am

          thanks for follow up

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