Productivity Windows

4 Very Light Alternatives to Adobe Reader

Joel Lee 14-03-2017

If you’re still using Adobe Acrobat Reader for PDF documents, it’s time for you to move on. It’s one of the most notorious programs to ever exist because it hits the trifecta of poor user experience: slow to launch, bloated and unnecessary features, and too many security vulnerabilities.


With so many alternatives available, there’s no reason to keep using Adobe Reader This Is Why You Don't Need Adobe Reader Adobe Reader is bloated, slow, and a liability. In short, it's unnecessary. Do you need a PDF Reader at all? We show you how to open PDF files without Adobe Reader. Read More . In fact, most modern systems come loaded with apps that can read PDFs, and if you don’t have one, then you can always rely on your web browser. These days, browser-based PDF readers are more than good enough PDF Reader vs. Browser: Which PDF Viewer Is Best for You? A PDF reader is often one of the first tools people install on their new computer. It's not glamorous or sexy, but it's a vital tool in your productivity arsenal. Or is it? Read More if all you need is the ability to read (not edit).

That said, it’s still smart to keep a lightweight PDF reader on your system. Get rid of Adobe Reader and start using one of these alternatives instead. You’ll wonder how you ever lasted this long on the worst PDF reader known to man.

1. Sumatra PDF

Supported Formats: CBR, CBZ, CHM, EPUB, MOBI, PDF, XPS

Sumatra PDF is the best option for lightweight PDF reading. There’s simply no contest. It’s been around for more than a decade and it’s still actively developed. I’ve used it as my primary PDF reader for close to five years and I’ve never once considered looking for a replacement.

4 Very Light Alternatives to Adobe Reader lightweight pdf reader sumatra


It has three main advantages that put it above all others. First, the executable file is under 7 MB, which is remarkable compared to the 150+ MB of a bloated app like Adobe Reader. Second, it’s lightning fast, and loads even large PDF files in the blink of an eye. Third, the interface is extremely minimal as to maximize screen estate. This is wonderful for smaller-screen devices.

And it comes in both portable and installable versions. It’s tiny enough to carry around on a USB flash drive of any size and you’ll be able to read PDFs anywhere you go.

DownloadSumatra PDF (Free)

2. SlimPDF Reader

Supported Formats: PDF


SlimPDF Reader is very much like Sumatra PDF in many ways. They have the same goals as far as design and intention, and the differences between them are rather minor. Long story short, these two apps are your best bet for lightweight PDF reading, and you should try both of them to see which one feels better to you.

4 Very Light Alternatives to Adobe Reader lightweight pdf reader slimpdf

One thing you’ll notice right away is its minuscule size. Whereas Sumatra PDF’s executable comes in at around 7 MB, SlimPDF Reader’s full installation doesn’t even take up 5 MB. Of course we’re talking pennies in the grand scheme of modern terabyte-sized hard drives, but tiny apps like this are so rare that it’s impressive to see.

Its only major drawback is the lack of a portable version, which usually wouldn’t be an issue worth mentioning, except portability is a big reason to use a lightweight app over a full-featured alternative, and that’s certainly true for PDF readers.


DownloadSlimPDF Reader (Free)

3. PDF-XChange Viewer

Supported Formats: PDF

PDF-XChange Viewer has actually been discontinued, with all of its features having been ported over and included in PDF-XChange Editor. However, you can still download the latest version of PDF-XChange Viewer and use it as a lightweight PDF reader. Just don’t expect any updates.

4 Very Light Alternatives to Adobe Reader lightweight pdf reader xchange viewer


Why use this app when Sumatra PDF and SlimPDF Reader already exist? Because PDF-XChange Viewer doesn’t aim to be a super-lightweight or barebones. It’s a middle-of-the-road solution: reasonable install size and fast performance, but packed with nifty features like tabbed browsing, OCR for images, comments and annotations, encryption and passwords, bookmarks, and more.

PDF-XChange Viewer is available in several installation formats as well as a portable version, which comes in at just over 21 MB. If you can get over the outdated interface, this is the best choice for when you need a compromise between speed, size, and features.

DownloadPDF-XChange Viewer (Free)

4. MuPDF

Supported Formats: CBZ, EPUB, PDF, XPS

MuPDF is so lightweight that it doesn’t even have a graphical interface — you have to launch it from the command line using mupdf [path-to-file.pdf] and certain options can only be set using launch parameters (for example, -p [password] to open password-protected documents).

It’s not for everyone, but it’s excellent for command line fanatics and veterans.

4 Very Light Alternatives to Adobe Reader lightweight pdf reader mupdf

Once a PDF document is opened, all navigation is done using keyboard shortcuts. Check the MuPDF user manual to see what those shortcuts are. It’s actually quite productive if you can get over the initial learning curve. Notable features include transparency, annotations, encryption, searching, and more. Plus it’s open source, so you can extend it yourself if you wish.

One other aspect to note is that MuPDF is specifically tailored for PDF fidelity. It is the most faithful when it comes to PDFs with high-resolution, anti-aliased graphics. Of course this only matters if you have high-quality PDF documents to begin with, but if you do, then you’ll notice the difference.

DownloadMuPDF (Free)

What Do You Use to Read PDFs?

If these apps are perhaps too lightweight for you, or if you’ve decided that a lightweight reader isn’t exactly what you need, then we recommend checking out these excellent PDF readers for Windows. And why stop there? Consider installing a lightweight alternative for reading Office files 6 Light Alternatives to Open Office and PDF Files Don't clog your system down with superfluous bulk. For the occasional viewing of PDF and Office files, you can use compact apps and you might not need any additional software at all. Read More , too.

Note that you can do more than just “read” PDFs How to Edit, Combine, and Sign a PDF File for Free We show you how to split, merge, downsize, and do all kinds of magic with PDF files. Read on if you're ready to take your PDF documents to the next level! Read More . There are tools out there for extracting images from PDF documents 5 Tools to Extract Images From PDF Files Sometimes you need to extract images from PDF file and use them in Word documents, web pages, and PowerPoint presentations. Keep these five tools close for the job. Read More and several ways to reduce or compress PDF files How to Compress a PDF, Reduce the File Size, and Make It Smaller This guide covers how to make a PDF smaller and manually reduce its size using simple programs and tools. Read More , for example. Using a lightweight PDF reader is only the first step to mastering a productive PDF workflow.

So what’s your favorite way to read PDFs: in browser or with a dedicated app? Are there any good alternatives, tips, or tricks that we missed? Let us know in a comment below!

Image Credit: Africa Studio via

Related topics: Adobe Reader, Digital Document, PDF.

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  1. Gustavo
    October 11, 2019 at 7:32 pm

    Thank you!!!
    I was stuck with some crappy pdf reader.

    Now I´m free

  2. Whiteby
    August 1, 2018 at 10:37 am

    I do really think Adobe is a great and professional PDF product, but it is expensive and most of its features need to pay, which means I can use nothing but just read PDF with it. So I would much appreciate LightPDF, a free online PDF tool, which is a fair alternative and is light as its name implies. People should try this. It is really great.

  3. Joe Vogler
    June 6, 2018 at 4:31 pm

    I dislike Adobe Reader, not because of speed--it's much faster than any alternative I've tried. It is bloated and always wants to connect to the internet. Too many features and no way to clean up the screen of extra menus and toolbars etc.

    Irfanview works and lets me crop pages. However, it renders so slowly, I only use it when I want to take advantage of cropping.

  4. Zivan Milanovic
    February 4, 2018 at 6:41 pm

    I've been using Foxit for many years and find it efficient and lightweight. Editor etc. can also be downloaded and are basically good to use.

  5. Ganesh
    January 6, 2018 at 6:18 am

    Also edge browser supports built in read aloud option for best alike audio books

  6. Ganesh
    January 6, 2018 at 6:17 am

    I prefer Sumatra

  7. rixarm
    May 14, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    Xodo PDF reader is the best reader for me. It is available on windows store.

  8. rixarm
    May 14, 2017 at 4:37 pm

    Xodo PDF reader is the best. It is available in Windows store.

  9. valery
    March 31, 2017 at 9:41 pm

    Excellent choice - PDF-XChnage Editor/ The new version is better Abode

  10. MartyvH
    March 19, 2017 at 5:17 am

    On phones and tablets: with the 1 or 2 or 3 PDF viewer apps that you already have - that the device came with or was installed as part of Google's apps, or what have you. The Adobe Reader app? I know it exists, I installed it once several years ago on a tablet when I wanted to give it a shot. But....

  11. Eireannach
    March 14, 2017 at 7:22 pm

    I have tried Sumatra PDF and confirm it is light and simple to use. Also used PDF-Xchange - they have a good range of PDF products ( if a little confusing distinguishing the different products) - we use the
    paid editor product and find it good for editing PDFs. Haven't tried the others so can't comment on them

  12. Yoda San
    March 14, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    Hi Joel
    I 'm using pdf xchange viewer because I wanted some app able to preview pdf files within windows 10 explorer as thumbnails in view panel and it does the job well .