Productivity Windows

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

Skye Hudson 01-01-2014

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 The Perfect Modern Notetaking App: OneNote For Windows 8 Microsoft finally did something right! OneNote turns your Windows 8 tablet into a handy notebook. Quickly scribble down notes and pick them up anywhere. Syncing via SkyDrive automatically makes them available on the desktop. Read More , 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.



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 The 6 Best PDF Readers for Windows in 2019 The best PDF readers don't cost any money. Read our roundup of feature-rich PDF viewers that out perform even Adobe Reader. Read More for Windows, and Chrome even has a very functional built-in PDF reader How Chrome's Built-In PDF Viewer Lets You Do More Than Just Read PDFs Chrome has a built-in PDF Viewer tool that can edit PDF files. Sure, it’s not as powerful as certain programs. Still, as a quick-fix solution, Chrome is perfect. Read More . While you’re at it, brave Windows 8 adopter, you might want to follow these tips to improve your machine’s speed 5 Ways To Improve Speed & Efficiency In Windows 8 Has Windows 8 slowed you down? We'll get you back to speed! From boot to shutdown and everything in between - let us show you the best tweaks and shortcuts to efficiently use Windows 8. Read More .

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

Related topics: Adobe Reader, Windows 8.

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  1. Darren Evans
    January 29, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    Reader shrinks the pages so they do not take up the full width of the display when viewing in continuous screen mode. Reader Touch, unlike Adobe Reader, has no facility for remembering the last page you were at in the document. Uninstalled both of them.

  2. Mister E
    March 25, 2015 at 4:10 am

    Ok that's nice but how do I REMOVE pen marks? I can't find any options to erase the marks I accidentally make and it frustrates me to no end

  3. Daniel
    March 25, 2015 at 2:01 am

    Why does this informational article have to be come political/ethical fodder by using this subject matter? Completely transparent use of inappropriate forum for your personal views. Regardless of your viewpoint, it should be something generic or provide further info for this subject.

    • Dan
      April 22, 2015 at 7:28 pm

      Agreed. But this is a POS article anyway. It's completely useless and gives the reader NOTHING for finding the "best" pdf reader. I'm taking all of my suggestions from the comments anyway. The readers here have FAR better answers than the writer of this crap article.

  4. keats87
    February 24, 2015 at 8:04 pm

    You don't mention this, but the adobe reader for Windows 8.1 (metro version at least) does not have a rotate page function. So those with something like a Surface RT are hooped if they need to rotate a pdf.

  5. PharmaReader
    April 13, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    I work in pharmaceutical regulatory affairs and just purchased a Thinkpad Yoga; my first touch screen device that is larger than a smart phone. The pen / stylus is aweseome. The features I would like in a PDF reader are as follows:

    - highlighting, and ability to automatically copy those highlights into a note
    - marking up a PDF

    I bought this computer so I could take notes during presentations when PDFs are provided beforehand. I want to be able to highlight important content and mark it up using the stylus.

    I currently use Acrobat 9 in Windows 7 to read public regulatory documents. For documents, I only highlight, not markup. I highlight in Acrobat 9 and have the Preferences set to automatically copy it to a note. Then I have Javascript that exports the notes to a text file. When I finish reading, I copy the text file contents to Evernote and add the highlighted PDF file as an attachment. So if I'm searching, I can find the important text without having to open the PDF.

    Because I have so much to read, I often send the PDF files to my Kindle. In that case, I highlight in Kindle. Then when I finish, I open up the PDF in Acrobat 9 on my computer, and re-highlight each section and then do what I did above. Similarly, if I read it using the Acrobat on my Android phone, I just go back later which is extra time. I've also tried Skitch for Android with Evernote and then likewise, go back later and highlight the PDF in Acrobat. Skitch for Windows doesn't allow marking up of PDF yet. I've tried ezPDF and Foxit, and given them feedback, but there doesn't seem to be an easy way to export highlighted text. I have not explored PDF Touch which I think costs.

    I would love for these features to be available so I don't have to go back to my Windows 7 computer to make up for deficiencies in the Windows 8 one.

  6. Natalie
    February 2, 2014 at 5:02 am

    How do you sketch your notes in the Windows 8 Reader? I cannot seem to get it.

  7. Gee
    January 4, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    Sumatra is a great app for Pdf's. Also reads Mobi and epub on my windows 8!

  8. Guy
    January 2, 2014 at 3:53 am

    Reason i use Adobe version is related to high contrast theme
    I like my taskbar and start menu to be in high contrast but for some ungodly reason windows turns a bunch of software into high contrast mode when its switched on. Reader is one of them. I dont want my pdfs being shown in high contrast so i use adobe. Same reason i use chrome over internet explorer

  9. Steve
    January 1, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    oops, yes it does convert.

    After it is installed, right click on any unopened file and you should get the option to 'convert to pdf'.

    • halkun
      January 1, 2014 at 11:54 pm

      Could just open pdf in google chrome and print as pdf lol...

  10. Steve
    January 1, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    Can't say I noticed it wasn't there.

    I tend to create a document in whatever and then simply export to pdf from the application I am using.

    It does have another drawback and that is to use it as part of a commercial LAN it does need a licence and can be a bit flaky (so the College's Network Manager informs me) or it would be our default. Praise indeed as it is hard to convince tech staff to change from 'defaults' programs!

  11. Steve
    January 1, 2014 at 12:47 pm


    They should use Foxit Reader.

    It has been able to do all the above for a few years, it is also pretty light on resources.

    After the way Adobe Reader evolved on the PC to become the bloatware resource hog that it is, I tend to give Adobe a miss for pdf reading on anything these days

    • Skeith
      January 1, 2014 at 3:45 pm

      Too bad the free foxit has no print to pdf feature