Edge vs. Chrome vs. Adobe Reader: Which PDF Viewer Is Best?
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We’ve previously looked at which family of apps—dedicated PDF readers or web browsers—is better for viewing and managing PDFs.

You should check out the full article if you’d like to read a detailed analysis. The TL;DR version is that, even though it was close, we decided dedicated PDFs readers were the more robust choice.

But since we wrote that article, Microsoft has added new PDF-related tools to its Edge browser. Now you can type in text fields, rotate your documents PDFs, add sticky notes to your files, and a whole lot more.

So, can Edge now rival the most popular PDF app Adobe Reader? And how does it compare with its direct competitor Google Chrome? Let’s take a closer look.

A More Powerful Edge

Edge received its new capabilities as part of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. As long as you’re using Windows build 1709 or later, you will be able to use the new features.

Before Microsoft added the new tools, Edge’s PDF capabilities were minimal. Yes, you could navigate through page numbers, zoom in and out, and print your files, but that was about the extent of it. Indeed, the only way you could search a document’s text was if your file was saved in the IRS format.

Thankfully, that’s all changed.

What’s New?

Microsoft’s recent updates aim to put the PDF capabilities of Edge on a par with Firefox. The PDF tools in Mozilla’s browser are widely considered to be the best outside of dedicated PDF apps. Perhaps more importantly, the changes attempt to make Edge a more full-featured PDF tool than Google Chrome.

In addition to the arrival of fillable fields, orientation tools, and sticky notes, you can also access a variety of viewing configurations, annotate PDFs with a digital pen, add digital signatures, use Windows Ink, and listen to a machine reading of your document.

We’ll look at each of the new features in turn and discuss how they compare to the equivalent tools on Chrome and Adobe Reader.

Fillable Text Fields

Support for fillable fields on PDFs is a significant time saver. You won’t need to download and print the document, fill it in manually, then scan it back into your machine.

Chrome and Adobe both support fillable PDFs and have done for some time. But in our opinion, Edge’s support for fillable fields goes above and beyond the Chrome offering for one simple reason: the ease with which you can save your file.

edge pdf viewer - fillable text fields

On Chrome, you can’t save a filled-out PDF form. Instead, you need to “Print” the document using a Print to PDF tool. Doesn’t sound so bad, but the frustration arises if you want to change one of your fields later. Once the document is “printed,” you can’t make any further changes; you’d need to start again.

Edge gives you a typical save dialogue, meaning you can reopen the document and make further changes in the future.

Annotating PDFs

The ability to annotate PDFs is an underrated feature. If you’re collaborating on documents, giving feedback on a piece of work, or merely brainstorming layout ideas, it’ll save you both time and paper.

Edge offers two basic annotation tools. You can use a highlighter in multiple colors to bring people’s attention to a specific part of a document, or you can add notes for other people to read.

edge pdf viewer - annotations

To start making notes on a PDF, highlight a part of the text. The annotation menu will pop up. In addition to the highlighter and the note tool, you’ll also see buttons for Copy and Cortana.

Edge is ahead of Chrome here; Google’s browser does not offer any annotation tools by default. Adobe Reader’s annotation tools are almost identical; just select some text, and you can highlight it, add a strikethrough line, and add notes.

Windows Ink

Edge is now fully integrated with Windows Ink. Neither Chrome nor Adobe Reader offers a similar feature.

Windows Ink allows you to annotate a PDF document The Best Apps to Sign, Annotate, and Edit PDFs on iPads The Best Apps to Sign, Annotate, and Edit PDFs on iPads If you find yourself dealing with a lot of PDF files, it's only natural you'll want something other than Apple's basic iBooks before long. Here are our favorite PDF tools for your iPad. Read More in freehand.

To start using Windows Ink on a PDF document in Edge, click on the pen icon in the upper right-hand corner of the window. It’s part of Edge’s toolbar rather than being on the pop-up PDF toolbar. You can use a freehand pen, a highlighter, and an eraser. There’s also an option for touch writing.

pdf viewer - windows ink

Furthermore, Windows Ink allows you to digitally sign documents without subscribing to a service like DocuSign. Even if you only use your mouse to create your signature, it’s legally binding under both the Transactions Act and E-Sign Act. Both acts came into force during the Clinton era.

Note: You will see the most benefit from Windows Ink if you have a touchscreen computer or use a dedicated drawing tablet. As the picture above attests, it’s not easy to draw accurately with a mouse!

Listening to a Document

Listening to a document is a fantastic way to pick up on typos and grammar errors you might have missed. And, of course, it’s a boon to anyone who struggles to read the on-screen text and needs accessibility tools to use their machine.

Once again, the addition of this feature puts Edge on a par with Adobe Reader and ahead of Chrome.

To listen to a reading of your PDF document in Edge, just click on the Read Aloud button on the toolbar in the upper right-hand corner of your screen. When the reading starts, you can use the on-screen controls to pause the narration and jump forwards and backward.

edge pdf viewer - read aloud

In Adobe Reader, go to View > Read Out Loud > Activate Read Out Loud, then View > Read Out Loud > Read This Page Only or Read to End of Document.

Chrome users have to rely on text to speech extensions Listen to Articles and Be Highly Productive With Text-To-Speech Software in Chrome Listen to Articles and Be Highly Productive With Text-To-Speech Software in Chrome Often the best ways to become more productive start by being lazy or limited in some way. You can't read that website right now? Just get a Chrome extension to read it to you. Read More .

Layout Options

Edge has finally introduced an expanded set of layout options.

There are two buttons on the PDF toolbar that you need to be aware of. The first is the Rotate button. Clicking it will rotate your document 90 degrees clockwise. Click the button four times to rotate through a full 360 degrees.

edge pdf viewer - layout options

Alongside the rotate button is the Layout button. Click on it to bring up a sub-menu. The sub-menu lets you view either one or two pages on your screen at a time and also provides a way to enable continuous scrolling.

Adobe Reader offers the same layout and rotation options and uses continuous scrolling by default. Chrome also uses continuous scrolling and has a rotate button, but there’s no way to see two pages on-screen at the same time.

Edge Moves Ahead of Chrome for PDFs

It’s impossible to deny that Edge now offers users a more full-featured PDF experience than Google Chrome. Indeed, it’s arguably the most powerful browser-based PDF tool you will find.

And for many casual users, it’s a viable alternative to Adobe Reader; all the commonly-needed PDF tools are present.

Power users, however, will still find that it comes up short. The extra features offered by dedicated PDF readers The Best Free PDF Tools for Offices Running Windows or Mac The Best Free PDF Tools for Offices Running Windows or Mac You can assemble a free suite of advanced PDF tools to edit, sign, merge, and split PDFs. We'll show you the best PDF apps for Windows and Mac. Read More combined with the occasional compatibility issues you’ll encounter when using a browser make it a non-contest.

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  1. ACB23
    March 29, 2018 at 4:07 pm

    You're describing only Edge features, what about an actual comparation? What about Acrobat and Chrome?

  2. boomer
    March 29, 2018 at 3:33 am

    This is the biggest load of tripe I have heard yet. Doesn't the author know that Apple is on the decline again? Chrome is a bust, at least for people that do real computing. CAD design, electronics analysis, embedded programming, PLC programming... you know, the REAL engineers and scientists. I estimate 20 years before we see things go thin client (similar as we know it today). Until then, keep dreaming.

  3. spyjoshx
    March 27, 2018 at 12:48 pm

    The answer: evince
    Haha

  4. Julian
    March 27, 2018 at 4:44 am

    Of course, this was a Microsoft-paid ad.

    • David
      March 27, 2018 at 1:24 pm

      Yup. And I was stupidly waiting for them to get to Chrome or Firefox, hoping they comment on the actual rendering engine and optimizations on lite and mobile devices. How dumb could I be??

  5. Royi
    March 27, 2018 at 4:05 am

    The best was Microsoft Reader (The Store App) until they, in a stupid move, not only discontinued it but also blocked it from working.