PDF-XChange Viewer – Give This Free PDF Reader A Second Look

Saikat Basu 09-03-2010

PDF-XChange Viewer - Give This Free PDF Reader A Second Look PDFViewerThumbLast month we took a look at the Nuance PDF Reader Nuance - Free PDF Reader To View & Convert Your PDF Docs Read More , a desktop app which can convert your PDF document into its Word, Excel or Rich Text equivalent. A few readers liked the conversion bit among its features. A few of them also put in a good word for another free PDF reader. No, it’s not Adobe Reader or Foxit, but a relatively played down one called PDF-XChange Viewer.


On second thoughts, the last sentence would be misplaced. Taking CNET’s download figures for document management software, I see that it’s behind Foxit and Adobe Reader. But the download numbers are really noteworthy.

So why do a review of the PDF-XChange Viewer so late in the day? In response, I say”¦why not? The fact that a number of our readers have put in their nod for this free PDF reader is reason enough to take a second, more prying look.

We have featured it before, albeit briefly, in a post on 4 Really Light Alternatives to Adobe Reader 4 Very Light Alternatives to Adobe Reader Are you still using Adobe Reader for PDF documents? It's time to move on to an alternative PDF reader that is lightweight, launches quickly, and yet keeps your documents save. Read More and in 6 Ways To Convert A PDF To A JPG Image 6 Ways to Convert a PDF to a JPG Image Read More . But it’s time to give PDF-XChange Viewer some limelight of all its own.

The free version of PDF-XChange Viewer, which we are interested in, is a slim 18MB download. That makes it heavier than Foxit but lighter than Adobe Reader. You can get it in various installation packages including a portable version.

The first thing you will notice with the first run is that the free PDF reader loads very fast. So let me load one of our own MakeUseOf eBooks and play around with the features that are there.


free PDF reader

The first pleasing thing is it has a slick tabbed interface, letting me view more than one PDF file within one instance of the program. While choosing the components during the installation process, you will notice that PDF-XChange Viewer’s Help file has a requirement of nearly 6MB. This translates into a comprehensive and detailed Help file for the guy who likes to know his software in and out.

free PDF reader

The toolbar seems to be a bit cluttered. But that’s because, by default, the software loads all the toolbars. You can set it up to your liking with a right click on the toolbar area and choosing Customize. A glance at the toolbar buttons gives you an idea of the features to expect. Features that are part of the paid Pro version are marked as such.


The Key Features That Make Up PDF-XChange Viewer

PDF-XChange Viewer makes navigation smooth with its Pan and Loupe tools located in the Zoom Toolbar. Zooming in and out with the slider is one way. Both the Loupe tool and the Pan and Zoom tool open up navigation windows and help to focus on specific areas of a PDF document.

free PDF reader

PDF-XChange Viewer not only has a document search box but also a web search toolbar that’s set first on (more engines can be added from Preferences). Click the dropdown to choose from the other search providers. For searching within the document, you can also comb through added comments and bookmarks.

download free pdf reader


PDF-XChange Viewer can be used as a “˜limited’ document converter. PDF pages can be exported to a variety of image formats. The Export to Image dialog box is also rich in features as in the screenshot.

download free pdf reader

You can easily email a PDF document from within the reader itself. The title of the document is entered in the Subject line of the email.

PDF-XChange Viewer shows the capability to handle interactive forms (AcroForms). The Form Data menu choice allows you to enter and retrieve data from Adobe Acrobat Forms. PDF-XChange Viewer has a few View options, for instance, View – Other Panes – Fields opens up a side pane with all the form fields. Along with form field highlighting, it makes the fields more obvious.


download free pdf reader

Commenting & Markup Tools

Every PDF reader has its uniqueness. With PDF-XChange Viewer it could be its rich subset of commenting and markup tools. Here’s a snapshot of the sub-menu accessed from Tools – Comment and Markup.

pdf reader

PDF-XChange Viewer gives you all the aids for elaborate markups with a variety of shape and line tools. And if you want to bump up the detail, there’s the free form Pencil tool for some freehand rough sketches.

pdf reader

You can add comments and annotations to any PDF file. The Sticky Note tool adds a Sticky Note wherever you need one for commenting. Others can also add replies below the main text by clicking on Add Reply. The appearance of the text and the container box can be changed anytime.

pdf reader

The Callout Tool allows you to add a text box with an arrow pointing to a selected location on the page.

PDF-XChange Viewer - Give This Free PDF Reader A Second Look PDFViewer10

For some straight-cut text annotations, you can use the Typewriter or the Textbox Tool.

PDF-XChange Viewer - Give This Free PDF Reader A Second Look PDFViewer11

The Stamps sub-menu is for marking documents with your choice of stamps. You can add your own stamps, for instance, your scanned signature via the Stamps Palette.

PDF-XChange Viewer - Give This Free PDF Reader A Second Look PDFViewer12

For more of navigation between internal and external locations, the Link Tools are just two steps down. You can link to any internal point in the PDF document or to an external website.

PDF-XChange Viewer - Give This Free PDF Reader A Second Look PDFViewer13

More Below The Surface

The above lines highlight the more conspicuous features of PDF-XChange Viewer. Scratch the surface and there’s more. Check out the Preferences and for customization options. For the paranoid, there’s 40/128 bit RC4 and 128/256 bit AES Encryption and Password security support.

Go into the Preferences and you can set a few memory usage and performance tuning options.

Along with the extremely detailed Help file, you get an informative product page on their website with screenshots and how-to videos to guide you through the product.

Downsides? Not many. Perhaps, the ability to add your own bookmarks in the free version would have helped. Hey, you can’t win every round with a product that’s absolutely free. PDF-XChange Viewer does win most of them.

Take it around for a few rounds and compare it with your experience in either Foxit or the Adobe Reader.

PDF-XChange Viewer (ver.2.0) is supported on Windows 2000 and all later versions.

Related topics: Ebooks, PDF, PDF Editor.

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  1. Zee
    February 8, 2016 at 5:01 pm

    Can I use PDF-Xchange to convert PDF file in to Excel file. It will be great help. Please advise. Thanks!

  2. Carl
    January 28, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    I have been using this program for years as well and it is indispensable - especially for commenting. However, I have recently begun studying law and cannot seem to find the basic function of looking up an unfamiliar word in the text. Could you provide insight?

    • Saikat
      January 28, 2015 at 2:37 pm


      If I remember correctly, the PDF X-change viewer/editor are compatible with the free open source dictionaries available with those Open Office uses and these can be downloaded here:

  3. CEW
    April 16, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    I have been using this app for about two years. One of the features which stand out, is the ability to set the dpi at which images are copied.

  4. bacon
    March 22, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    I downloaded it and using it for couple of days. It's pretty good. I ran into one problem though. Any help would be appreciated. Some websites have download-able files that would open only with Adobe PDF and they won't recognize this PDF viewer which results in not being able to open those files. Is there anyway that I can open those files using PDF-XChange Viewer? Thanks!

    • Saikat
      March 22, 2010 at 9:38 pm

      That's a bit strange because this one has PDF Specification Support (assumes latest is Acrobat 8 - PDF spec 1.7). If it's not a problem, can you send me the website link where the error is popping up. I can try it on my end.

    • CEW
      April 16, 2010 at 4:15 pm

      Sometimes all you have to do is associate the file extension to PDF-XChange. My banks pdf have the odd extension of .do (i think). All I had to do was manually associate this extension with PDF-XChange and no more problems

  5. edpsychgradstudent
    March 14, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    I find the markup tools very useful for all the pdf research articles I download and read.

  6. sajniho
    March 10, 2010 at 6:22 am

    This is the best one out there, been using it for years.
    I was very much surprised that why it was covered on makeuseof in a stand alone post, but better late than never!

  7. Asad Hamza
    March 10, 2010 at 12:23 am

    My default PDF viewer after reading // a few month back.

  8. who else
    March 9, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    A second look? I've been giving using this for a long time and find it extremely useful. There is a small memory consumption price you pay, but that's about the only drawback I find in this.
    No idea why people aren't using this already.

  9. scooter
    March 9, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    I've been using PDF XChange Viewer for a couple years. It's a terrific program that does pretty much everything I need. I work with PDF documents everyday, and I've set up a custom "stamp" with my signature that works great. If you haven't tried this PDF software give it a spin!

  10. nicbot
    March 9, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    Yep, been using it for quite some time now. Replaced Adobe and then Foxit for me. It's speedy and just browser too.

  11. Bryan R. Adams
    March 9, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    I downloaded this awhile ago and forgot about it. Two weeks ago, I need to be able to merge 2 different pdf documents and reorder the pages, and I was able to do it with this program. But I had to download like 10 other apps first that couldn't do it. I wasted all that time and I had the perfect program right under my nose.

    • Jay
      March 10, 2010 at 10:43 pm

      Please note that merge & reorder features only available in PRO version.

  12. Stitch
    March 9, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    I've been using this pdf reader for more than a year and i think it rules !