Sunday, November 25, 2007

Free PDF Readers (and then some)

What would a post about PDF printer drivers be without mentioning free PDF readers.

Having a PDF reader allows you to view a multitude of documents available on the web or from friends.

The Gorilla in the Market

Adobe Reader - (freeware) - I suppose I would be remiss by leaving out what is arguably the #1 most popular free PDF reader there is.  And it is from the folks whose name is synonymous with PDF's; Adobe.  While this application has a lot going for it, compatibility, freeness, and (with version 8) a much faster launch-speed, the 22.3 MB download package is one big cinder-block of an application to download and install, just to open and view a PDF file.

So, consider skipping that one and turning to one of several smaller, lighter, faster PDF readers.  Many have additional options that can make them very feature-rich.

Small, Fast and Nimble PFD Lemurs

Foxit Reader - (freeware) - This application remains my favorite PDF reader. I have it installed on all my home pc systems (and keep it handy at work).  It is just 2.1 MB in size, launches very fast, allows for annotations and markups on PDF's, captures and coverts text in a PDF for copy into other documents, and doesn't hit the Net unless you set it to search for updates.  And yes, it will Auto-update and install the updates seamlessly without the user having to manually download and unzip a new file.  Very Portable on USB sticks.

eXPert PDF Reader - (freeware) - Another popular PDF micro-reader. View, print, edit, and annotate your PDFs.  It has a very generous usage license which allows for not just home use, but also posting on corporate networks, distribution on CD's or other media, and pre-loading on OEM pc builds. Just under 8MB in download size, it is still much smaller and faster than Adobe Reader.

Cool PDF Reader - (freeware) - I like this one very much.  Not only is it just over 650 KB in size, it allows you to covert PDF files into BMP, JPG, GIF, PNG, WMF, EMS, and EPS formats.  Extract a PDF to text. Oh.  It also comes in three tasty flavors: Standalone (download, unzip and run the exe), Unified Installer (installer and exe file in one file), and a Standard Installer (wizard-based installation).  Very nice indeed!  Also known to be portable on USB sticks.

PDF-XChange Viewer - (freeware) - Like most, it also supports PDF markups, commenting, annotation and direct PDF in-document typing (regardless if Adobe forms were set up on the original). Exportation into several alternative file formats, text extraction, a full Javascript engine, and JPEG2000 compression support.  Not quite as small, the zip file is over 13MB (though the company reminds us that 5.5MB of that is for helpfiles and documentation).

Sumatra PDF viewer by Krzysztof Kowalczyk - (freeware) - If you just need a very tiny, and very simple PDF reader, this is what you have been searching for.  It doesn't do most of what all the other PDF readers do. It does open and allow PDF's to be viewed and printed.  Zoom, rotate, page forward, page backward, print.  That's about it. The two different installation files (take your pick zip or exe) are between 820 MB and 870 MB in size.

Additional Resources

Here are some extra tips for working with PDF files/applications:

Firefox and fixing PDF madness, + Bonus Firefox Links - (tips) - Grand Stream Dreams post - How To on setting one of these alternative PDF readers as the default PDF reader for Firefox.

PDFTK Builder and other PDF Resources - (freeware) - PDFTK Builder is a free graphical interface to the Windows version of PDFTK (included in the download, for more details see next item below) making it much easier to use.  Pretty nice utility for "advanced" work with PDF files: Collation (rearrange, delete, duplicate) pages in a PDF document, splitting of PDF's into several pages/files, backgrounding, rotation, and password protection.

pdftk - the pdf toolkit - (freeware) - "If PDF is electronic paper, then pdftk is an electronic staple-remover, hole-punch, binder, secret-decoder-ring, and X-Ray-glasses. Pdftk is a simple tool for doing everyday things with PDF documents. Keep one in the top drawer of your desktop and use it to:
    * Merge PDF Documents
    * Split PDF Pages into a New Document
    * Rotate PDF Pages or Documents
    * Decrypt Input as Necessary (Password Required)
    * Encrypt Output as Desired
    * Fill PDF Forms with FDF Data or XFDF Data and/or Flatten Forms
    * Apply a Background Watermark or a Foreground Stamp
    * Report on PDF Metrics such as Metadata, Bookmarks, and Page Labels
    * Update PDF Metadata
    * Attach Files to PDF Pages or the PDF Document
    * Unpack PDF Attachments
    * Burst a PDF Document into Single Pages
    * Uncompress and Re-Compress Page Streams
    * Repair Corrupted PDF (Where Possible)"
Runs on Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, FreeBSD and Solaris.

Adobe Reader SpeedUp - by Joseph Cox - (freeware) - "Adobe Reader SpeedUp is a simple application that was created to help make the loading time of Adobe's Acrobat/Reader software bearable for everyday use. AR SpeedUp only needs to be used once (a process taking only a few seconds) and then your 'Reader will be transformed forever. There are also some tweaking options available. "w00t!", as the young kids say." - Gotta love that!

DWTIPS » How to speed up PDF loading with Adobe Acrobat - (tip) - Make Adobe Reader a bit faster by following this tip to remove unneeded plugins.  Load times are increased quite nicely.

Tweaks: Speed up Adobe Reader 8 - (tip) - This post from Lifehacker recommends just a particular plugin to remove instead of the whole bag of cats Adobe Reader ships with.

Hope you find this useful!


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