A PDF reader is any software that will open a PDF file, probably the most recognizable document format in the world. Your downloadable bank statements, the newsletters from school—they’re probably all in PDF format.
When it comes to opening a pdf file, the first application that comes to our mind is adobe reader but you will be surprised to know that Adobe Reader is neither the only nor the best document reader. The best PDF readers are free, versatile, and contain no ads.
The alternative PDF readers presented here run the gamut from minimal, lightweight applications built for nothing more than viewing PDFs to more full-featured applications that include annotations and highlighting. Some applications even include features you won’t find in Adobe Acrobat Reader, such as basic PDF-editing tools.
For Microsoft Windows, there are already tons of options if you want to download PDF viewer apps. But what are the ones you should go for? So, we’ve compiled a list of the 20 best PDF readers for Windows PCs. The 2022 list includes the likes of Adobe Acrobat Reader DC, SumatraPDF, Foxit Reader, etc. which are already a known name.
Table of Contents
Adobe’s PDF reader remains the de-facto standard. At 105 MB, sans optional offers, it’s definitely the heavyweight champion among the readers featured here.
It also used by far the most resources, up to 10 times more, while running the same set of documents as all other PDF readers. On the bright side, Adobe Reader maintains a pleasing interface and isn’t overloaded with features. You can comment, fill & sign, and convert to PDF or other formats (export).
If you ever run into issues opening a PDF file or filling a form using an alternative PDF tool, you won’t suffer too much when you have to fall back onto Adobe Reader. While you will find options to edit and combine PDF files listed under Tools, these are actually pro features that will set you back at least USD 15 per month.
At under 4 MB for the portable version, Cool PDF Reader is a free PDF reader for Windows that’s light on system resources. While it might not require much disk space, it’s not the best PDF reader available.
There isn’t a search function, and scrolling isn’t the smoothest. However, it still works as a free PDF reader if you don’t like the others on this list. You can install Cool PDF Reader to your computer or use the Standalone Package to use it without installing anything.
- Can be used to convert to other formats (TXT, JPG, etc.).
- Command icons describe their function on mouse hover.
- Very limited features compared to the alternatives.
- The help file isn’t very helpful.
PDFelement by Wondershare is another wonderful PDF reader. It offers the whole PDF package that is often used to substitute for the expensive Adobe Acrobat Pro DC. For individual use, there are two PDFelement plans – Standard and Pro.
The former is supremely limited and a tad cheaper than the full-fledged Pro plan. Nonetheless, both plans are comparatively affordable than Adobe.
The PDFelement Pro package sums up to $10 per month and $79 for a year. You can purchase a license for the individual PDFelement plans. Both plans allow you to create, edit text and images, annotate and comment on PDF files.
You can also convert PDFs, export PDF files to Word, PowerPoint, or Excel, fill PDF forms, and sign them as well. The Pro plan has a lot more to add. OCR, Bates Numbering, digital signatures, sensitive info redaction, extracting data from PDF forms, and creating and editing fields in PDF forms are just some of the features.
Other facilities include converting scanned PDFs into editable PDFs, archiving PDF/A formats, and compressing and optimizing PDFs.
4. Foxit reader
If you’re looking for a robust and free PDF reader for Windows 10 or older versions of Microsoft Windows, your search might end with Foxit Reader. Just like Adobe Acrobat Reader DC, Foxit is a popular name in the world of document readers.
However, compared to Adobe’s PDF reading solution, Foxit is comparatively lighter. A while ago, Foxit also introduced its new online ConnectedPDF Document Management System.
Its Text Viewer mode removes complex formatting and displays a plain Notepad-like view of the file. The collaboration features further improve your PDF experience by letting you work online and share it with others.
It’s an advanced software for reading PDF files, and it comes will all the necessary features.
Platforms: Windows 10, 8.1, 7, XP
SoftXpansion has developed Perfect PDF Ultimate, which is described by the firm as an ‘all-in-one’ application for processing PDF files.
Available to buy direct from the Microsoft Store, this user-friendly software is perfect for viewing, editing and creating PDF documents. Features include the ability to edit page content, generate interactive forms, comment on existing documents, as well as being able to convert, combine and split files.
You can also add e-signatures and encryption to important business files.
Our list of Best PDF Reader Software (2022) is incomplete without mentioning PDF-XChange Editor.
Recently, the tool has been completely revamped and simplified to enhance the user’s experience while handling multiple PDF documents. It is lightweight and provides the fastest experience when it comes to reading, annotating, extracting photos/text, or printing documents.
The only downside is that it doesn’t have the basic editing feature in the free version.
- Feature-rich, yet well-organized and user-friendly interface.
- Allows you to edit PDF files by attaching notes. Supports adding comments before sharing files.
- Bookmark and edit the images.
- Best portable PDF Reader for Windows.
- Watermark on the output.
SumatraPDF is an easy-to-use free PDF reader for Windows.
While it is easy and simple to work with, it’s also open for heavy customization if you so choose. Different types of viewing modes are available, like Single Page, Facing, Book View, and Presentation.
The latter view is great for distraction-free reading. There are tons of keyboard shortcuts you can use that make it easier to move around a PDF file, which you can refer to in the online documentation.
You can download SumatraPDF in portable form or install it like a regular program.
- Open source and lightweight.
- Available in dozens of languages.
- No anti-aliasing, so some fonts look wonky.
- Primary menu options are tucked inside another menu.
8. Google Drive
If you want to access, read and take notes on PDFs instantly, Google Drive is the Best Free PDF Reader available for you. You can open, view, convert, and share any of your PDF Files across the cloud on the platform.
It’s the best & free PDF Reader for anyone who has a Google account (which probably we all have) and just needs to read, edit, print PDF files quickly online. Additionally, you can rely on this online PDF Reader to convert your files into an editable doc format with just a few clicks.
- Straightforward & clean interface.
- Store videos, PDFs, presentations, and photos.
- Supports SSL encryption.
- Allows you to access your docs from anywhere.
- While using the drive, we need to be connected to the Internet.
9. Power PDF
Another notable PDF management software platform for individuals and enterprises is Power PDF, an easy-to-use piece of software that lets you create, edit, annotate and share documents quickly.
It’s used by a number of large organizations and governments. There are several versions of the software, all of which offer different features. The Standard edition lets you create, convert, combine and edit documents, fill in forms and share PDF files. It also lets you turn documents like invoices and receipts into PDFs through a scanning and OCR feature.
Meanwhile, the Power PDF Advanced package is targeted at business users. While offering all the same features of the Standard edition, it comes with collaboration, security and redaction abilities.
You can access documents anywhere and at any time through the cloud, too. Enterprises can get a quote for volume licensing of the software as well. By going down this route, firms get one deployment package with a single license.
10. Xodo PDF Reader
Xodo is another great PDF reader and annotator. The platform has tons of useful tools and features – some of which may require expert knowledge and applicability as opposed to a commoner’s expertise. This free reader is supported on Windows, Android (phone and tablet), iOS, and iPad.
It is available as a Chrome extension and a web app on browsers like Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Internet Explorer. Xodo simplifies the hybrid working scene with its collaborative features.
You can now convert a PDF into a full-blown virtual workspace with Xodo’s real-time collab tools to edit, write, highlight, annotate, and comment on PDFs. Besides, Xodo also has a Chat feature that further facilitates the virtual work scenario.
Apart from teamwork, Xodo also has tons of services for individual users.
The platform allows you to sync PDFs from Dropbox and Google Drive, providing instant access to other existing documents. You can also finger-sign or use a stylus to sign docs, letters, or any other material. Xodo offers one of the best PDF annotating experiences.
Another free PDF reader for Windows is Nuance PDF Reader.
A really valuable search function is included, where the words you search for show up with a bit of context for easier understanding as to where the search terms are at in the text.
You can also highlight text, which is great if you’re using a PDF for study notes or a reference document.
- Adding videos and images to documents is a breeze.
- Dictation features make it ideal for the visually impaired.
- You can open only one PDF at a time.
12. Soda PDF
Lulu Software has developed a range of easy-to-use PDF management applications for both individual users and businesses.
Soda PDF is the firm’s flagship offering, giving access to a full suite of cloud-based PDF tools through either home or premium editions. With the software, you’re able to review, annotate, send and track documents from a single comprehensive user interface. You can also connect Soda PDF to Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, Evernote and Box accounts, which makes it easier to download and distribute documents.
Another great thing about the application is that it comes with a batch processing feature, allowing you to create and convert multiple PDF files at the same time. There’s an e-sign function as well, which you can use to prepare and send PDF-based contracts to clients or partners.
What’s more, you can track and get reminders on all the documents you distribute through the app. Plus, if you use a range of devices within your company, the software works not just for Windows, but also Mac, Linux, iOS and Android devices.
13. Nitro PDF Reader
Nitro’s interface looks like it was lifted straight from Microsoft Office.
And like the market-leading office suite, this PDF reader is rich in features. It’s a powerful free PDF Reader that brings a perfect blend of useful features to read, annotate and convert files into a variety of formats without any hiccups.
Unlike many other free PDF readers, with Nitro, you can fill in forms and sign your documents using your digital ID. You can also add notes, extract images, or convert a PDF to a plain text document.
Nitro Reader has a clear interface with optional touchscreen mode, giving it an extra edge over other fastest PDF Reader Software for Windows 10, 8, 7. Using the program, you can add comments to documents before sharing them with others.
While Nitro PDF Reader remains free, you can’t download the free version.
You’re forced to download a 14-day trial of Nitro Pro, which will turn in the free reader if you don’t activate a pro license. When the trial expires, you’ll lose the ability to convert PDFs into Office formats, use OCR, edit pages (including delete, crop, replace, and reorder), combine multiple files, and redact sensitive information. Keeping those features will set you back $214.
14. Slim PDF
Just like SumatraPDF, Slim PDF is another lightweight to consider if you’re searching for the best PDF reader for Windows 10 OS.
Slim PDF calls itself the world’s smallest desktop PDF reader. It’s an easy to use PDF reader for PC users and has recently been updated with a redesigned UI and support for the dark mode the many would fancy.
Just as one would expect, this free PDF software is simply focused on reading, viewing, and printing your PDF files. Slim PDF loads very quickly and lets you complete your job in less time.
Please note that this Windows PDF reader doesn’t support many popular keyboard shortcuts, so don’t get disappointed. Also, it doesn’t let you highlight your text word by word. Anyway, it’s a portable PDF reader software that just works.
15. Sorax Reader
Sorax is available for Windows as a free PDF reader.
You’ll find all the basic features of a PDF opener, like the ability to search through text, copy text out of the document, zoom, and change the viewing mode. This program also lets you send the currently opened PDF to someone over email with the Email toolbar button.
- Fast and lightweight.
- Free from excess clutter.
- Limited zooming options.
- Doesn’t come with help files.
Another free PDF manager you can choose for your Windows is Expert PDF Reader.
In terms of appearance, it will give you the feels of old MS Office Apps. And talking about the features, using this simple PDF Reader you can handle almost every kind of document.
It further gives you the options for annotating, adding rubber stamps, etc. You can easily bookmark your favorite files and utilize the tabs functionality to view multiple PDF documents consecutively.
- Faster than other free options.
- Intuitive interface.
- Editing features are rather limited.
- Tries to install other software during set up.
MuPDF is a super lightweight, free PDF reader for Windows and Android.
Immediately after opening the mupdf.exe file, you’ll be prompted to choose a PDF before you even see the program interface. Once you have, there are literally no options to be seen, but instead the full program window is dedicated to showing the PDF.
Click the top left program icon on MuPDF’s title window, then select About MuPDF to see all the supported shortcut keys you can use to flip through pages, zoom in, and search for text. The other way to use this program is with an initial menu. Open mupdf-gl.exe from the same download to use that version.
- Supports XPS and CBZ files as well.
- Easy to use.
- Interface is a little too bare bones.
- Zoom feature is less than perfect.
18. Web Browsers : [Google Chrome, Firefox, or Microsoft Edge]
Whether you’re using Google Chrome, Firefox, or Microsoft Edge, your browser already has a built-in PDF reader.
It won’t have all the features, but using your browser as a PDF reader is a quick way to read PDF documents, and it will save you lots of system resources. The small footprint and easy access come at a cost. In-browser PDF readers aren’t always compatible with all types of PDF.
Just in case you want to open locally stored PDF files using your web browser, you need to simply drag it to an open browser window. You can also right-click on the file to choose your browser using the “Choose Another App” option. If you don’t open or view PDF files regularly, your web browser is the best PDF viewer you can get.
Furthermore, browser-based PDF readers lack advanced features, like form filling, document signing, or annotation. It’s a compromise, but for the average user, it’s a small one.
19. STDU Viewer
The Scientific and Technical Document Utility (STUD) Viewer is one of the best tools for all your technical documentation, books, and other readings. STDU Viewer supports TXT, Comic Book Archive, PDF, DjVu, MOBI, EPub, several image files, and many more document formats. STDU Viewer’s strong suit is managing multiple different documents at once.
Not only can you open documents in tabs and expand a navigation panel, but you can also create and navigate bookmarks and highlights, view thumbnails of your open documents, and split windows to compare different pages within the same document.
Another neat feature is that you can invert colors, such as from black on white to white on black, which can reduce eyestrain. While STDU Viewer doesn’t have all the features of PDF-XChange Editor or Foxit Reader, it is a great alternative for those who have to read or refer to a lot of digital documents. And its resource use is extremely efficient.
The second-last entry on our top PDF readers list for 2022 is Javelin PDF Reader.
It comes with all the basic PDF reading functionality that one needs to complete daily chores. The overall interface is super clean, and you can choose from most of the common reading modes like full screen, continuous, side by side, etc. With just 2MB download size, Javelin is pretty lightweight when compared to the likes of Adobe Acrobat Reader DC and Foxit Reader.
This free PDF viewer for PC can open DRM-protected files with any issues and provides markup and annotation.
That’s pretty much it! So, there are Best Free PDF Reader Software For Windows.
If you have any other favorite Best Free PDF Reader Software For Windows then don’t forget to share them with us in the comment below. Also, if you liked this article, Share on your favorite Social media platform.