11 of the Best Free PDF Readers

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated June 21, 2021 | Published January 5, 2021

Updated June 21, 2021

Published January 5, 2021

PDF readers are important tools both in the professional world and people's individual lives. A PDF is a special type of file created specifically for document exchange, and you use PDF viewers as tools to open and edit them. There are many great, free PDF viewers available. In this article, we list some of the best free PDF readers currently available.

What to look for in the best free PDF readers

The best PDF reader depends primarily on the user's needs. Some things you should consider include:

  • The size of the program

  • Available operating systems

  • Security functions

  • Editing functions

  • Sharing ability

  • Viewing options

  • Types of files it can open

  • File conversions available

  • Ability to take notes

  • Other advanced features needed

Related: How to Create a Resume PDF and When to Use It

Free PDF readers

Each PDF reader has its own strengths, depending on what the user is looking for. Here are some of the best free PDF readers to consider:

1. Cool PDF Reader

This PDF reader is easy to use and fast. Users can quickly open up their documents and begin reading or editing. It also comes with standard features such as file conversion and the ability to zoom in and out, making this a great all-around option.

2. Google Drive

Google Drive is a free online cloud storage system. With it, users with a Google account can upload and share files across the cloud. However, Google Drive also comes with a good PDF viewer. On the Google Drive platform, users can open, convert and share any of their PDF files. Google Drive's PDF viewer is a great option for anyone who has a Google account and mostly just needs to view their PDFs quickly online.

Related: What is Cloud Computing?

3. Javelin PDF Reader

For those users that want a straightforward PDF reader, they can use Javelin. The Javelin PDF reader lacks many advanced features, streamlining its use. With this software, users can open and annotate PDFs. It's a great option for those people who just want to quickly open PDFs and take notes on them.

4. MuPDF

MuPDF is another small PDF reader. MuPDF allows users to view and edit PDF files, fill out forms and leave annotations on the document. Another feature of MuPDF is that it allows the user to convert their PDF file into other formats, such as HTML or SVG. For those people looking for a small and fast PDF reader and editor, this is a strong contender.

5. PDF-XChange Editor

For those users looking to add audio to their PDFs, PDF-XChange Editor could be the solution. Besides the having ability to add recordings and other audio, users can view and edit the PDF files, along with adding in a signature. The best feature of PDF-XChange, though, might be its Optical Character Recognition Tool. With this tool, users can scan in a printed document and PDF-XChange converts it into a searchable text document.

6. PDF Reader Pro Free

PDF Reader Pro Free is one of the most popular PDF tools on Apple devices. With this tool, users can annotate their documents with either text or images, insert signatures and connect to the cloud, among many other things. This is a great tool for any Apple device user, but especially professionals who use PDFs frequently.

Related: Documentation in the Workplace

7. Skim

Skim is another lightweight PDF viewer that comes with many basic functions. Users can highlight text, take pictures and add notes with ease. Skim was primarily developed for academics but has since expanded its functionality. Still, this tool remains great for academics, as it can connect with third-party apps such as Bid Desk.

8. Slim PDF Reader

When installed, Slim PDF Reader takes up about 15 MB worth of space on your computer. However, it still comes with great features like editing, sharing and searching PDF files. Also, Slim PDF Reader is available for every operating system, be it Windows, Mac or Linux.

9. STDU Viewer

STDU Viewer is more than just a PDF viewer. This program can also open other file types, such as WWF, JBIG2 and CBR. Beyond that, STDU can operate in multiple languages, opening it up to a wider audience. Anyone looking for a PDF viewer that can also convert other file types, especially less-common file types, should consider the STDU Viewer.

10. Sumatra PDF

Users who want the ability to view their PDF in different modes should consider Sumatra PDF. Sumatra PDF allows users to view their PDFs as a single page, in book format or as a presentation. There are also shortcuts included that make navigating the PDF easier and faster. Sumatra PDF might not have all the features of some other PDFs viewers, but it is still a reliable tool that provides a good viewing experience.

11. Web browsers

Many people already have a PDF viewer on their computer, even if they don't know it. Major web browsers, such as Chrome, Safari and Firefox, all come with built-in PDF readers. To open a PDF on your computer with your web browser, users can simply drag the file into their browser. While the features related to PDFs vary from browser to browser, most allow you the basics, such as downloading the file and printing it.

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