15 of the Best Free PDF Reader Options for 2023

Updated February 3, 2023

Portable Document Format (PDF) is a special type of file that allows people to share and view documents. A PDF reader is a tool that allows users to open and edit PDFs, and it can be useful for a variety of professional and personal purposes. There are several free, versatile PDF readers available, and learning more about them can help you choose the right one for your needs.

In this article, we list 15 free PDF readers that offer a range of useful features and tools.

What is a PDF reader?

A PDF reader is a software program that allows you to open, view and sometimes edit PDFs. You may be able to fill in form fields and sign your name on a designated line. This type of reader can be useful if your work often involves reading and managing PDFs. Some readers also allow you to resize text and reformat paragraphs to make the contents of a PDF more readable. When choosing a PDF reader, you might consider the following: 

  • The size of the program

  • The program's available operating systems

  • Its security capabilities 

  • Its editing functions

  • Its sharing ability

  • Its viewing options

  • The types of files it can open

  • The available file conversions it offers

  • Its ability to take notes

  • Other advanced features you need or want

Related: What Is a PDF? A Definitive Guide (With Benefits)

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What's the best free PDF reader?

Each PDF reader has its own advantages, depending on your immediate needs and budgetary constraints. There are a variety of free readers you can use to view PDF documents, and each has its own set of capabilities. Here are some of the best free PDF readers to consider:

1. Cool PDF Reader

This PDF reader is a small, downloadable software that allows you to view, print and extract PDF files. It also has standard features such as file conversion and a tool allowing you to zoom in and out of the PDF. The reader supports all versions of a PDF file and allows you to convert it into a wide range of file types, including TXT, BMP, JPG, GIF, PNG, WMF, EMF, EPS and TIFF.

Related: How To Make a Word File Into a PDF (Different Methods and Tips)

2. Javelin PDF Reader

Javelin PDF is a reader that allows you to view standard and encrypted PDF files. This reader can be useful if you want to view a PDF or take notes on it, but you don't require many advanced features. It can support internal and external hyperlinks, standard annotation, navigation trees and a variety of page display formats. 

Related: How To Type on a PDF (With 5 Different Methods)

3. MuPDF

MuPDF is another small PDF reader that also has XPS, and e-book viewing capabilities. It allows users to view and edit PDF files, fill out PDF forms and annotate PDF documents. The reader also has features that allow users to convert their PDF files into other formats, such as HTML or SVG. MuPDF can be useful if you need a fast PDF reader that also has basic editing capabilities. 

Related: 21 Different Types of Files and How to Use Them

4. PDF-XChange Editor

If you want to add audio to your PDFs, the PDF-XChange Editor may be a useful option. This PDF reader and editor allows users to view and edit PDF files and add recordings and other audio to them. Users can also add their signatures to the document. Through the Optical Character Recognition Tool, users can scan a printed document and convert it into a searchable text document.

Related: How To Reduce a PDF File Size (With 4 File Compression Methods)

5. PDF Reader Pro Free

PDF Reader Pro Free is the free version of the original software, and it allows you to view PDFs. It also has a tool allowing users to annotate their documents with either text or images, insert signatures and upload their documents to the cloud. PDF Reader Pro can be useful if you use a variety of wireless devices to open your PDFs. 

6. Skim

Skim is another lightweight PDF reader that offers several basic functions, depending on user needs. Users can highlight text and add both pictures and notes to remember certain sections. The software can be especially useful for academics, and it can also integrate with a number of third-party applications for easier document sharing. 

7. Slim PDF Reader

Slim PDF Reader is a larger software that allows you to open and view PDFs and fill out PDF forms. It also has a variety of useful features that allow you to edit, share and search for PDF files. It can be especially useful if you want a reader that works on all operating systems. 

Related: How To Merge PDF Files on Mac and Windows Computers

8. STDU Viewer

STDU Viewer is a compact PDF reader that allows you to assess a wide range of PDF formats. The program can also open a variety of other file types, such as WWF, JBIG2 and CBR. It can also operate in multiple languages, making it a useful option for international audiences. This software might be beneficial if you want to convert less common file types. 

9. Sumatra PDF

Users who want the ability to view their PDF in different modes may want to consider Sumatra PDF. This open-source reader allows users to view their PDFs as a single page, as a presentation or as a book. It also offers several shortcuts that make navigating different PDF pages easier. Sumatra PDF also has limited features, making it a useful option if you only want to view a PDF rather than make changes.  

Related: How To Split Pages in a PDF (4 Methods, Tips and FAQs)

10. Adobe Acrobat 

Adobe Acrobat allows you to access a variety of free tools for viewing, filling out and signing PDF files. Users can also collaborate and share files and convert them into a variety of formats. The software also has a tool for commenting, which can be useful when collaborating within a document. If you want a free PDF reader with a myriad of free features and online sharing capabilities, Adobe Acrobat may be a useful option. 

Related: How To Add a Watermark to a PDF in Acrobat and Word

11. Foxit Reader

Foxit Reader allows you to view, share, edit and save PDFs to the cloud. It also allows you to upload scanned documents and convert other file formats into PDF documents. Foxit Reader can be especially useful if you want software that can allow you to combine multiple PDFs into a single file. It can also be beneficial for users who desire PDF software with multiple security options. 

Related: How To Combine PDF Files

12. Nitro Reader

Nitro Reader is a PDF reader that has several advanced features which enable users to create, review, save and share different PDF files. To create new PDFs, users can copy their documents to the reader. They can then edit their PDF draft with different custom colors, font embedding and format styles. This reader can be useful if you want to make your PDFs more visually appealing.

Related: How To Save One Page of a PDF File (With 5 Methods)

13. Preview

Preview is a pre-installed PDF reader that's available on some operating systems. It allows users to view and annotate documents, combine different PDF documents together, complete and sign forms and add images. It also allows users to export password-protected PDFs, which can be beneficial for individuals who need a certain level of security. 

Related: How To Remove a PDF Password (Multiple Methods Plus Tips)

14. Soda PDF

Soda PDF allows you to view visual documents like magazines, newspaper articles and digital catalogs. It also has a feature that makes it easier to create and edit digitally enhanced PDF files. Through the software's online PDF platform, you can convert documents into PDF format, convert PDF files into other formats and insert different elements into your files, such as watermarks and numbering.

15. Web browsers

If you want a free PDF reader that doesn't require a download, you may want to determine what's already on your computer. Several large web browsers offer built-in PDF readers, including  Chrome, Safari and Firefox. To open a PDF on your computer with your web browser, simply drag the file into the desired browser after opening it. While the available features may vary depending on the browser, many offer basic tools that enable you to download, read and print PDF files. 

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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