Free Alternatives To Adobe Reader For PDF Files

Our favorite free alternative to Adobe Reader is PDF-XChange Viewer – here’s why. Adobe Reader (formerly Acrobat Reader) allows you to view and print PDF files – PDF (Portable Document Format) is a common open format for document exchange.

It offers a fixed layout document typically used for things like user manuals, reports, property details on realtor’s websites and online invoices. Our recent article here advised you to update Reader to the latest version because high security risks in older versions made it susceptible to virus infection.

Antivirus company Kaspersky has now released a report detailing the top 10 vulnerabilities found on computers in Q1 2011 and Adobe Reader was the number 1 risk (and also the number 10 risk). Adobe’s other software was listed as the 2nd and 3rd risks (Flash Player) and 9th risk (Shockwave Player).

So Adobe software was responsible not just for the top 3 risks but 5 out of the top 10 overall – not a great result and enough for us to recommend good alternatives.

Free Alternatives To Adobe Reader – Before installing a new PDF reader program, you should first uninstall Adobe Reader and restart your computer so that PDF files can be automatically opened by the new program after you install it.

PDF-XChange Viewer is less than a third of the size of Adobe Reader so is especially suitable for older computers as it should be quicker to open and run. It can be downloaded from the makers here – just select which version you want to download in the right hand side panel and click ‘Download Now’.

For most users we recommend downloading the ‘EXE installer’ – double click the EXE file you downloaded to install the software on your computer and configure your web browser to open PDF files from the internet.

There is also a ‘Portable ZIP’ download available for advanced users or if you just want to try the program out without installing it fully. The portable version will not configure your web browser to open PDF files automatically and will not appear in the list of installed programs on your computer – to remove it you just need to delete the folder containing the portable program.

Configure PDF-XChange Viewer Options – Once installed, run the program and from the menu bar click on ‘Edit’ then ‘Preferences’ to open the Preferences window.

In the list of Categories in the left panel:

  • Click on ‘File Associations’ then click the ‘Make Default PDF Viewer’ button so that PDF files open automatically in PDF-XChange Viewer.
  • Click on ‘Registration’ then tick the box to ‘hide restricted PRO functions…’ This removes all options from the menus that are only available if you buy the Pro version.
  • Click on ‘Javascript’ then untick ‘Enable Javascript actions’ to disable javascript (because it presents a security risk).
  • Click the ‘Apply’ button at the bottom of the Preferences window then the ‘OK’ button to go back to the main program.

You should now be able to open PDF files more safely and potentially more quickly than before.

2 thoughts on “Free Alternatives To Adobe Reader For PDF Files”

    • Hi Shari, Foxit Reader is another good free alternative for reading PDF files. It has a strong user following and it’s a toss up with PDF-XChange as to which is better.

      If you need advanced features then compare both the free versions with each other but, for general PDF viewing, we think it just depends which one you most like the look and feel of really…

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