The 8 Best Free PDF Readers

These picks make working with PDFs a breeze

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Most of us encounter PDFs at some point or another, be it when e-signing employment-related documents, downloading a product manual, or reading comics or ebooks. The default PDF reader application on your Android phone or Windows computer may not cut it, though, especially if you need to accomplish advanced tasks such as notating a document or splitting a PDF into individual pages.

That's where these programs come in. Turn to these PDF readers when you need something better than what's already available on your phone or computer.

01
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Foxit Reader

Foxit (Softonic)

Strong points: Foxit Reader offers a Microsoft Office-Style ribbon toolbar design, PDF editing and creation in addition to viewing, available on a wide variety of platforms

Foxit Reader is especially intuitive to those who work with Microsoft Office, as this application uses a similar ribbon toolbar with a variety of tabs that can be customized depending on the actions you need to access most frequently. Foxit Reader also supports touch-screen Windows devices, so you can enable Touch Mode to interact with the program through your fingers if you have a touch-screen PC.

Advanced and additional features include the ability to protect PDF files with passwords and certificates, sign PDFs digitally, combine multiple PDFs, and access PDFs from various sources such as Google Drive, DropBox, and OneDrive.

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02
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Adobe Acrobat Reader

Adobe

Strong points: Adobe Acrobat Reader's intuitive design is familiar to many (especially on mobile devices. It is available across a wide variety of platforms and offers an extensive annotation and editing feature set and the ability to e-sign documents.

The desktop versions of Adobe Acrobat Reader are on the clunky side with less-than-intuitive menus and options that can make simple things take longer than they should. The smartphone version of the application is a different story. The layout is straightforward, and you can accomplish plenty, from opening PDFs to annotating them with drawing tools or sticky notes. You can scan documents using your smartphone's camera. You can even scan multiple documents and then save them as a single PDF.

Other features include the capability to e-sign documents using your finger, print documents from your device, and reorder and delete pages in PDFs. You can also save PDFs as Microsoft Excel or Word files that can be edited.

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03
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Preview

Apple

Strong points: Preview is preinstalled on Macs, so you don't have to download it. It offers an easy-to-use interface, annotation and photo-editing capabilities, and the ability to e-sign documents.

Baked directly into the Mac operating system, Preview is a great app for viewing and annotating documents. If you need to open and read PDFs occasionally on your computer, you definitely can do without downloading an alternative.

More than just accomplishing the basics, Preview also lets you annotate and sign documents, fill in forms, edit images, and more. It's more of a powerhouse than you might think.

Platforms: macOS

04
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MuPDF

MuPDF

Strong points: MuPDF is a simple and straightforward, lightweight, basic annotation PDF conversion app.

If your PDF reading and editing needs are relatively straightforward, MuPDF should do the trick. This application, available for Android and Windows as well as Apple's mobile platform, is lightweight, which is programming speak for a download that doesn't take up much memory and is on the simple side as far as functionality goes.

You can fill out text forms, add annotations to documents, and convert PDFs to a variety of other file types including HTML, SVG, and CBZ. The interface is bare-bones, which can be a huge plus if the option-heavy toolbars of Microsoft Office-type readers are overwhelming to you.

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05
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WPS Office

WPS Office

Strong points: WPS Office offers a wide variety of functionality beyond PDF viewing. It converts other file types to PDFs, lets you view annotations on PDFs that you open, and more.

WPS Office is an all-in-one Microsoft Office-type application as its name implies, so it does more than allow you to open and view PDFs. Still, it can accomplish that, and it lets you add bookmarks to PDFs and view annotations as well. It's not the most robust option on this list when it comes to PDFs — and it doesn't include editing abilities like annotation — but if you want to read PDFs on your computer or smartphone, it has you covered. It does allow you to convert other file types to PDF.

Non-PDF features include the ability to access and edit documents from cloud drives and spreadsheets, a writer tool, and a presentation tool.

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06
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SumatraPDF

Sumatra

Strong points: SumatraPDF is another straightforward and lightweight program. It supports a generous amount of file types and is speedy.

In addition to functioning as a PDF reader, SumatraPDF can open and view ePub, MOBI, CHM, XPS, DjVu, CBZ, and CBR files. Because it doesn't include many extras or frills, the program is known for opening documents quickly and being a fast application. It includes a variety of viewing modes as well.

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07
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Google Play Books

Google

Strong points: Google Play Books is a solid pick for e-books and comics, especially if you already use Google Play Books to buy and read titles.

If most of your PDF needs involve reading e-books rather than marking up documents, this may be the program for you. In addition to letting you upload EPUB and PDF files to your library, Google Play Books lets you highlight text and sync across devices so you won't lose your place in a book.

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08
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Javelin PDF Reader

Drumlin

Strong points: Javelin PDF Reader offers straightforward PDF reading and is compatible with encrypted documents. The Drumlin Security company has a strong focus on software security. 

Javelin PDF Reader is a relatively bare-bones option that is available across all the main computer and mobile platforms. It can help you accomplish the basics such as viewing standard PDF files and is also compatible with encrypted PDF files. 

This is truly a PDF reader, as you can't do much on the editing side with this download. You can annotate documents, but beyond that, the feature set is more about the consumption side of things, with the ability to bookmark pages, click on hyperlinks, and highlight text. It's not a bells-and-whistles option, but if the fancy extras are what you're after, you should find what you're looking for with some of the other options on this list.

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