The 10 Best Free PDF Readers for Windows & Mac

A list of the best free PDF reader software programs

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.

More and more operating systems, smartphones, and other devices contain built-in abilities to show PDF files. Even so, a dedicated PDF reader often has a number of advantages over the built-in PDF reader you may already have, like viewing options, better search, and a lot more.

Need to edit or change a PDF file, and not just open it for reading? An easy way to do that is to convert it to Word format. If you want to make PDFs use a PDF creation app.

Download any of these free PDF readers today:

01
of 10

SumatraPDF

SumatraPDF app for reading PDF files.

What We Like

  • Open source and lightweight.

  • Available in 69 languages.

What We Don't Like

  • No ability to edit or annotate PDFs.

  • No anti-aliasing, so some fonts look wonky.

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 SumatraPDF Manual.

You can download SumatraPDF in portable form (uses only 6 MB) or install it like a regular program.

PDFlite is another free PDF reader that's based on SumatraPDF. It looks extremely similar and works the same.

02
of 10

Adobe Acrobat Reader DC

The Adobe Acrobat Reader DC in Windows 10.

What We Like

  • Handy drag-and-drop feature makes it easy to combine PDFs.

  • Excellent integration with the Adobe Cloud system.

What We Don't Like

  • Accessibility checker identifies problems, but it doesn't tell you how to fix them.

  • The free version is very limited in its features.

Adobe Systems, the creator of the PDF file format, has a free PDF reader called Adobe Acrobat Reader DC.

Tons of feature are included in Adobe Acrobat Reader DC. You can take snapshots of text and images, view a PDF in Read Mode for a more concise reading pane, and have Adobe Acrobat Reader DC read text out loud.

Adobe Acrobat Reader DC works with Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems. The Adobe Acrobat Reader mobile app is also available for Android, Windows Phone, and iOS.

A download manager is used download Adobe Acrobat Reader DC. So while the download manager is really small in size, the actual download for the PDF reader is much larger (possibly around 50 MB).

On the Adobe Acrobat Reader DC download page, you may be asked to install McAfee Security Scan Plus and/or another program alongside Adobe Acrobat Reader DC. You must manually deselect the offer if you don't want it installed as well.

03
of 10

MuPDF

MuPDF - Free PDF Reader

What We Like

  • Supports XPS and CBZ files as well.

  • Easy to use.

What We Don't Like

  • Interface is a little too bare bones.

  • Zoom feature is less than perfect.

MuPDF is a super-lightweight free PDF reader for Windows and Android.

When you launch MuPDF, you are immediately prompted to choose a PDF file 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.

When you extract the files from the download, open "mupdf.exe" to run the program.

04
of 10

Expert PDF Reader

Expert PDF Reader - Free PDF Reader

What We Like

  • Faster than other free options.

  • Intuitive interface.

What We Don't Like

  • Editing features are rather limited.

  • Tries to install other software during set up.

Expert PDF Reader is another free PDF reader for Windows.

You can view bookmarks and a list of pages found in the PDF in an easy to read index on the side of the viewing area.

There are also advanced options like signing and adding text to a PDF.

Visit CNET.com if the official download links aren't working for you.

05
of 10

Nuance PDF Reader

Nuance PDF Reader - Free PDF Reader
© Nuance Communications, Inc.

What We Like

  • Adding videos and images to documents is a breeze.

  • Dictation features makes this app ideal for the visually impaired.

What We Don't Like

  • No mobile version.

  • You can only open one PDF at a time.

Another free PDF reader for Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, and XP is Nuance PDF Reader.

A really valuable search function is included in Nuance PDF Reader. 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 in Nuance PDF Reader, which is great if you're using a PDF for study notes or a reference document.

06
of 10

PDF-XChange Editor

PDF-XChange Editor

What We Like

  • Premium version is reasonably priced for what you get.

  • Adding and placing text is exceptionally easy.

What We Don't Like

  • PDFs created with the free version often include a big ugly watermark.

  • Doesn't automatically detect fields when creating forms.

PDF-XChange Editor is another completely free PDF reader for Windows XP and newer.

The program interface can be a bit nauseating to look at because there are buttons, toolbars, and side panels all over the place. You can easily disable most of these, though, for a much cleaner viewing experience.

In addition to opening a PDF from your own local computer, you can also enter a URL of a PDF file for PDF-XChange Editor to open (the PDF will still be downloaded, but the program does it for you).

PDF-XChange Editor also lets you add notes, record and attach audio, highlight text, attach files, and add a strikethrough to words.

Lots of features are only available in the professional version of PDF-XChange Editor, but they're clearly marked as such and aren't difficult to spot.

07
of 10

Evince

Evince PDF reader
evince

What We Like

  • Also ideal for reading comic books and power point presentations.

  • Excellent integration with the GNOME desktop environment.

What We Don't Like

  • Scrolling isn't always smooth.

  • The window size cannot be adjusted, and there is no full screen mode.

Evince is another free PDF reader for Windows and Linux operating systems.

The interface isn't cluttered and you can customize the toolbar with any of the included tools, like a search function and different view modes.

Evince also supports auto scroll. This is an awesome feature that lets you adjust your mouse position on the screen so as to scroll through a PDF automatically. You can fine-tune the speed for different reading paces.

08
of 10

Sorax Reader

Sorax PDF Reader
Sorax software

What We Like

  • Fast and lightweight.

  • Doesn't even require installation.

What We Don't Like

  • Limited zooming options.

  • Doesn't come with help files.

Sorax is available for Windows as a free PDF reader.

You'll find all the basic features of a PDF reader, like the ability to search through text, copy text out of a PDF, zoom, and change the viewing mode.

Sorax also allows you to send the currently opened PDF to someone over email with the Email toolbar button.

A portable version of Sorax is available from the download page that's just around 8 MB and is available for both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows.

09
of 10

Javelin PDF Reader

Javelin PDF Reader - Free PDF Reader

What We Like

  • Mobile version lets you access and manage metadata.

  • Advanced encryption options.

What We Don't Like

  • Occasional clunky performance.

  • The installation process is unnecessarily complicated.

Javelin PDF Reader is just that: a free PDF reader. No extra features like editing or converting litters the program interface.

Everything is super clean and easy to read and understand. The search feature isn't the best to be had, but it works well as is.

Javelin PDF Reader can launch a PDF in full screen to make reading easier, and you can just click the screen to move down the PDF pages.

The download size of Javelin PDF Reader is only 2 MB for Windows. It can also be downloaded for Macs and mobile devices like Androids and iPads.

10
of 10

Cool PDF Reader

The free PDF reader, CoolPDF Reader.

What We Like

  • You can use it to convert PDFs to other formats including TXT, JPG, GIF, and PNG.

  • Command icons tell you what they do when the mouse hovers over them.

What We Don't Like

  • Very limited features compared to the alternatives.

  • The help file isn't very helpful.

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 Cool PDF Reader may 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.