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Best Free Alternative PDF Viewer to Adobe Reader

If you are looking for a free alternative to Adobe Reader, Foxit PDF Reader is one of the best options at the moment. Besides being able to view a PDF file, the program has a huge number of features that go far beyond the scope of Adobe Reader and much closer to what Adobe Acrobat can do.

I’ve been using Adobe Reader for years because it was from Adobe and I felt like it had to be better because Adobe is a giant and they create amazing software like Photoshop! However, being a hippo is also bad. Adobe Reader is bloated and slow in my opinion. Performance has improved over the years, but it’s still huge compared to programs like Foxit.

Best of all, it can do everything that Adobe Reader can do, plus a lot of other things. Want to search multiple PDFs at once? Foxit can do it. Want your computer to read the entire PDF file to you? Foxit can do it. Want to create your own PDF? Foxit can do it. Want to securely sign a PDF file? You know the answer! Plus, it’s all free.

There are a few caveats, of course. For example, you can sign your PDF document with a handwritten signature for free, but if you want a real electronic signature verified by a third party, you will have to use the DocuSign service built right into Foxit. Alternatively, you can create simple PDFs from scanned images, from the clipboard, or by adding text boxes and images, but if you want to create more complex PDF forms, you’ll have to purchase their PhantomPDF software. However, it is a lot of PDF reading possibilities.

In this article, I’ll go over the many features of Foxit and why I love it as much as my main PDF viewer.

User interface and layout

The first thing you’ll notice right away is that the interface looks an awful lot like Microsoft’s new ribbon interface introduced in Office 2007. It’s very clean, and viewing PDFs in Foxit is a pleasure.

In fact, it is so good that it seems like it fits perfectly into the Office family of applications. In addition, as with the Office Ribbon, you can also customize the Ribbon Menus in Foxit. You can add / remove buttons, and Foxit even has the same Quick Access Toolbar at the top that can be customized.

It also has a standard multi-tab style for viewing multiple PDFs that you see in all web browsers. On the left side is a couple of buttons that allow you to access several handy features such as bookmarks, page thumbnails, page layers, comments and annotations, any attachments, security settings, and digital signatures.

Foxit also offers many different ways to view PDF files. If you go to the View tab, you will see two sections: Document View and Page Display.

There is a Reading Mode that hides the ribbon, Reverse View that changes the order of all pages, and a Text Viewer that gets rid of all formatting, images, etc. and only shows you the text in the document. To display a page, you have one page, one page continuous, two page, two page continuous, split, separate title page, and auto scrolling. My favorite feature is the rotate view option. I can’t tell you how many times I got PDFs from someone and the scanned image was in the wrong orientation.

Create PDF files

In addition to a great interface for viewing, organizing and searching your PDFs, Foxit offers a whole set of tools for creating your own PDFs. Click File, Create PDF, and you will have several options to choose from: Blank, From File, From Scanner, or From Clipboard.

The PDF format used by Foxit is 100% standards compliant and will therefore work with any other PDF program. If you have Office installed, Foxit has plugins that allow you to create PDFs right in your Office programs. Using Word to create a PDF is much more reliable than creating one from scratch in Foxit. By default, the Comment tab on the ribbon has a text tool and some drawing tools to create a PDF file in Foxit Reader.

If you have a lot of documents to scan, you can easily scan them directly to PDF using Foxit rather than convert them from images to PDF later. You can also edit the metadata for PDF files to make it easier to find.

Collaborate and share

Foxit Reader has many useful collaboration features that make your life more convenient. One of the features I use a lot is that Evernote is integrated right into the Share tab.

You must have Evernote for Windows installed for the icon to be active. Once it detects Evernote, you can instantly save PDF files directly to Evernote. Besides Evernote, you can also email and share files on Facebook or Twitter. The email feature basically opens your default email program installed on Windows with a PDF attached.

For enterprise environments, Foxit also includes SharePoint integration, which is really useful for companies in the Microsoft camp. If you click on the Comment tab, there are many options for adding notes and annotations to your PDF document.

You can mark up text, pin notes and files, add text boxes and callouts, add pictures, highlight areas on a page, add stamps to a document, and manage comments.

Security and other features

Another great aspect of Foxit is its built-in security. Foxit has a feature called Safe Reading Mode, which basically warns users if any PDF file tries to make any external call and allows them to decide to terminate the process or continue.

By default, Foxit is configured so that PDF files do not send information over the Internet unless explicitly allowed. If you want to be more secure, you can also disable JavaScript actions.

In addition, if you receive digitally signed documents, Foxit uses an ISO 32000 verification process to ensure that the digital signature is genuine and that neither the signature nor the document has been altered.

Overall Foxit is by far the best free replacement app for Adobe Reader as your primary PDF reader. Plus, using their paid software like PhantomPDF is much cheaper than Adobe Acrobat, and the feature set is just as good, if not better, than Adobe’s. If you have a different opinion, let us know in the comments. Enjoy!

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