Wednesday, May 25, 2016 1:10am CST

A Better PDF Reader

January 8 2012 by Kerry Kobashi

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Tired of Adobe Acrobat Reader with it's bloatware and nag screens to get you to update to the current version? Here are three free alternative PDF Readers for Windows to consider.

I Just Want To Read

Good God. Yet another software upgrade from the folks at Adobe for Acrobat Reader. I just checked to see how big the latest 10.0 release was. It came in at a whopping 114MB of disk space. To me, that's way too much size for a disk footprint. All I want to do is just read a PDF file.

When something takes up that much space on my hard disk that's sole purpose is to let me read a proprietary document format, I have to look elsewhere for alternatives. In my search, I found three noteworthy replacements:

Memory and Disk Footprints

I downloaded all PDF readers, installed them, and then used a Windows utility, Microsoft Process Explorer for this analysis. Here's what I got:

Product Disk Footprint Number of Files Folders Memory Footprint
Acrobat Reader 10.1.1 114.7MB 204 41 48.8MB
Foxit Reader 35.8MB 355 64 75.2MB
NitroPDF 60.6MB 53 4 77.2MB
Nuance PDF Reader 7.0 42.7MB 151 15 42.6MB

As you can see, Adobe Acrobat Reader has a very large footprint of nearly 115MB on disk. When running, it has a memory working set of 49MB. It has a leaner memory space than the other PDF readers with the exception of Nuance PDF Reader.

Nuance PDF Reader

Out of all four PDF readers, Nuance PDF Reader has the smallest memory and disk space footprint. I also give it high marks for just being so easy to use. If you don't like to be overwhelmed with too many fancy bells and whistles, Nuance PDF Reader doesn't get in the way.

Here's some features:

  • Lets you convert a PDF file to Word 2007, Excel, Word 2003/RTF, and Wordperfect
  • In full screen mode, you can auto scroll with an option to control time in seconds
  • Left click can be set to page or scroll down
  • Select text and images
  • Cool dynamic zoom feature using mouse
  • Loupe zoom that lets you select a section of a document and view it at different sizes
  • Ability to split the screen for document comparisons
  • Add highlighting, underlining, and cross outs in the document
  • Zoom in and out at various percentages
  • Microsoft Sharepoint support

I like the ability to move the document up and down with a hand while clicking with the left mouse to autoscroll. If you have a wide screen LCD monitor, you will appreciate this feature because you don't have to use the vertical scrollbar.

FoxIt PDF Reader

FoxIt is a very good feature rich reader. The thing I like most about it is it's ability to read aloud with an easier to understand voice. I also like the ability to place toolbars for all the commands at will. This lets me get to things much faster than having to hunt through a hierarchy full of menus.

Features in FoxIt include:

  • Autoscrolling
  • Read aloud
  • Spreadsheet split up to four zones
  • Switch to text view
  • Ability to leave highlights, strikeouts, and comments
  • Ability to draw on the document
  • Better user interface with ability to add one click toolbars to replace menu navigation


NitroPDF is a very basic PDF reader. I had been using it for a while off and on throughout the years. Its feature set is sparse compared to the others. However, what it does do that the others don't is generate PDF documents from different file formats.

Features in NitroPDF include:

  • Add and highlight text in document
  • Add sticky notes
  • Export to text file
  • Zoom, rotate
  • Creates PDF files from Office, WordPerfect, text, HTML

Best Alternative PDF Reader

If you don't like bloatware, FoxIt is the best free Windows PDF reader out there.

Now I didn't go and test the reader's ability to accurately render PDF. That wasn't the point of the article. What I was looking for was a easy to use reader that didn't take up too much disk space and has a friendly user interface. FoxIt fufills that very well and I highly recommend it.

But What If You Need to Convert Your PDF File?

If you need to convert your PDF file back to a Microsoft Office document like Word, Powerpoint or Excel, you need to use PDF converter software. The one I would recommend is Nuance's PDF Converter Professional. This is an excellent tool for office environments.

Suppose you want to scan a hard copy document and convert it to PDF. With
PDF Converter 7 Professional
you will be able to do this and digitize everything to store on hard disk. No more paper clutter! And because you converted to PDF, you will be able to search the document too. Try that with hard copy! This software is a real time saver. I couldn't imagine creating special forms or re-typing the document in whole. That would just take too much time.

By creating your own document processing workflow, you can repurpose your PDF documents into Microsoft Office documents for reuse.

About Kerry Kobashi

Kerry Kobashi picture

Kerry is the founder of KerryOnWorld. He lives in Silicon Valley.