The Underdogs In Adobe vs. Foxit PDF World

Adobe Reader is the de-facto standard for viewing PDF (Portable Document Format) documents on the PC. The format was developed and backed by Adobe, and it managed to gain market and mind share on the readers, with an absence of any worthy alternatives for many years. And then came Foxit Reader.

Foxit Reader has been the most popular alternative to Adobe Reader, almost like a Firefox to Internet Explorer 6 a few years ago. It had everything going for it in terms of user-base and positive reviews, but Foxit Software chose to mess it up. From version 2 to version 3, it added a lot of bloat to the touted-as-light freeware, and coming to the latest version 4, it builds on the unpleasantness.

The cumbersome setup compulsory installs the Foxit Search Bar, with opt-in to changing your default search provider to Ask, making Ask.com your home page, installing the Foxit add-on for Firefox, and into creating desktop, quick launch, and Start menu icons that link to eBay. Phew! The interface of Foxit has stayed the same through the versions, and it’s workable and customizable as well, although it’s pretty old-school, and dare I say, Winows XP–like.

Ofcourse, the valuable features the 6.73 MB Foxit Reader offers keeps its users loyal. Foxit Reader allows for tabbed PDF reading, measuring tools, and auto-scrolling along with the editing features. In version 4, Foxit has offered few more features that were earlier limited to their Pro version before.


Here’s a list of of few of the PDF Reader alternatives which give Foxit Reader a big run for its money.

Sumatra PDF | 1.67 MB

Sumatra PDF is a slim, free, open-source PDF viewer with minimalistic design. The speed and performance of Sumatra PDF is what Foxit Reader initially became popular for.

It’s very lightweight, obviously compromising on features and capabilities; including important usual ones like browsing through pages/bookmarks etc. If you need a quick application for reading PDFs occasionally, opt for Sumatra PDF. Give it a skip, if you are looking for any advanced functionality or power features.

Sorax Reader | 5.13 MB

Sorax Reader is another small and fast PDF reader with a reach feature set. The latest version brings a new user interface with advance feature tools like marquee, dynamic zoom, and snapshot.

Nitro PDF Reade |  22.6 MB

Nitro is the latest application-on-the-block, although it’s an established name in popular professional PDF applications. In beta as yet, the Nitro PDF Reader brings the ribbon interface to PDF reading for very smooth and functional usability. Of course, you can hide the ribbon as well as customize the same choosing your commonly accessed tools.

The feature-set is exhaustive with advanced capabilities like watermark-free editing, drag-and-drop PDF creation, and tabbed PDF reading, and all the stock features. The performance is better than Adobe Reader, and I expect it to get better as it progresses through the beta refreshes.

So, Nitro PDF Reader does more by default than the other two options, and has an unobtrusive setup and user experience.

Nuance PDF Reader | 18.14 MB

Nuance is also a new entrant in the market of PDF reader applications. Nuance has a reasonable feature set, although the free version has limited editing capabilities and it lacks tabbed reading interface. The application has two toolbars – the top one has big icons while the bottom one has details of the open PDF. The presentation of the toolbars is unique, and looks great with high-resolution display.

Nuance PDF Reader also includes a unique offering of free document conversion (including PDF to MIcrosoft Word’s DOCX format) via the Nuance Web site.

PDF-XChange Viewer | 12.32 MB

PDF-XChange Viewer has a very Adobe Reader-ish interface, but simpler although old-school. The presentation of the document is neat, and the control panel at the top displays the available editing options. The Web search toolbar could’ve done away with.

PDF-Xchange Viewer offers better commentating and annotating capabilities than most PDF reader alternatives we’ve considered and matches up to Adobe Reader. The option of installing Ask toolbar and modifying default search options at the time of setup is annoying.

Need to check out more PDF Readers for Windows ? Go here!

Do share your opinions on these options, or other readers/viewers that you use.

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Abhishek Baxi writes on the Windows ecosystem and hosts an online show - Microsoft Talk (MSTalk.in) and owns the Windows Phone portal - I Love Windows Phone (ilovewindowsphone.in). He lives at www.baxiabhishek.info and talks incessantly on Twitter.