Windows Reader: Windows 8 Built-in PDF File Viewer Features

Earlier, Windows never shipped with a built-in PDF viewer. It shipped an XPS Viewer in Windows 7. But starting with Windows 8, Microsoft has decided to include a PDF reader called as Windows Reader.  Windows Reader is Microsoft’s first and very own built-in PDF viewer for Windows. It will support XPS documents too and is available for download as a Metro-style app for Windows 8.

How to open Windows Reader

  • Go to Metro UI and type Windows Reader.
  • Click on the Windows Reader icon to open it. To pin it to the start screen, right-click on it and look towards the bottom left of your screen.
  • Click on ‘Pin to Start’. (In my case you will see the ‘Unpin from Start’ option. this is because I already have it installed)
  • Press the WinKey and return to the  Metro UI
  • Scroll until you find the new Windows Reader tile.

Windows Reader looks pretty simple but serves the purpose well. The application when accessed and opened, greets you with a file browser. And once you select the PDF you want to read, you are displayed with a full screen PDF file. This is something I really don’t prefer as it makes the task of quickly switching between folders in Windows Explorer and viewing PDFs in Windows Reader inapt. And you cannot change this in any way. Personally, I believe this behavior is common and acceptable on Smartphones where screen space is limited but not on Desktops.

That said, Windows Reader features multiple view modes. This includes:

  1. One Page View: The view mode allows viewing only one page at a given time
  2. Two Pages View: In this view mode two pages of the current document are displayed adjacent to each other i.e. side-by-side.
  3. Continuous view: Here, only one whole page can be viewed at a time but the end of the current page is attached to the start of the next page so one can scroll through the document continuously.

The Reader as mentioned, offers some very basic but useful features. For instance you can use the ‘Find’ button to look for text within the current document.  You can hold down the Ctrl key and scroll the mouse wheel up/down to Zoom in or zoom out. It is important to mention here that Windows Reader does not offer editing abilities – however it allows highlighting a text, add notes (including ink-based notes) and fill out forms and save the changes to the PDF, or to a copy.

For most of us, we will now no longer have need to install a 3rd party PDF reader like Adobe, Foxit, etc. but if you are interested in checking out some, you may have a look at our list of 10 Adobe alternative, free PDF Readers for Windows.

There are also third-party PDF reader apps Adobe Reader and PDF Reader For Windows 8 that you may want to check out.

Posted by on , in Category Windows with Tags
Anand Khanse is the Admin of, a 10-year Microsoft MVP Awardee in Windows (2006-16) & a Windows Insider MVP. Please read the entire post & the comments first, create a System Restore Point before making any changes to your system & be careful about any 3rd-party offers while installing freeware.


  1. Andrey de Oliveira

    Um leitor de doc, xls e ppt embutido também seriam bem vindos, como no mac os x.

  2. Andrey de Oliveira

    A reader doc, xls and ppt built would also be welcome, as in mac os x.

  3. Pdw98

    The ability to create AND edit PDFs has been available since the first iteration of Mac OS X 10.0 (Cheetah) in 2001. Meanwhile, in Redmond… ELEVEN YEARS LATER MS gets with PDFs. WTF Microsoft?

  4. Wannous

    Why it lunched for first time in windows 8 then I get letter said: Call was canceled by the message filter. how can I make all the Apps of windows 8 worked for ever time.. I can use ( or test ) them for one time then no one of them can be opened… is it because of dimo windows or what ?
    please make an Item about this problem & tell us how to solve these problems.

  5. Ciel Carter

    Windows Reader switches the desktop between Classic and Metro, and it pissed me off. I goooogled, and found a free PDF reader designed for Windows 8, recommend to you, PDF Reader for Windows 8

  6. Ciel Carter

    The correct hyperlink should be

  7. Gerard

    You’ll probably still want to install Adobe Reader because the Windows 8 Reader App does not provide preview handler support in Outlook.

  8. HakanSoderbom

    After I open the Reader I cannot get it off the screen to the applications behind. The obvious would be to press ESC but that doesn’t close the window. How to you get out of Reader?

  9. Sjmqld01

    I can fill in forms on the Windows RT reader app, when I transfer the document to a desktop computer the information get mixed up and has to be re typed, I contacted Microsoft who advise it is an ASUS problem, ASUS has noted the comment and is looking into it, how long does it take? In the meantime I cannot fill in forms with the Adobe app?? Any suggestions?

  10. danny rough

    i always employ abode but i don’t think it’s pretty good , so i googled for a long time and found this pdf reader is great,and can be applied in win8 . you can have a try.

  11. John Moody

    Try the freeware PDF Viewer for Windows 8.1 at

  12. wollgroo

    damn!! how can I switch reader to show in desktop??? I want to interact with other application for copy paste exercise!
    drive me mad!

  13. I think you are going to have to install a free PDF Reader to do that. Try Foxit, but there are other freeware alternatives too mentioned here:

  14. arronlee

    I am using another third party PDF Reader:
    It works well for me. I am Considering to buy the pro version, and still enjoying their free online conversion service.

  15. Carl

    Does anyone know how to open PDFs in windows so you can easily switch between multiple PDF files?

  16. Simon Von Winkle

    Can you Disable the Save As Feature in the Windows Reader App?

  17. M S

    Where is Two Pages Continuous view?

    Now i can only choose if i want tons of wasted empty space to the sides OR over and under.

    I want to use the whole screen of course, since you are forcing me to view this on the whole screen instead of a window.

  18. Fatima

    No highlighting system unfortunately.

  19. Eve

    use “prt sc” (print screen key)

  20. Grandma 406

    when it ask do I want to open or save and I choose open it saves images on my computer and I can not delete them

  21. DiggyDots .

    Is anyone else having a issue where it will only get files from ‘One Drive’? it used to let me but it does no longer.

  22. Giorgos

    Hi all,
    Got a question: I used the windows reader to go through a book and at the same time I was highlighting all important points. When I quite and reentered the file, my highlights were gone? has anyone a tip on how i can find my highlight points?

  23. Therese90

    It is frustrating learning new OS systems… So – I read it somewhere and now can’t find it… how do you add content TO reader, like while on the internet to READ later… thought it was some kind of swiping thing. I really don’t like doing that… give me early arthritis… Thanks anyone who can help an ol woman! 😉

  24. Therese90

    2 ways to close apps = either you have to HOVER at the right top and get an X. Or, again, the hovering… move to the top and then hold down the left button and slide down… like a shade. I don’t love all this… too much finger work. Hope this helps a little… I am a old newbie at this myself!!

  25. mimi

    I hit CTR/Alt/Del to get out of it- what a pain

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