Best PDF readers for Windows and Mac

May 27, 2021
10 min.
  1. PDFChef by Movavi
  2. Adobe® Acrobat®
  3. Foxit Reader

Click the button below to download PDFChef by Movavi for Windows and Mac.

By clicking the button, you’re downloading the free version of PDFChef by Movavi.*

Discover what’s best for you: PDF readers vs. browsers

There are many ways to open a PDF file. You can use:

  • a PDF viewing app
  • a browser
  • a built-in program like Preview (for Mac)
  • Microsoft Word

And many other programs.

Viewing PDFs in a browser or using an embedded PDF opener is fast and convenient. However, these programs may not offer as much functionality as PDF viewers. Viewing PDF documents in Microsoft Word, in turn, can lead to an incorrect display of text and other elements because viewing PDFs is not the main purpose of the software.

In this article, you’ll read about the ten best PDF readers, both desktop and online.

If you only need to open a PDF, a browser will do the job. But if that’s not enough, we recommend you try PDFChef. It is a full-featured PDF editor, but you can use it for free as a PDF reader. It will also let you zoom in, zoom out, and rotate your documents.

PDFChef is for both PC and Macintosh. Compared with online apps and freeware, PDFChef is very safe to use – we don’t send your data to any third-party services. Get our professional PDF editor and work securely with files offline.

How to open and view a PDF file with PDFChef for free

  • Step 1. Download and run PDFChef by Movavi

    Download PDFChef and install the software. Then double-click the icon to launch the program.

  • Step 2. Open a PDF file

    Drag and drop the PDF file into the program window.

    Another way to open a file is to click the Open File button, locate the file you need, and click Open. That’s it! Now you know how to open a PDF in PDFChef.

  • Step 3. View the PDF file

    To make viewing PDF files more convenient, you can use the following features of PDFChef:

    1. Full-screen mode: click Full screen in the top-right corner or push F11. To get back to the default view, click Exit full screen or press Esc.
    2. Zooming in and out: click the Zoom in and Zoom out buttons. You can also use the drop-down list to the right of the buttons. If you prefer shortcuts, press Ctrl + scroll wheel.
    3. Rotating the pages: right-click the page and select the rotation direction: left, right, or 180 degrees.
    4. View memory: the software remembers the last page you’ve viewed and opens it when you reopen the file. You may find it useful when reading big files, like books.

Alternative best PDF readers

Below, we explore seven options for those who want to know how to read PDF files. There are some free and simple options for both Mac and Windows. Downloading one of these readers can provide an alternative to just opening in a browser like Chrome or Firefox and allow you to explore the full functionality of the PDF file, which is often far more than a browser can display reliably.

Let’s explore some of the top alternative readers.

  • 1. Adobe® Acrobat® Reader

    Adobe has provided the industry standard for decades now when it comes to PDF files. The Adobe reader is slightly limited in functionality, so it isn’t the best for people who want to create PDF files or edit them in a lot of detail. However, it’s perfect for a lot of the uses people want from their PDF.

    You can quickly and easily view, comment, and sign PDF files in Adobe® Reader®, and you can also find it simple to link up to your printer and print out the documents you need. Acrobat® is very reliable, and it is constantly updated by a team of developers, something not every PDF reader can offer. It even has a mobile app that lets you view and edit PDFs on the go. If you want to use some of the more advanced features and functions, then you will have to pay for the Acrobat® Pro DC product, but if you just need to read and print PDF files, this is an excellent solution for free.

  • 2. Foxit Reader

    Foxit Reader follows a similar model to Acrobat®. While there is a pro editor version that you can pay for, the free Foxit Reader does the job for those who just need to view and add to the documents. Foxit Reader is a free and easy download and has the ability to view, sign, and print as you would expect. The interface is based around Microsoft Word, so it is really easy for users of this software to get to grips with Foxit Reader and how it looks and feels.

    Some of the most impressive features of the Foxit PDF reader revolve around collaboration. You can integrate some of the top storage solutions such as Box, Dropbox, and Google Drive, storing the PDFs in shared drives. You can also annotate the documents as a team to allow you to share and comment as a group of co-workers. These features work reliably, even in the free Reader version.

  • 3. Nitro Pro 10

    Nitro Pro 10 is a good reader for Windows users, with a lot of powerful functionality. As well as doing all the basics, like allowing you to view, highlight, and print your PDFs, it also has some functions that are more professional. It lets you create and edit PDF files, using almost any Windows application to do so and recognizing 300 different file formats. It allows for digital signatures, comments, and bookmarks for easy collaborative use of PDFs among teams. This is another piece of software that has been made to have an interface that looks and feels a lot like Microsoft products, so Windows users will find the layout really intuitive.

    If you want to enjoy the features of Nitro Pro 10, you will need to pay for it. There is a free trial version, and the PDF Reader is always free, but the specifically “pro” features will be behind a paywall after your trial period. You can enjoy viewing, emailing, and printing for free, but other features require a subscription.

  • 4. PDF-Xchange Viewer

    PDF-Xchange Viewer has been highly rated by users for a long time, and it has even won LifeHacker awards for its functionality. It has some really clever features, including OCR, which makes the text of a PDF searchable. You can also add comments and annotations, which is not something that you can do with Adobe® Viewer®. You can add your own custom stamps and use mark-up tools to annotate. There’s also a “Typewriter” mode which lets you add text directly over the top of any PDF.

    The software works with a lot of different file formats, including image files like MMP, JPG, and PNG. You can choose between a simple layout and navigation or more complex if you are comfortable using the advanced features. It runs perfectly as a standalone but also includes a Plug-In for Firefox. You don’t even have to leave your browser to enjoy the functions. The layout feels a little dated, and this software doesn’t have a modern “app” style design, but it does the job perfectly well.

  • 5. SodaPDF

    SodaPDF offers a slick and modern interface to go with some excellent functionality for Windows users. Like the majority of the PDF readers out there, there are some free essential functions you can access without a subscription, with the options to view, create, merge, split and compress. Beyond this, the pro features need you to pay for a license. For some users, this will be worth it; the additional features include OCR allowing you to search and even search and replace the contents of a document. It has comment functionality and collaborative uses, and the option to sign the documents electronically. The Pro edition also offers markup tools and the option to embed forms within PDFs. For bigger organizations, these features are very useful.

    SodaPDF, in both the free and paid editions, has some conversion tools allowing you to import and export the files in other formats, such as HTML. If you plan to use some of the free features, you can even access their online PDF editor, though this is not as effective and reliable. One of the best things about SodaPDF is how easy and intuitive it is for anyone to use, even if you are just accessing the online reader and editor.

  • 6. PDFpen (for reading on a Mac)

    Some Mac users find that PDF files can be challenging to open and edit. Not as much of the software out there, such as the free PDF readers and writer software, work as well for Mac. They might not even be compatible. Fortunately, there are options like PDFpen. PDFpen has OCR (Optical Character Recognition) and lets you proofread documents, redact certain sections and add your own sections. You can even export the PDF files in formats like .docx which allows you to open in Google Docs or Microsoft Word.

    Like most of the excellent PDF readers, it allows you to use a digital signature to sign documents. It also links with Apple’s storage solutions so that you can keep your files stored in iCloud easily. Adding, editing, deleting, and removing pages are all extremely simple with this PDF reader. It has all of the simple editing features you would expect, and you can even redact certain sections.

    Unfortunately, this isn’t free software. If you want the Pro solution, you’ll pay even more, and there is an iPhone and iPad edition which has an extra cost, too. If you don’t mind paying, then it may be a decent option for Mac users who struggle to find a reliable PDF reader.

  • 7. PDF Expert (for reading on a Mac)

    PDF Expert is another paid solution for Mac users. Though it has some powerful features, you will have to spend some money to get to use them all. At the time of writing this, a license is $79.99 for use on three different Mac computers. If you want a professional PDF reader and editor functions, though, it may be worth it. When you use PDF Expert, it really feels like you are using native Mac software. This feels like it could have been developed by Apple. The intuitive layout means you can use all of the features with ease.

    As you would expect from a paid reader, you can mark up, use editing features such as adding and deleting pages and even sign documents. Annotations make it easy to share notes or stamp files to approve or categorize. You can import and export in a variety of different file types, and PDF Expert even allows you to save to smaller file types as a way to save space.

    If you are a Mac user, and you need to be able to make precise edits to PDFs or create PDF documents from scratch that include plenty of information and graphics, PDF Expert might be worth the investment.

Frequently asked questions

There are many factors that can stop a PDF from opening. Here are the three most common ones:

  • The PDF file is damaged. You can resolve this problem by downloading the PDF document again when you have a stable internet connection.
  • The document is protected with a password. A password is required before you can open the PDF. If you don’t enter the password, the file won’t open.
  • The software you’re using is damaged. It is possible that a program doesn’t work properly because of certain errors. You can reinstall the program or download a new, safe PDF reader.

Most computers have at least two American English voices (one male, one female). To have your PC read PDFs out loud, use Adobe® Reader®. Go to the “View” menu, choose “Read Out Loud”, and then click “Activate Read Out Loud”.

To edit PDF files in the Movavi reader, upgrade the program to the full version.

1. Go to the PDFChef website.

2. Click the Buy Now button and choose the plan that suits you best. Click Buy and go through the payment process.

3. Within 15 minutes of purchase, you will receive an email with an activation key.

4. Launch the program, open the Help menu and choose Activate Software. Enter or paste your activation key and click Activate.

PDFChef by Movavi

Everything you need from PDF Software!

  • PDF creation from scratch
  • Different PDF-editing modes (4-in-1 page arrangement,
    text editing, and object editing)
  • Electronic signature solutions
  • One-click file export and print output

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* The free version of PDFChef by Movavi has the following restrictions: 7-day trial period, watermark on the output PDF. Learn more

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