By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2009-04-09 Print this article Print

The first message I got from PDF-XCHANGE VIEWER from Tracker Software Products was a warning that I might need to use Adobe Reader to view the form in my test document. Fortunately, PDF-XCHANGE VIEWER made this easy by putting an Acrobat icon near the bottom of the program to load the current document in it. PDF-XCHANGE VIEWER will even download and install Adobe Reader for you.

PDF-XCHANGE VIEWER has a lot of cool features not in Adobe Reader. The best was the rich set of markup tools, although using some of them in the free version will watermark the document with an ad.

The program's print options are excellent--at least as good as Adobe's. But, sadly, as with Foxit, PDF-XCHANGE VIEWER exhibited a problem running as a Standard User in Windows. It also had trouble with form field type restrictions, letting me put letters in a telephone number field.


CoolPDF Software puts more marketing into its product than most of the other free viewer vendors, touting the viewer as being small and fast. That's debatable, but the app is seriously lacking in features.

It has no support for filling in forms or scripting, and basic navigation is tiresome--you can't page up/page down, but instead have to use the app's right/left arrow buttons. And, I wouldn't say that CoolPDF felt all that fast, either.

The app does have one interesting feature--a slideshow function that displays all of the pages in the PDF.

PDF Reader 2.4

CAD-KAS' CAD-KAS PDF Reader 2.4 is a complicated program for a PDF reader.

Like many of the other alternatives to Acrobat Reader that I looked at, it has markup and editing tools. However, in the CAD-KAS app, these tools are the focus. The program is called "Reader," but it's structured more like an editor. Even though the editing tools are better than those in the other programs I tested, they get in the way of simple viewing. And some of the tools, of course, are active only in the pay version.

In addition, the program may be small--at least on disc--but it's anything but fast. During tests it took quite a while to load and responded sluggishly.

In addition, I was not happy to see that the installer placed an eBay affiliate link on the desktop without asking

Perfect PDF Reader 5

soft Xpansion's Perfect PDF Reader 5 is not in the "small and fast" category of reader by any means. The installer requires the Visual C++ 2008 Redistributable Package, making the total product weigh in at 268MB. That's a lot for a PDF viewer--much more than Adobe 9 (188MB on the same computer)--and I caught Perfect PDF Reader 5 at one point using well over 100MB of RAM.

For all that heft, you get a program with that Office 2007 look. It really does have a great interface for reading PDFs. If you just want to breeze through, maybe select some text and print, Perfect PDF Reader is a good way to do it.

For reasons unclear, Perfect PDF Reader 5 includes some tools, like font enumeration, that are more appropriate for a PDF editor than for a reader. It also has what appears to be well-designed tools for use of digital signatures, is more straightforward than any of the other readers tested and, like PDF-XCHANGE, provides a button to view the document in Adobe Reader.

I have to admit that I'm a little tempted by Perfect PDF Reader 5, but it's hard to argue for the app in comparison to Adobe Reader.

Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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