Adobe Reader Alternatives Are Usable but Not Especially Compelling - Page 2

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.