Portable Document Format, PDF, is pretty much the standard for document dissemination nowadays, and there are many reasons why. Firstly, the PDF is cross-platform, which means it doesn’t matter which type of system you use, you can easily open them; additionally, they allow you to incorporate various levels of security, add watermarks, include pictures etc, they’re also easy to create as many word processing programs such as Microsoft Office and Open Office allow you to create PDF files directly.
Of course you probably have, have seen or have created PDF documents and, for the most part Adobe’s Reader is the program you’re using when you want to read them. There are some other alternatives also, which other users prefer; Foxit PDF Reader being one of the most well known amongst them.
There is another alternative to Adobe Reader and Foxit, however, of which you might not be aware, PDF-XChange Viewer, which, in its current version (version 2.5), is entirely free for use, even by businesses.
The program itself is about 14mb in size and is totally ad free, being supported by an option to install the Ask Toolbar during program installation. It’s also compatible with all 32 and 64 bit versions of Windows from Windows 2000 on.
The program interface consists of a menu bar beneath which lies a range of toolbars containing many of the more commonly accessed commands, all of which can be closed to enlarge the reading pane, and reopened easily, via the right-click context menu.
Opening a PDF file by the open button or by double clicking on the reading pane, opens a window with a handy preview window alongside, which shows a graphic preview of the file and brief file data such as creation date, version, file size and whether the file is editable/printable etc. This is a particularly interesting feature if, perhaps, you have many files with similar names and you need a quick preview to find the right one. Another attractive feature is the ability to open several files at once, each being accessible by the tabs along the top of the reading pane, which also show a small thumbnail when the mouse pointer is hovered over them.
Another convenient feature is the search facility, which allows you to search directories on your computer for PDF files, or for a particular piece of text within a file, comment, bookmark etc. Search results are displayed in the results pane and highlighting a result previews the occurrence of the search term in the reading pane, which I found particularly useful.
The free program alludes to a wealth of additional options which include the ability to add notes, comments, stamps etc, should you upgrade to the “professional” version, however, if all you’re looking for is the ability to read PDFs quickly and efficiently, whilst using minimal system resources, the free version of PDF-XChange Viewer comes highly recommended.