Why You Do not Want Adobe Reader (And What to Use As a substitute)

Adobe Reader isn't just unnecessary. The PDF tool has always been an application that you don't want on your system. Adobe Reader has a reputation for ranging from severe and sluggish to a long list of security holes. For many users, Adobe Reader is simply over the top for reading PDF documents.

So the question is whether Adobe Reader needs to be installed. Or are there better Adobe Reader alternatives for reading PDFs?

What is Adobe Reader

Adobe Acrobat Reader is one of the most popular PDF readers. There are two main variants: Free and bonus. The free version lets you view, print, and annotate PDF files, while the premium version includes tools for editing, scanning, digitally signing, and converting files, among other things.

Adobe Reader example

For most people, the advanced options in Adobe Acrobat Pro (the premium version) are overkill. If you only occasionally read PDF files or print a document or form, your regular web browser will take care of business.

Is Adobe Acrobat Reader Safe?

Adobe Reader also has a history of security vulnerabilities. Security incidents in 2006, 2009, 2013, and 2016 required severe and immediate patches to address critical security vulnerabilities. Most of the vulnerabilities are due to JavaScript vulnerabilities in Adobe Reader that could allow an attacker to exploit the program to gain access to the host computer.

So is Adobe Reader safe? If you keep Adobe Reader up to date, you should be safe. Adobe releases updates to its apps on the first Tuesday of every month (as part of Patch Tuesday, which many tech companies are watching). Reading the patch notes shows that it's not just Adobe Reader that receives important updates. All Adobe products require significant patches from time to time.

One way to increase your security is to adjust the JavaScript settings of your Adobe Reader.

  1. Go to Edit> Preferences.

  2. Choose JavaScript of the Categories.

  3. By doing JavaScript security In the window, edit the JavaScript management options.

If you want to disable JavaScript completely, uncheck the box Enable Acrobat JavaScript.

How to open PDFs in your browser

You can view and print PDFs using Adobe Acrobat Reader. However, your browser can do exactly the same thing without you having to download and install an additional program.

Google Chrome

Google Chrome PDF Viewer

Google Chrome has a built-in PDF viewer. It has been bundled with Google Chrome since 2010. This means that online PDFs can be opened extremely quickly and loaded directly into your browser. Unfortunately, Chrome's PDF viewer doesn't have many features. Or rather, it basically doesn't have any unless rotating your PDFs is an absolute necessity.

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If you are a Chrome user there are several extensions and apps that are very useful. From viewing and editing to merging and splitting, there's a PDF tool here for just about anything you might need.

However, it is quick. Additionally, Google Chrome is now the world's most popular browser. So there's a good chance you've already installed it.

Google Chrome can also act as the default local PDF viewer. Right click Your PDF and choose characteristics. Choose change, followed by Google Chrome. Then choose Apply.

Edit PDF properties

Please note that this process is the same for Firefox, Microsoft Edge, or any other PDF viewer that you want to use by default.

Activate the new Google PDF Reader

Thankfully, while updating this article, Google released an update to the Chrome PDF viewer. You can enable the Chrome PDF Reader update from the Chrome Flags page, a list of experimental browser features. Some of these features are in active development while other options come and go.

entrance chrome: // flags Look for in your Chrome address bar # pdf-viewer-update, and switch to activated. You will need to restart your browser before the new PDF reader will load.

Google Chrome PDF Viewer Update

What's new? The PDF reader update aims to bring Chrome's PDF reader to the same standard as Mozilla Firefox's, and to add support for document outlines and new view controls.

Mozilla Firefox

Mozilla Firefox PDF viewer

Like Google Chrome, Firefox has a built-in PDF viewer. In fact, Mozilla has bundled a PDF viewer since Firefox 19 – we're now using Firefox 83. Who said Mozilla wasn't innovative ?! Firefox's PDF viewer also has some useful features. For example, if you have a PDF with interactive fields, such as B. in a form, you can fill this out with the integrated PDF viewer.

Firefox's PDF.js browser viewer is one of the best options.

Microsoft Edge

Microsoft Edge PDF viewer

Windows 10's native browser, Microsoft Edge, also includes a built-in PDF reader.

Microsoft Edge PDF Reader includes options for drawing and scribbling your PDF file from the Draw menu, and options for highlighting and coloring text from the Highlight menu. There is also the option of having your PDF read aloud. You can use Microsoft Edge PDF reader to fill out basic forms, although JavaScript forms are not supported at the time of writing.

What happened to Microsoft Reader?

Microsoft Reader is no longer serviced and is therefore not included in your Windows 10 installation. You can still download and use Reader from the Microsoft Store.

macOS, Linux, iOS and Android

Other operating systems also do not require Adobe Acrobat Reader. MacOS users have a preview, while Linux distributions are bundled with Okular or Evince, depending on the environment. Like iOS, Android has an integrated PDF viewer.

While Adobe Reader is available for all of these operating systems, there is no reason to use it. Not least because there are better free PDF options available for each operating system.

The best Adobe Reader alternatives

When you've read enough and want to try a new PDF reader, check out the best PDF and eBook readers for Windows. The options in this list represent some of the best Adobe Reader alternatives available. Many options include functionality similar to Adobe Acrobat Pro.

If you prefer something lighter than this, consider these very lightweight alternatives to Adobe Reader. They offer PDF functionality in a smaller package and use less system resources than the standard alternative.

What's your favorite PDF viewer?

You've read why you don't really need Adobe Reader anymore. You are well protected between Internet browsers with integrated PDF viewers and the free PDF reader alternatives. Since most PDF files are just documents meant to be viewed in a specific format – which is exactly what PDFs do, after all – most of the alternative PDF viewers on this list offer the same, if not better, experience.

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About the author

Gavin Phillips
(636 articles published)

Gavin is the junior editor for Windows and Technology Explained, contributing regularly to the Really Useful Podcast, and was the editor for MakeUseOf's crypto-focused sister site Blocks Decoded. He has a BA (Hons) in Contemporary Writing Using Digital Art Practices Looted from the Devon Hills, as well as over a decade of writing experience. He enjoys plenty of tea, board games, and soccer.

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