PDFs have been with us since the early ‘90s, so we’re used to seeing them everywhere. But the format was developed with a precise purpose: to be readable everywhere, regardless of the system you were using, as if the file is printed on paper.
It’s become one of the most widespread file format in the world, and rightly so. Adobe made the specification free of charge in 1993, actually granting the format a long, unprotected life (Adobe still maintains some details proprietary, to be honest).
Over the last decade, PDfs have spread almost everywhere, well beyond the tech industry that created them. You can now find bank statements, medical documents, manuals, announcements, books, even comics in PDF format. So it’s clear that you need some software that can read even the most complex PDF you can find, something you can trust. The bare minimum is Adobe Acrobat, a free application by Adobe itself (although on macOS you can live by using Preview since PDF rendering is embedded in the OS). Scaling up, it depends solely on your needs. Do you have to annotate your documents? You can use Skim, or Sumatra PDF, or Acrobat Pro if you have the resources.
PDFs is so widespread that many scanners output this format to save documents. So, you can find yourself using your scanner default software to convert your papers, and at the same time another application to read them. You’d better have some scanner app that has good OCR capabilities, and for some good OCR software you can surely have a look at our category page. PDFs you acquire through this kind of professional software is often searchable and editable, which is a good thing for your productivity – on the other hand, is still common to get image files from a scan.
Please note that PDF readers, like email clients, is probably one of the most populated categories with excellent free choices – starting right off the bat from the software house that created the format, Adobe, but not limited to Acrobat.
PDF readers may seem like a quiet industry, but a lot is going on. Choose your software, and read on.
If you need a lightweight PDF Reader, you may want to try Foxit Reader. Faster than many big competitors like Adobe Reader, it consumes little RAM and hard drive space.
Adobe Acrobat Reader DC is one of the most powerful PDF software in the world, and although a lot has changed in the last few years, Acrobat still is the software of choice for your pdf reading needs. It’s a free download from Adobe’ site.
Skim for Mac OS is akin to Sumatra PDF for Windows, a stripped-down PDF reader which works quickly and soundly, for every one of us that doesn’t need a bloated version of Acrobat Reader.
Sumatra PDF is a versatile free software that can quickly open many different file formats. It’s a stripped-down version of a reader, but it pays off because the software is sleek, quick and almost crash-proof.
Evince is a multi-page document reader that supports several file formats. Designed for the GNOME desktop environment, as the motto sums up, it's "simply a document viewer" replacing multiple GNOME document viewers.
Okular is a universal document viewer developed by KDE. It works on multiple platforms like Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and mobile.
MuPDF is an open source, oversimplified and lightweight PDF reader that also supports ePub, XPS, and CBZ documents.