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Acrobat Reader could stand to shed a few pounds

Acrobat Reader could stand to shed a few pounds

When you’re the standard, it’s normal to become comfortable, the popularity of your product trumping the need to introduce changes that are more than just cosmetic. However, popularity is often the result of the familiarity of your product taking precedence over its reliability. In every market, consumers exhibit a tendency to stay with the standard out of habit, excusing glaring flaws that become acceptable in the face of the unknown.

One such example is Acrobat Reader, an application commonly used to read PDF files. PDF (Portable Document Format) is the file format created by Adobe Systems for the exchange of documents. Independent of the usual variables that are attendant to the compatibility of a file format (software, hardware, and operating system), PDF files are self-contained documents of a two-dimensional nature. Until just recently, Acrobat Reader — also created by Adobe Systems — was the the only application that one could use to view a PDF file. A little over a year ago, Adobe released the format as an open format, making it possible to read the file with other solutions.

Acrobat Reader, like all popular products that suffer from the aforementioned complacency, has seen its evolution stunted by a lack of attention given to its performance. Though primarily used for just viewing files, its bloat is obvious, the application consuming approximately 30MB of space. While Acrobat Reader has features that haven’t yet been adopted by competing software, there are a number of alternatives that offer its core functionality without the excess baggage.

One option is Evince. Evince is notable for its simplicity, its name accompanied by a tagline that reads, “Simply a document viewer.” That’s exactly what Evince is, its unassuming interface underscored by the speed that you’d naturally expect from what is nothing more than a document viewer.  A neat addition to Evince is its “Presentation Mode,” which handles the PDF file as if it were a slideshow. In this mode, each page is treated as a slide. Originally written for use with Linux, there is a Windows version that offers the same features.

Another great alternative is SumatraPDF. For those who simply want to view and print PDF files, SumatraPDF does so without any of the lag one notices when using Acrobat Reader. While plain in appearance, not unlike Evince, its functionality is readily gleaned from the easily navigable interface. With just a few buttons, you can avail yourself of this tool for the functions that are most used by those viewing a PDF: open, page-jump, search. Though its use is limited to just those fundamental tasks we associate with Acrobat Reader, it moves at an impressive speed, with a minimalistic design that spares you the needless trimmings.

Lastly, there’s Foxit Reader, an alternative with a feature set that’s comparable to Acrobat Reader’s . Free and available for Windows, Foxit Reader is regarded by many to be the most satisfying choice for those who’ve sought a competent substitute for Acrobat Reader. One reason for its popularity is the impressive feature set: email the PDF while viewing it, highlight part of the screen and save it as an image, and convert the PDF to text.  Those features come with the free version, with even more impressive options included in the Foxit Reader Pro Pack, should you opt to purchase it – chiefly, the ability to edit your PDF files.

In the case of Acrobat Reader, this is but one of many instances where you’ll find that the most popular software isn’t necessarily the best solution. Acrobat Reader is certainly no slouch, coming from the company from which the PDF originated, but there’s no denying that it can stand to shed much of the weight that its present form is dragging. Until that’s done, the alternatives mentioned above should be more than enough to fulfill your needs where viewing PDF files are concerned.

Evince SumutraPDF Foxit Reader

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