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Quality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers

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Background: I wanted to read a small PDF file that contained a comparison of Vista fonts with WinXP fonts - so fired up Foxit Reader and was appauled that the render quality was so poor I could not see the text correctly.

So... here is a quick comparison of the render quality of all the free  PDF viewers that I could find.

Enjoy ;)

ProductVersionSizeInstall?Load time
(App/File)RAMScreenshotAdobe Reader865MB 1Yes1s 2 / < 1s38.5MBQuality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers1 The install is actually 106MB but the Reader sub directory is only 65MB (the rest is junk, such as a copy of the install files)
2 Adobe Reader loads a speed loader (and an auto updater) at system startup which remains resident in memory.Adobe Digital EditionsBeta6.6MBYes 32s / < 1s 441.5MBQuality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers3 The Adobe website does not allow a conventional download of Digital Editions, instead it uses a Flash 'widget' to install the file on your machine, with no choice about where it goes! (Location = C:\Documents and Settings\[USERNAME]\Application Data\Macromedia\Flash Player\\bin\ )
4 Digital Editions includes a library into which all files are loaded prior to viewing. This happens even if you drag and drop, or open the file with the application. Library entries must be removed by hand or are retained.Visagesoft eXpert PDF1.5.99014MBYes3s / 1s28.7MBQuality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / ViewersFoxit Reader
See HERE for important update2.0.16063.8MBNo2s / > 1s 511.6MBQuality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers5 After the initial load, rendering takes an additional second.CAD-KAS PDF Reader2.411.7MBYes 6> 4s / > 2s 722.4MBQuality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers6 The CAS-KAD installer can be unzipped manually and the program run without install.
7 CAS-KAD has an internal file browser. Once the file is selected Sumatra0.5< 1MBNo1s / 1s 15.8MBQuality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers 8

Quality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers8 For some reason Sumatra rendered the text much smaller than other viewers @ 100%. In the second screenshot I tried to normalize the results by zooming the page to the same size as the other viewers.PDF-XChange Viewer1.0.00165MB 9Yes2s / 1s 14.6MBQuality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers9 PDF-XChange also includes a hefty help file (5.5MB) which is included in the download, but need not be installed.Cool PDF Reader1.0.0.64< 1MB 10No< 1s / 1s 1119.3MB 12Quality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers10 Cool PDF can be downloaded as a single exe file, which is only 655kb - nice.
11 The initial load of the PDF file was about 1 second, but changing zoom level, or scrolling the page would max out my CPU for up to 5 seconds before the screen was redrawn.
12 Memory usage jumps up during zooming and scrolling, often as high as 30MB.[/table]

1. Times are all very short since the test file was very small - 1 page, 285.5kB
2. Memory usage is taken from the Mem Usage column of WinXP Task Manager
3. This quality review does not take the faeture set of each app into consideration.

Adobe Reader 8 has the nicest quality of text, it is beautifully crisp; but even with the speed increase of version 8, the program is still something of a monster.

Foxit is very well known as the freeware alternative, it is not the smallest application of those tested, but it does use the least memory; however, the quality of its output is by far the worst!

Adobe's new comer Digital Edition is still in beta, and has some annoyances (no custom install, all files added to library) but it is a fraction of the size of its big brother. Sadly the render quality does suffer; though not as poor as Foxit all the other applications tested produced more legible text.

My vote for the best of the (non Adobe) rest goes with PDF-XChange Viewer; I found the text to be dark and clear.

IF there is a good response to this post I MIGHT be persuaded to do a full review including a feature comparison.

And if you have any other PDF viewers that you would like added to the comparison... let me know :)


i don't know how i missed this when it was first posted.. great!  :Thmbsup: :Thmbsup:

I had used Foxit on my old laptop due to its much better loading times and don't remember any real problem with the text. However, with my new laptop and Vista, I never bothered to add Foxit or others since the load time has been minimal. I do see, though, I'm using Adobe 7 Reader. Now that I think about it, when I went to update to Adobe 8, it wasn't available for Vista. Haven't checked back in the approx. 2 months I've been using the new computer.

btw, very pleased with Vista. Thankfully I have Office 2007.

Wonderful overview, thank you very much for this! I'll have to give PDF X-change Viewer a look-see, although I am growing quite fond of Adobe Reader 8 (having said that, I can't bring myself to switch from Foxit Reader as my default viewer. The thought of Adobe Reader loading itself up whenever I click on a link to a pdf in Maxthon gives me hives! Still, should give it a go, really...).

(So this is where I choose to delurk.)

I had the same reaction as Ampa when I tried Foxit Reader for the first time. Sure the program is fast and lightweight, but the render quality is just appalling. Then I found the GDIplus Module on the Foxit website (Critical addons) and put it in the Foxit Reader folder. This dramatically improved the rendering quality, which I would place in about the same category as PDF-XChange Viewer. Adobe Reader still has the upper hand when it comes to rendering quality, but it also has the bloat thing going on.


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