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Last post Author Topic: Quality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers  (Read 97223 times)

Ampa

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Quality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers
« on: April 26, 2007, 03:13:36 PM »
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 ;)



Product
Version
Size
Install?
Load time
(App/File)
RAM
Screenshot
Adobe Reader865MB 1Yes1s 2 / < 1s38.5MBAdobe Reader.pngQuality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers
1 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 441.5MBAdobe Digital Editions Beta.pngQuality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers
3 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\www.macromedia.com\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 / 1s28.7MBeXpert PDF Reader.pngQuality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers
Foxit Reader
See HERE for important update
2.0.16063.8MBNo2s / > 1s 511.6MBFoxit Reader v2.0.pngQuality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers
5 After the initial load, rendering takes an additional second.
CAD-KAS PDF Reader2.411.7MBYes 6> 4s / > 2s 722.4MBCAD-KAS PDF Reader v2.4.pngQuality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers
6 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 15.8MBSumatra (100%).pngQuality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers 8

Sumatra (Normalized).pngQuality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers
8 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 14.6MBPDF-XChange Viewer.pngQuality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers
9 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 12CoolPDFReader.pngQuality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers
10 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]

Notes
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.

CONCLUSION...
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 :)

Ampa
« Last Edit: April 30, 2007, 06:01:30 PM by Ampa »

mouser

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Re: Quality Comparison: PDF Readers / Viewers (Update +1 and Conclusion)
« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2007, 08:12:42 AM »
i don't know how i missed this when it was first posted.. great!  :Thmbsup: :Thmbsup:

misterbillusa

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Re: Quality Comparison: PDF Readers / Viewers (Update +1 and Conclusion)
« Reply #2 on: April 27, 2007, 07:59:00 PM »
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.

Darwin

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Re: Quality Comparison: PDF Readers / Viewers (Update +1 and Conclusion)
« Reply #3 on: April 27, 2007, 10:55:45 PM »
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...).
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

hjoerdis

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Re: Quality Comparison: PDF Readers / Viewers (Update +1 and Conclusion)
« Reply #4 on: April 28, 2007, 01:43:25 AM »
(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.

Ampa

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Re: Quality Comparison: PDF Readers / Viewers (Update +1 and Conclusion)
« Reply #5 on: April 28, 2007, 06:03:00 AM »
Quote
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...

I too found the 'critical addon' GDI+ module (and placed it in the Foxit install folder), but it seems to make no difference at all on the PDF that I am viewing.

Either I am doing something wrong, or the GDI+ module is hit and miss, or the crappy render quality I am seeing is with the GDI+ module.

I have attached the test PDF [286kb] to this post. If any one feels like testing it in Foxit with and without the GDI+ module I'd be interested in your finding.


I notice that I already have several versions of gdiplus.ddl residing on my disk...


system32   = v5.1.3102.2180
Foxit PDF  = v5.1.3102.1360
eXpert PDF = v6.0.3260.0



Quote from: hjoerdis
(So this is where I choose to delurk.)
Congratulations :) - now keep posting!
« Last Edit: April 28, 2007, 06:11:41 AM by Ampa »

Ampa

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Re: Quality Comparison: PDF Readers / Viewers (Update +1 and Conclusion)
« Reply #6 on: April 28, 2007, 06:31:32 AM »
Aha!!

Major break through...

I found an option in Foxit Reader: Preferences > Page Display > Display texts optimized for LCD screen

Optimize for LCD.pngQuality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers
LCD optimization option

This makes a huge difference (though again I see no difference with or without the local copy of GDI+).

Foxit (LCD).pngQuality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers
Foxit with LCD optimization

Optimised for LCD the render quality is vastly improved - certainly middle of the field.

Foxit (LCD 400%).pngFoxit (Std 400%).png
@400% with LCD optimization@400% without LCD optimization

The option seems to enable XPs ClearType technology within Foxit, and is using coloured pixels to antialias the text, rather than greyscale. Interestingly none of the other viewers (Adobe included) use coloured pixels to antialias - I guess they just have a better greyscale algorithm.

Query: This raises an issue - how do the visual tests appear on CRT screens? It is quite possible that they appear quite differently to other users on other screen types?

Thoughts? Anyone?

« Last Edit: April 28, 2007, 06:36:13 AM by Ampa »

f0dder

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Re: Quality Comparison: PDF Readers / Viewers (Update +1 and Conclusion)
« Reply #7 on: April 28, 2007, 07:11:10 AM »
I've used TFT screens for quite a while, and I plain hate cleartype - makes text have a sort of fuzzy/smudgy feel to it. Quite subtle, but bad enough to make it less easy on my eyes than the higher-contrast regular antialiasing. And yes, I've run the cleartype calibration wizard.

Adding gdiplus.dll to the foxit folder doesn't seem to change anything - but that's because it's already present elsewhere on my system, with Process Explorer in "module mode", I can see the GdiPlus.dll is loaded by Foxit even though not present in it's own install folder.

Foxit has much smoother scrolling (when zoomed in) than sumatra has (and a difference of ~20% vs ~60% CPU usage when using the "grabbing hand" to scroll quickly up and down... and that's on my dualcore 4400+ cpu). There seems to be a slight difference in rendering between the two, but can't really say which one has the better quality.
- carpe noctem

Darwin

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Re: Quality Comparison: PDF Readers / Viewers (Update +1 and Conclusion)
« Reply #8 on: April 28, 2007, 07:55:55 AM »
Nice find, ampa - thanks for that. I've been using Foxit Reader for a couple of years and never noticed that setting. That's very nice and makes my decision easier - I'll keep Foxit as my default reader and have Adobe hanging around for those times when I need it.
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

Eóin

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Re: Quality Comparison: PDF Readers / Viewers (Update +1 and Conclusion)
« Reply #9 on: April 28, 2007, 09:01:52 AM »
One big hit against Sumatra is it's 'printed' quality, it's an absolute disaster. I get the impression that it's passes a low-ish resolution raster image to the printer. Also it's painfully slow at doing so.

But anyway I realise this comparison was about 'on screen' quality.

f0dder

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Re: Quality Comparison: PDF Readers / Viewers (Update +1 and Conclusion)
« Reply #10 on: April 28, 2007, 09:20:40 AM »
It's a think to keep in mind, though - thanks for adding, Eóin.
- carpe noctem

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Re: Quality Comparison: PDF Readers / Viewers (Update +1 and Conclusion)
« Reply #11 on: April 28, 2007, 01:59:39 PM »
Keep in mind that not all of these supports all of the PDF standards. I've had problems in the past with foxit, not supporting my dropshadows i made in inDesign. But for causal reading and work not related to print, I often prefer foxit for the faster loadtime. But its no substitute for acrobat reader

leland

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Re: Quality Comparison: PDF Readers / Viewers (Update +1 and Conclusion)
« Reply #12 on: April 30, 2007, 04:52:57 PM »
Thanks for this cool overview of all the PDF reader alternatives, but you missed Cool PDF Reader.  You can find it at:

http://www.pdf2exe.com/reader.html

I would like to know how you think it compares to the others if you have time.  Thanks.

Leland
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Ampa

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Re: Quality Comparison: PDF Readers / Viewers (Update +1 and Conclusion)
« Reply #13 on: April 30, 2007, 05:40:32 PM »
Your wish is my commanc...

Cool PDF added to the review. Sadly I found it to be rather uncool... the quality is below average, and the render speed is by far the slowest I've seen. My CPU maxed out for a couple of seconds to redraw the page everytime I scrolled or resized the window.

CoolPDF gets a  :down: from me I'm afraid.

Ampa

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Re: Quality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers
« Reply #14 on: April 30, 2007, 06:18:56 PM »
CoolPDF also "cheats" by compressing the executable with UPX - unpacked it's 1.7 megabytes, which is still smaller than the 1.9 megabytes of Sumatra (which is also packed with UPX). I don't like how CoolPDF has a funky non-default color schemes, I hate draggable toolbars, and I don't like the "pdf2exe pro" advertisement, and it is indeed extremely slow at rendering... so another :down: from here :)
- carpe noctem

Armando

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Re: Quality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers
« Reply #15 on: April 30, 2007, 10:53:22 PM »
I tried Foxit Reader, and with the "Display texts optimized for LCD screen" option, I find it Okay -- a bit lighter than the Adobe Reader, which could be annoying (actually, at 100% or 125%, on my laptop screen, I find Foxit easy enough on the eyes. But that's subjective, of course). Apart from that, it's faster, the scrolling is smooth, has more options (convenient annotation tools...), and takes almost 1/4 of the RAM Adobe Reader uses. I wonder if it's compatible with all the new gadgets though. Anyway : for my ebook reading usage, it's more than enough.

Darwin

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Re: Quality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers
« Reply #16 on: April 30, 2007, 11:27:36 PM »
I just discovered that I can have my cake and eat it too. For some reason, setting Adobe Reader as the default handler for pdf's DOES NOT make it the default handler for viewing pdf's from within my web browser. Sweet - Foxit for the web (small footprint and quick to open) and Adobe Reader for everything else. I'm going to try this set up for a while and see if "it suits".
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

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Re: Quality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers
« Reply #17 on: May 01, 2007, 03:34:08 AM »
you should use ClearTweak, enable LCD optimization in foxit makes no difference to me because Cleartweak has already optimized everything for me in all applications.
If you find a good solution and become attached to it, the solution may become your next problem.
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leland

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Re: Quality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers
« Reply #18 on: May 01, 2007, 05:45:37 PM »
Thanks Ampa for adding Cool PDF.  I had found it somewhat useful before Foxit 2 came out, but after that I haven't really used it since.  Your mini review is a great reference when looking for a good viewer so I wanted to know what you thought.  I just tried the PDF-XChange Viewer and you are right it is very cool.  It has enough features I like it may replace Foxit as my favorite non-Adobe viewer.  I especially like the little button in the lower right of the window that allows you to open your currently opened file in Adobe Reader.  Thanks again.

Leland
:D

gestalter

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Re: Quality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers
« Reply #19 on: May 09, 2007, 01:13:31 PM »
CRT Report:

I used the PDF, which, by the way, I cannot load successfully from the site but is available here:
www.christianmontoya.com/wp-content/ uploads/2007/03/vista-web-fonts-montoya-herald.pdf
OR
http://tinyurl.com/33exy7

Adobe 8 looks best on my Compaq FS7600 17" CRT at 1024X768  with smoothing for CRT. Comparing Foxit [latest free non-beta version] with Adobe 8, whether at "actual size" or magnified, shows Adobe 8 marginally clearer, with Foxit being almost as good--almost as readable but sort of more like bold type and darker [at first glance Foxit seems superior but is actually not as clean or legible].

After all the discussion, I was surprised to see very little difference between Adobe and Foxit in my experience using your test file. I would not agree with "render quality was so poor I could not see the text correctly."

Now I have had rendering problems with both Adobe and Foxit from file to file. Some files work better on Foxit than Adobe, so I keep both of them around. Occasionally one or the other reader will spring a big memory leak viewing one or another file and have to be terminated.

This is just my results, XP SP2 Home. Clear type is shut off, as tests with it show no improvement, in fact it makes the type look more blurry.

I second others' poor opinion of Cool PDF, and PDF-XChange Viewer sounds like a great candidate, but I'll probably stick with Foxit as default and Adobe available by right click.

One item with Foxit, is my display flashes from time to time very briefly when using Foxit. I presume this is the software rendering or re-rendering portions of the PDF.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2007, 01:16:48 PM by gestalter »

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Re: Quality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers
« Reply #20 on: May 09, 2007, 02:00:20 PM »
PDF-XChange Viewer is really cool.  It's a tiny bit slower to load on my machine than foxit, but it is a lot clearer, and the search functionality actually works in it.  For some reason foxit's search usually fails to come up with anything for me, even in documents that can be easily searched in Adobe and PDF-XChange.

C

Darwin

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Re: Quality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers
« Reply #21 on: May 09, 2007, 02:11:25 PM »
Thanks Carl. I'd better re-download and actually test fly PDF-XChange Viewer. I'm not unhappy with Acrobt Reader, but being a bit old school am offended by its resource usage!
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

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Re: Quality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers
« Reply #22 on: May 24, 2007, 02:42:51 PM »
For any party interested.

Build 1.017 of PDF-XChange is now available with Forms support + some other new/extended features and more to come in the next 10 days or so when build 1.018 is released.

http://www.docu-trac...od_user/pdfx_viewer/




J-Mac

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Re: Quality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers
« Reply #23 on: June 22, 2007, 12:38:19 PM »
Build 1.017 of PDF-XChange is now available with Forms support + some other new/extended features and more to come in the next 10 days or so when build 1.018 is released.
Has anyone tried using PDF-XChange Pro? The version that has the Forms support included?  I am interested in hearing just how well the Forms feature works.

I presently use Scansoft's PDF Converter Pro 3. Besides converting most any other document-type to PDF format, it allows me to edit existing PDFs and also fill forms on them. Really great for filling out PDF forms that you normally have to print out and manually write on, and then mail. Problem is that PDF Converter Pro is about as buggy as I have ever seen. After fighting with it for over a year, I purchased a new PC and thought that might solve any potential conflicts. Turns out conflicts aren't the problem. The application is just that buggy!! (Reviews all over agree). They released a Version 4, but without many added features at all -- its main claim was that it loads and converts faster. However reviews indicate that it is just as buggy as version 3. Plus, Nuance (Scansoft changed there name but for some reason they still insist on calling this program "Scansoft's PDF Converter Pro) does not support the program at all. They sell support plans for the rest of their products, but not this one. And they do not provide any free support for any of their programs.

So I would like to try another similar application. I wrote to the developers of PDF-XChange Pro and they said that the Forms feature can only work by using MS Office "Web Forms". I asked if that means that MS Office must be installed on one's PC, or if that is a feature that can be used independently, and also if using that format changes the structure of the document in any other way, but they didn't respond.

Anyone here use PDF-XChange Pro for typing directly into existing PDF documents?

Thanks!

Jim

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Re: Quality Comparison: 8 x freeware PDF Readers / Viewers
« Reply #24 on: June 22, 2007, 04:16:03 PM »
I like PDF-Xchange, but I have noticed that its cpu and memory usage while scrolling is much, much higher than Foxit's (100MB+ vs 25MB ...)