Five Free Tools to Create & View PDFs

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Image: Adobe PDF Say "PDF" and the first brand name that comes to mind is Adobe. Although Adobe invented the PDF, their products are far from being the cheapest or most intuitive for everyday PDF creating and viewing.

There are dozens of better free alternatives to Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Reader. Here are five favorites:

1. CutePDF

CutePDF is hands down the most popular free PDF creator and for good reason. To use it, all one needs to do is print a document to the CutePDF Writer, just like you would to an actual printer. The result is a clean, simple PDF. No bloatware, no registration; no nag screens.

Note: CutePDF is a PDF creator only—it does not have include a PDF viewer.

2. Nitro Reader

Nitro Reader is a free PDF reader and creator, but unlike the others on this list, it’s packed with additional features. Nitro is particularly handy for working with Microsoft Office 2010 documents.

3. PDF995

PDF995 is lightweight, fast and free. There’s an on-screen advertisement that's present when creating a PDF, but it’s tolerable. What's to like about PDF995? Its speed and reliability. PDF995 is far less likely to go fritzy even compared to its commercial counterparts. It also works great with Windows XP.

Note: PDF995 is PDF creator only—it does not include a PDF viewer.

4. Foxit Reader

Foxit offers Foxit Reader, which is often touted as faster than both Adobe and Google Chrome’s built-in PDF viewer. But it also allows the creation of PDFs, either via a PDF printer or directly from Word.

It is fast and lightweight. Definitely an alternative to Adobe Reader.

5. SlimPDF

Small footprint is the name of the game for SlimPDF, and against most contenders, it wins. If system resources are tight, SlimPDF may help you view PDFs without bogging things down. SlimPDF is incredibly minimalistic—all it does is let you view PDFs, print PDFs and zoom in/zoom out on them. But if that’s all you need, then SlimPDF is a great alternative to Adobe.


Almost everyone uses Adobe Reader. There's a reason why the Adobe Reader page is one of the top Google search results for "click here". In many ways, Adobe has become the default application for reading and viewing PDFs. But if you don’t have the patience for Adobe Reader or the money for Adobe Acrobat, there are plenty of alternatives.

And because Adobe granted royalty-free licenses for the patents required to make PDFs back in 2008, most of the free alternatives will be every bit as effective and reliable as Adobe Reader.

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LAST UPDATED 5/20/2013