Friday, June 26, 2009

Is there an alternative to Adobe Reader?

All of us have probably used Adobe Reader before. Its the most popular PDF reader and provides a browser plugin. Being the most popular, you can guess that its the most targeted for exploits. In addition, the program tends to be a resource hog and often will slow down your computer when you click a PDF link. Is there a possible alternative that not only reads PDF, but provides a browser version and is not slow?

Product Name: Foxit Reader
Publisher: Foxit Software
Version Reviewed: 3.0 Build 1817
Date Reviewed: June 26, 2009

out of 100

Foxit Reader is a free download from their website. It has also recently won CNET Editors Choice April 2009. They also try to get you to buy the pro version from the website. The download is only about 3.5 MB. Compare that to Adobe Reader’s 16 MB Download.

Upon starting the installation, it opens with a splash then you just agree to the license and after clicking next, the window disappears and after just seconds, the installation is done. The installer will continue to offer you Ask Toolbar with extra Foxit Features and shortcuts to eBay.

See this slideshow for more details. Having trouble viewing it or want to view it in full screen? Click here (Picasa Web Albums).

The overall performance of Foxit Reader is much much faster than Adobe Reader. Clicking a PDF link in browsers no longer lags the whole browser. Very lightweight. Also adds some extra features like content sharing. However, there is one area I was not impressed about.

The following applies to Windows Vista and Windows 7:

You may wonder why the plugin version was not shown. Version 3.0 of Foxit claims to have a Mozilla plugin. However, when I tried it, it just instantly froze Firefox and then gave me a message that the “Server is Busy” and for me to Switch to or Retry. Both buttons did nothing and the server was clearly not busy. I then tried it on Google Chrome, Opera, and Safari and the same result happened, only without the error message. Google Chrome offered to stop the plugin. I had to end process to all the browsers to close it. Looking at the Foxit Forums and some reviews, it looks like I’m not the only one with this issue.

On my Windows Vista machine, the plugin had the issue shown above. On Windows 7, the issue occured too however after Firefox restarted and restored tabs, the PDF actaully loaded but lagged a lot. That only happened once. The rest of the tries it just didn’t work.

The plugin works perfectly on Windows XP however. I tested this on Firefox 3.0, Firefox 3.5, and Google Chrome 2.0. All works fine.

Workaround for Vista/7 Mozilla Firefox Users:

In Firefox, there is a workaround available, which is basically not using the plugin and have PDFs open the whole program. Go to Tools –> Options –> Applications . Then scroll down to PDF Document or Foxit Reader Document (or whatever your PDF files are named). Then on the menu, click on Foxit Reader – Best Reader for Everyday Use. Now, everytime you click a PDF link, it will open PDFs in Foxit Reader and ignore the plugin.


If you run Windows XP or earlier, you should definitely consider using Foxit Reader for PDFs.

If you run Windows Vista or Windows 7: If you are a user of Internet Explorer or other ActiveX based browsers, Foxit Reader is the superior alternative to Adobe Reader. However, if you use the majority of browsers, which are plugin based, like Firefox or Opera, you might want to wait until this plugin is fixed. Or if you don’t mind not using a browser plugin, you can have Firefox open PDFs in Foxit Reader rather than trying to use the defective plugin.

Hows the plugin working for you?

Foxit Reader Download Sites:

Official Foxit Software Site

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