Adobe Reader is free. It is also one of the biggest magnets for attack on your computer. In fact, it is likely only behind Adobe Flash and Oracle Java. Yes, these are not good times for Adobe — the company is in an endless cycle of security updates in a desperate attempt to stay one step ahead of the bad guys, and frequently failing to do so.
So what do you do? Well, you may not be able to avoid Flash and Java, but you certainly have plenty of options when it comes to PDF readers.
If you are using Windows 8 then your operating system comes with a built-in PDF reader, though I have found it less than useful. Likewise, if you have installed Office 2013 or its brother, Office 365 Home Premium, then you also have built in PDF capability within the Word app.
Neither of those solutions is a perfect alternative to Adobe Reader. However, there are many free apps that are. Nitro and Sumatra, for instance are two excellent ones I used for a while, after leaving Foxit to explore other options. In the end, I came back to Foxit, which I re-installed after moving from Windows 8 Release Preview to the final version of the operating system.
Once you install and launch Foxit you will be greeted with a rather simple screen with a traditional looking menu across the top. There is no “modern” ribbon UI here — it is kept simple.
There are two rows — a menu and then, below that, icons. It is unlikely that the average user will interact much with many of these, but there are a few key ones that will be part of everyday life if you are a regular PDF user.
The menu items and icons will be mostly self-explanatory. The ones that most customers will have regular interaction with will be “View” which, of course, lets you you zoom in and out of pages and the open, save and print icons which are identical to those seen in virtually every other piece of software currently on the market.
Rather than taking a painful trip though all of this, the best approach seems to me to be to point the features that make Foxit my favorite choice and also may go largely overlooked by many casual users.
The File Menu
Here you will find most of the traditional fare like Open, Save and Recent Files, but there is also a bonus that is not found in other PDF programs I have tested — a “Share” option. This allows you to, as the name implies, share a PDF file — in this case the options for that sharing are Facebook and Twitter. Email is also an option from this menu.
The Edit Menu
Again, this menu is standard fare on par with most software programs. However, you will find another bonus — in this case it is called “UI Options”. From here you can alter the user interface somewhat. Choose from “Change Skin”, Customize Toolbars” and “Change Toolbar Mode”
The first lets you choose between several option of colors, including blue (the default), black, orange, purple and classic. The second allows the user to choose what is included in the toolbar — including adding those social features, if you think you will use them enough to justify the space.
Finally, the last allows you to switch between the classic view (the default) and the “Tabbed toolbar mode”.
The View Menu
There really is not anything earth-shattering here, but it is worth mentioning because, from this menu, you can pick and choose the Toolbars that are displayed in Foxit. Check and uncheck the items listed to customize the interface to your personal tastes and usage habits.
This is an interesting inclusion. SharePoint is a Microsoft app that is included as part of Office for business. It is a collaboration app that allows a team of employees share and work with one another across distances.
From the Foxit app you can log into your SharePoint account and begin sharing the PDF documents with other members of your team, no matter where they are located.
The Help Menu
Again, there is not really anything new here, but I figured it was worth pointing out that this is where you should go to check for, and install, software updates. You can also access a rather nice user manual in the event you have questions about the software. There is also the standard “About” which lets you know the version number you are running, as it does in virtually every other program.
Foxit is far from the only free PDF reading program on the market. Ever since Adobe open sourced the Portable Document Format, other software makers have jumped into this area. As I stated at the beginning, both Sumatra and Nitro are excellent alternatives to the Adobe Reader, which comes as default in many programs and, even when it does not, seems to be where many a user heads because of familiarity.
But, the Adobe solution is fraught with dangers these days, thanks to attacks coming from all sides, to the point where the company can not keep up with the security updates fast enough to combat the problem. Much like Flash and Java, Adobe Reader has become a program best left off of your computer. Foxit, in my humble opinion, is the best alternative. As testament to that fact, it is the one I install on all of our home computers.
Foxit comes in both free and paid versions, so some options will be locked to free users.