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Having emerged in the 1990s, PDFs are not only one of the most prevalent file types, but they’re also one of the oldest. These venerable documents remain immensely popular because they combine text formatting and images into a single file type that can work universally across different operating systems, hardware and applications. 

Whether it’s a bank statement, invoice or letter, many of the documents you receive through email are likely sent as PDF files. They’re also common in the workplace, with the PDF specification enabling encryption, digital signatures, and more…

Although virtually all email services, web browsers, applications and operating systems will let you view PDF documents, they’re not specifically designed to handle these files. For instance, if you preview and try to print out a PDF document, the paper copy may look slightly misconfigured.

That’s where PDF readers come into the mix. These applications often contain built-in, specialized features that allow you to do much more than merely view PDF files – you can also use these apps to edit, convert and manage PDFs without any issues or fuss. In this article, we’ve picked out five of the best readers for Windows devices.

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(Image: © Image Credit: Adobe)

1. Adobe Acrobat DC

The most popular PDF tool out there

Convert and edit PDF files

Neat file comparison tool

Works across PCs, tablets and smartphones

There are more advanced products out there

Software giant Adobe not only pioneered the PDF, but it has also created a highly popular and comprehensive application that lets you manage such documents effectively. Acrobat DC provides you with the tools to download, convert and edit PDF files across computers, tablets and smartphones.

With the software, you can use your smartphone camera to capture and turn any document into a high-quality PDF. There’s also a new file comparison tool, which quickly and accurately analyzes two PDF files to find any differences. That could be handy if you’re looking to compare different drafts of the same piece of work.

What’s more, when you create a PDF document using Acrobat, you’re sent a smart file that you can edit, sign, share and search. You can even use the built-in preview feature to see what the document will look like on different screen sizes and resolutions. And if you’re writing a letter or have been sent an important form, you can add your signature by using the Acrobat app on a touchscreen-enabled device.

If you’re interested in purchasing Acrobat, there are two offerings to pick from. Acrobat Standard DC costs $12.99 a month, letting you create, edit and sign PDF documents. However, it only works on Windows devices. Meanwhile, Acrobat Pro DC gives you access to all the listed features for $14.99 a month – plus it’s also compatible with Mac devices.

(Image: © Image Credit: Foxit)

2. Foxit PhantomPDF

An affordable PDF editing app

Cloud tools

Collaborative features

Not expensive

Foxit has developed a sophisticated PDF management app, with PhantomPDF being pushed as a tool that goes well beyond PDF viewing, providing a range of cloud-based tools that allow you to create and customize documents at scale.

Described by the company as a ‘transformative’ PDF application, the software lets you create and modify PDFs while providing a plethora of sophisticated management, security and collaboration features. For instance, you can manage who has access to documents, track who opens them, notify readers of document updates and send document requests to your colleagues.

This software also sports a whole suite of useful editing tools. You can change the layout of a document, rearrange paragraphs, columns and pages, or make your documents look more professional by including stamps, watermarks, headers, footers and so forth. You can also merge PDFs and split PDFs into new files.

In terms of price, the Standard edition will cost you $9 monthly or a one-time payment of $145. Should you be mulling a purchase, the good news is that there’s a free trial so you can test out the software first.

(Image: © Image Credit: Nuance)

3. Nuance Power PDF

An enterprise-grade PDF management platform

Used by major enterprises

Lets you create, edit and annotate documents

A tad expensive

Nuance is another notable firm that develops PDF management software for individuals and enterprises. Power PDF is an easy-to-use piece of software that lets you create, edit, annotate and share documents quickly. It’s used by large organizations including the likes of Airbus, PwC, Carillion and the Welsh government.

There are several versions of the software, all of which offer different features. For $129, the Standard edition lets you create, convert, combine and edit documents, fill in forms and share PDF files. It also lets you turn documents like invoices and receipts into PDFs through a scanning and OCR feature.

Meanwhile, the Power PDF Advanced package is priced at $179 and targeted at business users. While offering all the same features of the Standard edition, it comes with collaboration, security and redaction abilities. You can access documents anywhere and at any time through the cloud, too.

Enterprises can get a quote for volume licensing of the software as well. By going down this route, firms get one deployment package with a single license.

(Image: © Image Credit: Soda)

4. Soda PDF Anywhere

Nifty cloud-based management suite

Plenty of smart features

Compatible with Google Drive and more

Not cheap

Lulu Software has developed a range of easy-to-use PDF management applications for both individual users and businesses under the Soda brand. PDF Anywhere is the firm’s enterprise offering, giving companies access to a full suite of cloud-based PDF tools.

With the software, you’re able to review, annotate, send and track documents from a single comprehensive user interface. You can also connect Soda PDF Anywhere to Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, Evernote and Box accounts, which makes it easier to download and distribute documents.

Another great thing about the application is that it comes with a batch processing feature, allowing you to create and convert multiple PDF files at the same time. There’s an e-sign function as well, which you can use to prepare and send PDF-based contracts to clients or partners. What’s more, you can track and get reminders on all the documents you distribute through the app.

Plus, if you use a range of devices within your company, the software works not just for Windows, but also Mac, Linux, iOS and Android devices. As for pricing, there are several plans available. The basic home package starts from $48 a year, though you can get a free PDF reader and individual functions (like e-sign) separately, though.

Image Credit:  SoftXpansion 

5. Perfect PDF Ultimate

A beginner-friendly PDF editing suite

Very user-friendly

Solid functionality

Downloadable from Microsoft Store

SoftXpansion has developed Perfect PDF Ultimate, which is described by the firm as an ‘all-in-one’ application for processing PDF files. Available to buy direct from the Microsoft Store, this user-friendly software is perfect for viewing, editing and creating PDF documents.

Features include the ability to edit page content, generate interactive forms, comment on existing documents, as well as being able to convert, combine and split files. You can also add e-signatures and encryption to important business files. You can buy Perfect PDF Ultimate for $29.99.

Other PDF readers and editors to consider

PDF Exchange is a free PDF editor that’s rich with features. Aside from being able to view, create, and edit PDFs, there are additional options to OCR and digital sign documents. PDF-XChange Editor Plus is an upgraded version which allows for the creation and editing of PDF forms. While PDF Exchange Editor is freeware, you can pay $37 to get a version with support. PDF EXchange Editor Plus is available for $47.

Nitro PDF Reader is another free PDF reader that allows users to read, edit, and annotate PDF files. Nitro PDF offers a couple of key differences to a lot of other free PDF software, though. The first is that it allows for the creation and editing of PDF forms. The other is that it has a sleek and simple interace that uses tabbed menus, making it look like it took inspiration from Microsoft Word in presentation. Sharing and signing are also available.

STDU Viewer – aka, Scientific and Technical Document Utility Viewer – is a freeware viewer that works with multiple file formats. It aims to be an all-in-one viewer for most common file formats used in scientific documentation, such as PDF, TIFF, DjVu, XPS, JBIG2, WWF, FB2, TXT, TCR, PalmDoc(PDB), MOBI, AZW, EPub, DCX, as well as offers a range of supported image file types. It comes with a tabbed interface, multilingual support, and can also work with multi-layered text documents and convert them to single layer document file.

Adobe Reader DC is probably the most famous read-only viewer for PDF files, not least because it’s free and has often been integrated with web browsers. The positives, apart from being free, include the stated aim of making PDFs viewable regardless of the operating system used. The negative, of course, is that you can’t edit and annotate files in the free viewer and you will need one of the options above to do that.


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