How to open PDF

You are tired of the usual Acrobat Reader and you are looking for a valid reader for PDF files but you don’t want another slow-opening “brick”. Sure, you’re a bit of a fussy type but luckily for you I have what you need: a nice list of alternative programs to open PDFs.

What interests you? Yes? Very well. Then give yourself a few minutes all to yourself, position yourself comfortably in front of your trusted computer and immediately start concentrating on reading everything listed below. In the following lines we will in fact go to discover together what I believe to be the best software used for the purpose that you can use as a variant of the much-renowned Adobe program, both for what concerns the Windows side and for the Mac world, both free and for a fee. All you have to do is choose what you think will do the most for you and download it to your computer.

Then? May I know what are you still doing standing there? Come on, let’s not waste any more time chatting and immediately start getting busy. Ah, I almost forgot: for the sake of completeness of information, at the end of the article I also added a passage entirely dedicated to what are the main apps for smartphones and tablets useful in this sense and thanks to which you can view your PDFs directly in mobility.


  • PDFelement (Windows / Mac)
  • Soda PDF (Windows / Mac)
  • Chrome (Windows / Mac)
  • PDF-XChange Viewer (Windows)
  • Preview (Mac)
  • App to open PDFs

PDFelement (Windows / Mac)

The first resource I want to invite you to consider to open PDFs is PDFelement . It is a software available for both Windows and Mac that offers its users a wide range of viewing modes. It also allows you to add notes and comments, highlight PDF text, insert links and much more. Unfortunately it is not free but before proceeding with any purchase of the program you can download and test the trial version (as I did to write this step).

To download it on your computer, connected to the program’s website , press the Free Trial button and then the one with the Windows logo (to get the Windows version) or with the Finder icon (to get the Mac version).

When the download is complete, if you are using Windows, open the .exe file you just obtained and click on Yes . Then click OK to confirm the use of the Italian language and click Next . Select the item I accept the terms of the license agreement and click Next again three times and then click Finish.

If, on the other hand, you are using a Mac, open the .dmg package obtained and drag the program icon to the Applications folder of macOS. Then right-click on it and choose Open twice in a row, in order to bypass Apple’s limitations towards unauthorized developers.

Regardless of the operating system used, in order to view your PDF files, simply click on the Open File button on the left side of the window on the screen and select the reference PDF document. If you want to view multiple PDFs at the same time, go to the File menu , choose the Open item and select the other documents that will then be opened in further tabs of the program.

To manage all the viewing options, instead expand the View menu at the top and use the buttons you see appear to, for example, change the zoom level, adapt the page to the screen, etc.

If you then want to select part of the text, choose the Select Mail option on the left and highlight the text of your interest. If you want to edit the text by adding notes, comments and so on, expand the Annotation and Edit menus at the top and choose the options and tools you prefer.

Do you want to export the opened PDF document as an image or other file? It can be done. To do this, click on the File menu at the top, select Convert , select Word  or  Other formats or, again,  Other PDF formats depending on what your needs are and indicate the final output format by clicking on its icon.

Soda PDF (Windows / Mac)

Another resource you have on your side to be able to open PDFs is Soda PDF . It is available at no cost for both Windows and Mac and allows you to read any PDF document as well as explore catalogs, magazines, eBooks and so on using proprietary 3D technology. In short, try it now and you will see that you will not regret it.

To use it, connect to the program’s website and click on the Free Download button , in order to start the download of Soda PDF on your computer.

When the download is complete, if you are using Windows, open the .exe file obtained, click on Yes and press the Next button to start the installation.

If, on the other hand, you are using a Mac, open the .pkg package obtained and click, in the window that appeared on the desktop, on  Continue twice consecutively and on  Accept . Then click on the Continue and Install buttons , type the password of your user account on macOS and wait for the installation to complete. Then start the program by clicking on its icon in the Launchpad .

Now that, regardless of the operating system, you see the Soda PDF window on the screen, to open the PDF you want to view click on the Open PDF document button , select the file to browse and press the Open button . On Mac, instead, click on the File item in the top menu bar, select  Open from the menu that appears and choose the PDF file of your interest.

Once the document is displayed, you can change the view mode as you see fit by clicking on the View tab at the top and using the buttons and items attached to the menu that appears. From there, for example, you can change the zoom level, you can enable or disable the 3D view, you can choose to open the document in full screen and much more.

If, on the other hand, you want to add bookmarks, annotations, text highlights etc., go to the Creations , Editing and Insertion tabs that you will always find at the top and use the tools attached to them.

If you then want to export your PDF in a different format, select the Conversion tab which is always at the top and click the button corresponding to the format in which you intend to export your document to your computer.

Chrome (Windows / Mac)

You probably weren’t aware of it but you should know that even Chrome , the Google home web browser, is able to perform the function of PDF file viewer. In addition to allowing you to visit your favorite websites, in fact, it includes a plugin for opening and viewing PDFs which, in fact, allows you to open documents of this type without having to resort to additional programs on your computer.

To use it in this sense, first download the famous browser on your Windows PC or on your Mac (if you haven’t already done so, of course) following the instructions I gave you in my tutorial dedicated to the topic .

Then start browsing and drag the PDF document you want to open into a new tab of the same. Alternatively, you can open your PDFs in Chrome by right-clicking on the reference file, selecting the Open with item from the menu that appears and then choosing Google Chrome from the additional menu that opens.

Through the screen that will be shown to you at this point you can view your PDF, increase or decrease the zoom level (using the [+] and [-] buttons at the bottom right) and enable or disable the full screen display ( using the button depicting a square with open sides that is always at the bottom right).

You can also print the PDF (by clicking on the print symbol at the top) and rotate the document (by pressing the button with the arrow that you always find at the top of the screen).

Note: The PDF viewing function is also included in all other popular browsers (eg Firefox and Safari ) but compared to them Chrome offers better document management.

PDF-XChange Viewer (Windows)

PDF-XChange Viewer  is instead a program to open PDF files for free, completely in Italian and that really has nothing to envy to commercial solutions. With it you will not only be able to open any type of document in PDF format but also delete / extract pages from files, export them as images and much more.

You ask me how to use it? I’ll point it out to you right away. The first step you need to take is to connect to the software website and click on the Download button   at the top center, in order to download the program on your PC.

Once the download is complete, extract the compressed archive you just obtained in any location and start the .exe file inside it to start the software installation procedure. In the window that opens, first click on Yes  and OK to confirm the use of the Italian language. Then press on  Next , check the box next to the entry  I accept the terms of the license agreement , click on Next for six consecutive times, click on Install and then on  Finish .

Once the program is installed on your computer, you can immediately start using it to view your documents in digital format. To open a PDF file with PDF-XChange Viewer, all you have to do is click on the Open button   on the software toolbar.

You can also open multiple documents at the same time in the same PDF-XChange Viewer window, using the tabs displayed at the top of the program, and select / copy the texts present in them, by clicking on the Select icon  in the toolbar and highlighting the portions of desired text with the mouse.

To export the open PDF in the form of an image, on the other hand, go to the File menu , select the Export item and click on Export as image . In the window that opens, select the file format you wish to export your document from the menu Image Type: indicates the folder in which to save the images by clicking the Browse … and start converting by clicking on Export … .

You can also add texts and notes within open documents. To do this, go to the Tools menu , click on Comment and annotate and select the Notes and Text items .

Preview (Mac)

Are you using a Mac and would like to get acquainted with an alternative system to the ones mentioned above to open PDFs? If this is the case, I am happy to inform you that if you are not looking for particularly advanced features, you can also avoid resorting to the use of third-party tools and rely on Preview , the application included “standard” in macOS thanks to which you can view images and PDFs, in fact.

To use it for your purpose, simply double-click the icon of the PDF of your interest and within a few moments you will see it appear on the screen, in the Preview window. If doing so nothing happens or if you have set a different PDF reader as default, open Preview by clicking on its icon (the one with the photograph ) in the Launchpad , select the reference PDF from the window that opens and press the Open button .

Once the PDF is displayed, you can optionally highlight one or more parts of the text by clicking on the button with the highlighter at the top. If, on the other hand, you want to insert notes, drawings, etc., click on the button with the pencil always located at the top of the Preview window. Instead, to manage the zoom level, use the special buttons with the magnifying glass located at the top left.

Do you want to import your PDF as an image? This can also be done. To do this, click on the File item attached to the menu bar, select Export… , indicate the format of the output file from the Format drop-down menu , choose the location for saving through the menu Located in: and press Save .

App to open PDFs

To conclude on a high note, as they say, I want to point out some applications for smartphones and tablets that you can use to open your PDFs directly and comfortably on the move, without necessarily having to go through the computer.

There are both for Android and iOS, both free and paid. You will find listed below those that in my humble opinion represent the best in the category. Download the one you think is best for you and start using it right away.

  • Xodo PDF( Android / iOS ) – Excellent application for mobile devices thanks to which you can open and view documents in PDF format. It also includes some editing features that can be very convenient and also supports the synchronization of documents via the cloud.
  • Foxit PDF Reader & Converter( Android / iOS ) – Renowned app to open PDFs on the go. It’s free but through in-app purchases you can enable extra features, such as protecting PDFs with certificates, signing PDF documents with digital certificates, creating blank PDFs, etc.
  • Google PDFviewer ( Android ) – As you can guess from the name itself, this is the PDF file viewer distributed directly by Google for its devices. It offers all the most sought after basic features and is free.
  • PDF Expert from Readlle( iOS ) – Application for iOS devices through which you can view and edit PDFs in a simple and complete way and through a very pleasant user interface. It costs 10.99 euros.


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