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The Best PDF Readers for Reading and Annotation on Windows, Mac and Mobile Devices.

The Best PDF Readers for Reading and Annotation on Windows, Mac and Mobile Devices.

As I often need to read many PDF files and add notes and comments to the PDF contents, I find it’s inconvenient, so this article is to solve this problem.

If you just read PDF documents without annotation, you don't need to install any PDF reading software, and the browser is enough. But if you need to read and add notes and comments to the PDF document contents, you need a PDF Reader.

There are 4 major kinds of PDF readers divided by systems: Windows, Mac, iOs, Android. Each of these four platforms has many PDF readers programs. Of course, There are also Pros and Cons between each PDF reader, and by my test, I will recommend some best ones later. The basic requirements of the PDF reader are: Easy Reading, Convenient Annotation and Fast Sharing.

Adobe Acrobat Reader

I guess many people have installed Adobe Reader on their computers. It is one of the most widely used PDF readers. However, by my test, Adobe Reader has some Cons: The PDF document opens a little slower. It only has a pop-up annotation tool. It requires a mouse click to read the comment and cannot modify the comment text format. It is not convenient for our normal usage, and sometimes there will be a lack of some fonts, and then the document content displayed abnormally. So if you just need PDF reading and annotation, Adobe Reader is not the best choice.

Sumatra PDF

SumatraPDF is a free open source PDF reader (Under GPLv3 license) on Windows. It supports open PDF, XPS, DjVu, CHM, CBZ and CBR formats. It is very easy to use, small in size, and quick to open documents. The most Pros: It supports to search PDF content very convenient, allows to run on the USB without writing the registry, and no Ads), and multi-language support. However, the annotation function is also slightly limited.

Drawboard PDF

Drawboard PDF is pre-installed when you purchased the Surface. It is also can be downloaded from the Windows App Store. I think it is probably the best annotation tool I’ve ever used, and it works great with Surface Pen. Drawboard is so good, both for PDF reading and annotation.

PDF-XChange Viewer

PDF-XChange Viewer is poor of the text rendering effect, but its biggest advantage is that the annotation is particularly convenient, you can add or subtract bookmarks, and can also mark the PDF content by chapter.

Foxit Reader

Foxit Reader is a special PDF Reader because its pros and cons are also loved or hated by users. I just list my test results here,
In addition to reading the PDF documents, the most part I used is its annotation function, which is used to modify a graduation thesis. Many parts need to be changed, especially if you need to make a lot of comments, it is more convenient than the Word revision function. And another useful feature is its optional feature, the virtual PDF printer.

Foxit Reader has some Ads, and most users don’t like it, yes, I don’t like it either. Its desktop version has little support for touchscreens and styluses pen, (because the stylus pen will be preferred as a mouse rather than a pen). The touchscreen version of Foxit's annotation function is weaker than the desktop version, and it’s not convenient to use. Windows 8.1 comes with a Modern UI version of the PDF reader, but the annotations are only valid for red. OneNote is fine, but it is inconvenient as a PDF reader, and it requires an extra step of importing PDFs.


I also use Mac at work, but I think its built-in PDF reading function is too simple because it’s lack of the annotation function. I can’t make any comments and add notes to the documents, and it is impossible to record the reading progress. So inconvenient. So I recommend a good MAC PDF reader program - Skim. It’s a small PDF reader, but powerful enough to read, mark, add notes and record pages.

Acrobat Reader

Adobe Reader Mobile version, enough.

Which one do you prefer? please leave a comment to tell others.
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