Top 5 Free PDF Readers 2024

PDF readers to those programs that enable you to open and read the content of files that are in Portable Document File (PDF) format. Over the years, the use of PDF files has increased greatly. Now we need it in every walk of life, especially for business and academic purposes. Most modern browsers do come with inbuilt PDF viewing capabilities. But people often find that they need dedicated and free PDF readers that come with more features. That then leads to the question as to which are the best free PDF readers.

Here, we will cover the top 5 free PDF reader software for Windows. For each, we will explore the special features and functionalities that make it good. The end goal is to give you enough info to select the best PDF reader for your needs.

Part 1. Top 5 Best Free PDF Readers

There are quite a huge number of PDF readers in the market among which some of the applications are available for free. Others require one-time payments to acquire them. We also have those that are available under the subscription model.

A free PDF reader is one that you can download and start using without the need to pay a cent while meeting your needs. Let’s now explore the best free PDF reader applications that can generate value for you:

1. Afirstsoft PDF

Afirstsoft PDF is a powerful and advanced PDF reader with AI-powered features. Whether yours is a Windows, Android, iOS, or MacOS device, you can use Afirstsoft PDF with no inconvenience. As you are looking to download free PDF reader, this PDF editor has the full suite of features that a modern user need.

It is on account of those factors that many people who have come across it have tended to view Afirstsoft PDF as (objectively) the best free PDF reader software.

download afirstsoft free pdf reader


  • Ease PDF access: With Afirstsoft PDF, it is possible for you to conveniently open and read PDFs.
  • Editing capabilities: You get to fully edit your PDFs with Afirstsoft: which is remarkable, given the fact that most of the other PDF readers we have looked at tend to come with limitations in terms of the extent to which you can edit documents through them. And in case you wish to convert PDFs, that is something Afirstsoft PDF lets you do as well.
  • PDF creation: With Airsoft PDF, you can create PDFs from scratch – since this is not just a PDF reader, but actually a full-fledged PDF editor. So, the right way to refer to it is as a free PDF reader and editor.


  • Afirstsoft PDF actually allows you to ‘polish’ the PDFs, so as to give them a refined look.
  • It is capable of recognizing OCR. Therefore, if what you are looking at is, say, a document that was originally photocopied, Afirstsoft PDF will still be in a position to make sense of the OCR (Optical Recognition Characters) in it.
  • It allows you to annotate the PDFs, which can be very helpful when you are dealing with scientific papers.


  • Downloading and installing the Afirstsoft PDF editor may take a bit of time.


2. Adobe Acrobat

Adobe Acrobat is not a completely free PDF reader. However, some of its features are accessible free of charge. And most people find the said free features in this application are quite adequate.

We need to remember that the PDF format actually originated from Adobe. Therefore, one would argue that they understand it best. This is why then that many of the people seeking the best free PDF reader and editor end up settling for Adobe Acrobat.

Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader


  • Convenient document opening and reading: Adobe Acrobat reader is well capable of opening and being able to read PDF documents – which is almost of the people who undertake the free PDF reader download
  • Form filling and signing: With Adobe Acrobat PDF reader, it is possible for you to fill and sign forms.
  • Commenting: Adobe Acrobat PDF reader allows you to add comments to documents, which can come in very handy for collaborative working.


  • Adobe Acrobat Reader enjoys very good user support, being a very widely used application.
  • Easy document navigation.
  • Decent user interface.


  • It will keep on reminding you to upgrade to the premium version. That would always be the case for as long as you continue using this program’s free features.
  • Some say that this application may have some security vulnerabilities if you don’t keep on updating.


3. Sumatra PDF

Sumatra PDF is an open-source program. Therefore, it is available truly for free. It doesn’t come with any subscription fee needing ‘premium’ features. For that reason alone, many people consider this to be truly the best free PDF reader for Windows in the market.

sumatra free pdf reader interface


  • Fast Operation: Downloading and installing SumatraPDF takes very little time. And once installed, SumatraPDF launches very fast. Opening PDFs through it also tends to be a very quick affair.
  • Easy to use: It comes with an intuitive user interface, which makes it very easy to use.
  • Light app: The latest version of SumatraPDF for instance comes in at only 4.63 mb (for the 32-bit installation package).


  • Freeware that is available absolutely free of charge
  • Uses computing resources in a highly efficient manner
  • Very clean interface


  • Sumatra PDF seems to be only available for the Windows operating system.
  • Its features are quite limited. For instance, whereas it is very good for viewing PDFs, you will find that there is not much you can do with it when it comes to even the most basic of PDF editing.


4. Skim

Developed by Christiaan Hofman and others, Skim is an open-source PDF reader. It is designed for use on MacOS devices. The fact that Skim PDF reader is open-source software means that is truly available for free. You won’t find some features that are hidden behind a paywall or anything of that nature.

skim free pdf reader interface


  • Including bookmarking capabilities: With Skim PDF reader, you won’t be limited to viewing PDFs. This software also allows you to bookmark them.
  • Capable of highlighting text: With Skim PDF reader, you can highlight any text you wish to on any document you happen to be viewing.
  • Multiple document modes: Skim allows you to open the documents you wish to view either in presentation mode or in full-screen mode.
  • Annotation: Skim allows you to annotate scientific papers – a feature that folks in the scientific community would tend to find very useful.


  • Modest weight - Skim is modest in ‘weight’. Therefore, it is a free PDF reader downloadwhile the installation tends to be easy – on account of its small footprint.
  • Easy navigation through documents.
  • Skim is reasonably fast in its operations.


  • This software is only meant for use with MacOS devices. Thus, if yours is a Windows, Linux or Android device, you won’t be able to use Skim.


5. MuPDF

MuPDF is one of those free PDF reader and editors that can be used across operating systems. You can use it on Windows, as well as in the various Unix-like operating systems. It is also usable on iOS and Android devices.

Like the other free PDF reader software applications, MuPDF is also an open-source program. In practical terms, this means that it is truly available free of charge – and there are no premium features in it that require to be paid for.

MuPDF Free PDF Reader Interface


  • Versatility: MuPDF allows you to do a wide range of things with PDF documents. It is more of a library, rather than a simple app. It can even parse, merge, and split PDFs.
  • Easy annotation: MuPDF allows you to also easily annotate PDF documents.
  • Advanced conversion: You can convert the documents you managed to open with MuPDF into other formats.


  • Advanced functionality.
  • MuPDF’s working speed is decent.
  • Multiple features associated with PDFs.


  • The MuPDF user interface can be a bit intimidating.
  • Some people who just need a simple PDF reader may find a few of the features in MuPDF superfluous.

Part 2. How to Download Free PDF Reader?

Having gotten to understand which are the best free PDF readers, the next thing we need to deal with is the aspect of how to download one. Now there are a few steps you need to follow if you wish to download free PDF reader.

Step 1: Decide on the specific free PDF reader you will be using

In deciding on the specific PDF reader, you will be using; you need to consider your needs vis-a-vis the features of the respective PDF readers. You also need to consider the computing device you use and ensure that the PDF reader you settle on is compatible.

For instance, if you are using a Windows device, you would have to identify the best free PDF reader for Windows. Here, we will guide on how to download Afirstsoft PDF, an advanced tool that you can certainly give a shot.

Step 2: Go to the official website of the free PDF reader you wish to download

When you select a tool, search on Google and access the official website to download free PDF reader. In this case, we are going to the Afirstsoft PDF official website.

Step 3: Click on “Download”

Once you are on the official website for the PDF reader you have settled for, locate and go to the downloads page, then click on the appropriate button.

afirstsoft pdf reader download button

You may then need to indicate the location on your computer you’d want the downloaded program files to go to. After it downloads, you can initiate its installation: by clicking on the .exe files in most cases.

Part 3. How to Choose the Best Free PDF Reader Software?

There are a number of factors you need to take into consideration while choosing the best free PDF reader application. Those would include:

  1. The core features: Here, the consideration is on what exactly the PDF reader under consideration can do. So, you check how well it facilitates the opening and viewing of PDFs. Further, you consider its other capabilities, including things like form filling and signing, annotation, commenting capabilities, the extent to which you can edit the PDFs with it… and so on.
  2. Speed: You need a PDF reader that launches fast. It should also be capable of opening PDFs reasonably quickly.
  3. Compatibility: The PDF reader you settle on should be one that is fully compatible with the computing device you are using.
  4. Security: You have to ensure that the PDF reader you opt to use is secure – lest you end up installing a Trojan horse in the name of a PDF reader!

Part 4. Conclusion

As we have seen, there are several good free PDF reader programs that you can use for the purpose of opening and viewing PDFs. Some of the best free PDF readers we have looked at include Sumatra PDF, MuPDF, Skim, Adobe Acrobat and Afirstsoft PDF.

And as it has become clear, for anyone who is seeking a good modern PDF reader that also comes with advanced capabilities for polishing PDFs, the Afirstsoft PDF reader would tend to be the best choice. Thus, if you are looking for a PDF reader that also allows you to fully edit and polish the PDFs, we would recommend that you try Afirstsoft PDF reader.

Emily Davis


Emily Davis is one of the staff editors of Afirstsoft PDF Editor team. She is a dedicated staff editor with a keen eye for detail and a passion for refining content.

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