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2014 Donald R. Snow

My Freeware Corner Notes are printed in our Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group monthly newsletter TAGGology and posted on my Family History Class Notes webpage , sometimes with updated information there.

This month we consider two free Windows pdf readers.  pdf is an acronym for Portable Document Format and is a file format that Adobe developed so that text files would look the same on any computer and operating system, whether in Windows, Mac, Linux, etc.  It has become a standard that many organizations have adopted, including the LDS Church, so all the Church manuals, Conference Reports, magazines, handbooks, etc., are now published online in pdf format.  There are many free pdf readers, including Adobe Reader.  The two we discuss here either work much faster than Adobe Reader or have additional features.

Download from
This was recently voted the best free pdf reader by readers and writers of dotTech, a group of tech people who keep up on these things -- .  It is much smaller than Adobe Reader and so uses less of your computing power when running.  Additional features it has are finding all pdf's on your hard drive and putting notes on them.  It has a horizontal split screen view so you can scroll through a pdf while holding one part still, like a split-screen view in a spreadsheet.  It has a search tool that will search through all the pdf's in folders and subfolders and show the term highlighted in the pdf when you click on it.  But this only works if the pdf already has the text layer and I don't think it will OCR (Optical Character Recognition) those that don't already have  it.  The search function even found names on some pdf pedigree fan charts that I had in the folder.  As you click on pdf's containing the search term it puts them into tabs across the top so you can go back to whichever one you want later.  You can zoom in or out on a pdf by Control ++ or - - .   There are a ton of options you can set for yourself by clicking on Edit > Preferences.  For several more features, see the review above.  There are also versions of Foxit Reader for mobile device.  One thing Foxit does not do is create pdf's, but there are several freeware pdf printers that will print to pdf anything you send to the printer.  In short Foxit Reader is a good pdf reader with lots of options.

Download from
This was a runner up in the dotTech review mentioned above.  On the Tracker website above there is a comparison chart that shows most of the features of PDF-XChange Viewer free.  This reader can also be used as a pdf printer, but it puts a watermark on the page, so I use a different pdf program, PDF Creator, set as my default printer.  Then, unless I change the printer, it prints to a pdf whatever I send to the printer.  This makes it so I don't inadvertently do paper prints that I didn't really want and I can see exactly what the final print will look like from whatever program I am using before I print it.  I also have an exact copy to print from later, if I need it.  I have PDF-XChange Viewer Free set as my default program to read pdf's, so when I click on a pdf it opens this program and I can then read and/or print from it.  On the Tracker website there is a PDF Viewer Manual that you can download free.  Be careful when installing the program and do read what it is asking.  Be sure to uncheck the boxes for the Ask Toobar and other junk during the installation or you get lots of bloatware on your computer.  PDF-XChange Viewer has search capabilities to find terms in the current pdf or in all pdf's in a location you specify.  A major additional feature it has is to OCR pdf's (Optical Character Recognition) that don't already have the text layer with them.  It does OCR for English, French, German, and Spanish.  To use the OCR feature open the pdf in the viewer and click on the OCR button at the top of the screen.  It doesn't do a perfect job, but is fairly accurate and very helpful in finding words in the pdf.  I have used it to OCR a book I had downloaded in pdf from Google Books, since Google Book downloads don't have the text layer.  It took about an hour for a several-hundred-page book and gave fairly accurate results when finished.  I saved the text-layered pdf of the book with a new name, so it didn't wipe out my original non-text-layered pdf of it.  You can use this program to extract or add pages to a pdf, rotate them, etc.  It also allows you to write on pdf's and I've used it to fill out pdf forms, then saved the filled-in form with a new name and printed it or emailed it.  It allows you to put text boxes wherever you want on the pdf and enter text in them.  These text boxes can have borders of varying thickness or else be set to zero-width so only the text shows without the box around it.  I've found this program to be very helpful and use it regularly.

Return to Don's Freeware Corner Page or Don's Family History Class Notes Page .