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by JB Burke

Q. Adobe PDF reader seems slow and I've read that it takes lots of resources. Are there any useable free alternatives available?

A. Adobe Reader is rather large and somewhat slow. It is generally found on every PC, but there are a couple of very good alternatives that are smaller, faster and free. And they sometimes have additional features that Adobe doesn't have. Here are two examples.

Foxit Reader has been around for a long time and is very popular, with a great many downloads. It can be found here: It is fast, doesn't use as much memory as Adobe Reader, and claims to be secure from viruses. In addition, Foxit Reader has a number of add-ons that can expand its capabilities. Just do a Google search for Foxit Reader add-ons. Foxit Reader is free for private, non-commercial use, but there is a fee for commercial use.

Another alternative to Adobe Reader is PDF-XChange Viewer which is free for both private and commercial use, unless you incorporate it into another program and charge for it. It is "smaller, faster and more feature rich" than any other free PDF reader/viewer. The included free features are extensive, and can be viewed at their web page (see above). It provides extensive editing capabilities for PDF files, such as extracting text from PDF documents, highlighting text and exporting portions or complete documents to other formats. There is a Pro version available for a charge ($37.50 for a single license), but I use this as my own PDF reader, and I've never seen a need for the Pro version. The free version has more than enough to satisfy my needs.

Here is my suggestion. Uninstall any version(s) of Adobe that you have installed (if older than version 11), and then install the latest version. There are rare cases when only Adobe will work. Then download PDF-XChange Viewer and install it as your default viewer. The list of install options pre-checked include Addin for IE, Firefox and Chrome browsers. Now you've got Adobe as an "emergency" backup, and PDF-XChange Viewer for everyday use.

Published: Courier 11/18/12 - Page 3C