Foxit PDF Alternative to Adobe Reader

While browsing BetaNews over the weekend, I came across Foxit PDF Reader. It’s a PDF reader and that concept may seem a bit redundant at first since Adobe has a PDF reader that works fine, eh? Well, the only problem is that the basic Acrobat Reader could read PDF documents years ago and yet Adobe needed something to put in the new versions…

So, for the last few years, Adobe has released new versions of their PDF reader, adding obscure features which only served to slow down the app for the rest of us. That's where Foxit’s PDF Reader comes in. In contrast to Adobe's PDF Reader which — at least on my system — weighs in at 70 MB (?!), Foxit PDF Reader is about 2 MB. And, it’s just a single .exe file, so there’s no complicated install, either; just unzip and go.

I must say, I was skeptical of of Foxit Reader at first. I mean, how could such a small app display the same documents that needed a 70 MB app previously? Well, I was pleasantly surprised — this thing loads almost instantaneously and it properly rendered all of the documents which I tested with it. On top of that, my mouse wheel actually works this time around (for some reason, my mouse wheel was perpetually ineffective in Adobe Reader).

The only downside to Foxit PDF Reader is that it doesn't support PDF-based forms. Sure, you can view the forms (and print them if you wanted to) but it doesn't support filling out the forms right within the PDF Reader. So, at least for those rare occurrences, it’d make sense to keep Adobe Reader tucked away somewhere. On the other hand, Foxit Reader does have a feature which is similar and, depending on the situation, may be better or worse than native form support. In what they call “typewriter” mode, you can type on top of any part of a document. So, yeah, you could fake filling out a form by placing text right on top of the form fields. More importantly, you can add your own text to any form this way — whether or not they were designed with PDF form support.

PDFs used to be a real drag; I never looked forward to having to open them. But, I can open a PDF document faster than I can open a Word document these days — and I never thought that would happen. (And if you're up for it, I’d recommend trying the 1.3 beta over the current release; I’ve not had any problems with it.)

13 thoughts on “Foxit PDF Alternative to Adobe Reader

  1. Thank you so much! I do a horrible (and lengthy, therefore exhausting) dance of aggravation every time I have to open a PDF because Acrobat takes so long. It’s as bad as opening Photoshop, with all the loading and the hesitating and the making it difficult to do anything else. And it scrolls!

  2. Hmm it doesn’t support PDF actions embedded in PDFs.

    Not sure what kind of system your unning, but acrobat reader should open instantly on any machine made within the last 5 years.

  3. Hi JP. I’m running an Athlon XP 2600 (which isn’t new but not exactly ancient either). And, unless Adobe Reader is cached, it usually takes several seconds for it to start up on my box :-/.

  4. Hi. I found your review through google, while I looked for pdf reader alternative. Downloaded and installed Foxit PDF and I am happy as a clam. And I have Athlon XP 2800+ on my laptop, reader was starting within 2 seconds, but any time I can trade a 70MB app for a 2 MB app that does the same thing, it’s a no brainer for me. Can’t believe I waited so long. Thx!

  5. Hey there,

    I’m just a random passer-by, happened to search ‘PDF Reader Alternatives’ on Google and your review came up among my results (which included Foxit’s homepage).

    I’ve always had issues running Adobe, and I wasn’t sure if I needed to keep it on my drive to run Foxit properly (it’s small size led me to believe that maybe it just a mod or some variation of Adobe’s code). Anyway, a quick read-through of your review answered this question for me.

    Thank you!

  6. Nice one JP ! I’ve just finished a clean re-install of Windows and was looking around on Google for non bloatware versions of the basic utils. Foxit is totally fantastic and I can’t thank you enough for giving me a heads up about it.

    Uber cheers,


  7. I’ve been stockpiling pdfs since my last format, waiting to gather enough courage to reinstall adobe reader again…. it’s been 3 months now…

    today i had no choice, i needed to open a pdf urgently so, as a last ditch resort, i googled for an alternative and stumbled on this article!

    what an amazing find, it actually opens instantly without freezing all IE/explorer windows in the process


    thanks a ton

  8. Thank you for the recommendation. Foxit PDF Reader is great. I’ve found another handy PDF tool called Nitro PDF. Useful if you need more than just a PDF Reader. You can edit text, add post-it notes and create forms. I think they let you download a free demo.

  9. WAIT! There is a problem with Foxit Reader. The search will sometimes fail. If you search a document for anything with more than one decimal point (like an IP address), it won’t find your search item even if it’s there. Also other searches will fail, especially if they contain more than one space. Search for a phrase with two or three spaces, and no luck- even when the phrase exists.

    The publishers of Foxit are aware of this, and as of yet (March 2007, Foxit Reader build 1414), the problem is not resolved.

    Also, try copying a bunch of text out of a PDF file using Foxit, and paste it into a Word or WordPerfect document- you get junk!

    Adobe Reader is bloated and slow, but with the search problem in Foxit as of yet unresolved, I am STILL looking for an alternative to Adobe Reader!

    Steven Stultz

  10. I think you’ll find that the newer versions of Foxit Reader support PDF forms, which means it fulfills and of the requirements I have for PDF reading. It’s brilliant, and you’re right in that Adobe’s bloatware is for very little gain. So, I can print a document to Fed-Ex now? Brilliant, an extra thousand lines of code for a functionality that is useless to me as (a) someone with their own printer and (b) a non-US citizen.

  11. Hmmm, I think that Adobe produced the slowest software in the world, most of theirs software is slow and they are using all capacity in PC, so I am glad that we have now alternative for Adobe and I hope soon we will have alternative for flash player so I will be able to delete any trace of Adobe from my PC. ADOBE IS THE WORST SOFTWARE COMPANY. Microsoft is excellent comparing to them.

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