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.)