RAW Computing

View PDF files without installing any software


The PDF file format is widely used for distributing all manner of documents over the internet and it is very popular. Adobe invented it a long time ago to enable people to view and print any type of document even if the user did not have the original software or fonts. All you needed was the Adobe Reader utility installed on your PC. It even made the file format an open standard a few years ago and now lots of applications can create PDF files, making the format even more widely used.

There is only one snag and this is that Adobe Reader has become bloated. Install it from the Adobe website and you will need 320MB of disk space. You don't want it loading when Windows starts or hanging around in memory when you don't need it. That would just slow down the computer.

Go to Programs and Features in the Control Panel (Add or Remove Programs in XP) and uninstall Adobe Reader because there are two lightweight alternatives that you may prefer.

Use Chrome

If you have Google's Chrome web browser installed then you have all the software you need to view and print PDF files and you don't need to install anything else. Chrome has built in PDF handling that works just fine. It displays PDF documents and if you move the mouse down to the bottom right a toolbar appears with print, save, resize and zoom in/out buttons. It's all most people need.

After removing all PDF software like Adobe Reader, right click a PDF file on the desktop or in an Explorer window. Select Open with, Choose default program. What appears next depends on the version of Windows and in Windows 7 is an Open with window. Click the Browse button at the bottom. In Windows 8 there is a built in Reader that you can select, but let's choose Chrome. Click More options. Scroll down and choose Look for another app on this PC.

What you now need to do is find Chrome. This is either C:\Program Files\Google\Chrome\Application or C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Chrome\Application. Select Chrome.exe. Tick Always use the selected program to open this kind of file. That's it. From now on double clicking a PDF file will open it in Chrome.

View and print PDF files

Use Foxit Reader portable

If you want a full featured PDF reader with the ability to annotate and edit documents, a lighter alternative to Adobe Reader is Foxit Reader. Instead of getting it from Foxit software though, get it from PortableApps.com. This does not need installing and it is simply a self extractive zip file. I store portable applications that don't need installing in C:\PortableApps, but it's possible to install them elsewhere.

To use this instead of Adobe Reader, just go through the same steps as with Chrome above, but instead of selecting Chrome.exe, select FoxitReaderPortable.exe in the C:\PortableApps\FoxitReaderPortable or wherever you keep it. It's 82MB, but that's a lot less than Adobe Reader, and it doesn't mess around with your Windows installation because it's a portable app.

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