Almost Adobe Acrobat Professional

key review info
application features
  • Tabbed Multiple Document Windows
  • (4 more, see all...)

When it comes to reading digital files a great deal of readers appeal to the worldwide known Adobe Reader. There are multiple reasons for its almost universal use. It is somewhat resembling the use of IE6 which, despite its faulty coding and total lack of protection features, it overcame the 90% market share step.

But the ease of use and elegance of Adobe Reader cannot be denied, although these come with the price of huge resource consumption which is not so appreciated among users. Plus the program does not allow anything but reading the PDF documents at hand. Its heftier brother, Adobe Acrobat Professional comes with a suite of tools that make creation of PDF documents a cinch. Text marking instruments let you make annotations and even change the text while securing it is done by digitally signing the document. More than this, you can also enforce restrictions for printing, modifying and even opening the text.

These are great options that can be very easily accessed in the professional version, but for the extraordinary price of almost $450. That's got to make a huge burn into your wallet.

And yet some users ask only for a way to scribble on the PDFs whatever they want, with no intention of password to protect it or digitally sign it. For those looking for a lightweight application (a whole lot lighter than Adobe Reader) that allows you to markup the pages with text and objects, I suggest you take a look at PDF-XChange Viewer.

The software is absolutely free and a very good replacement of the Reader provided by Adobe in that it allows more than just opening and reading PDFs. For starters PDF-XChange Viewer's installation file is about 11MB in size and the resources used did not reach 40MB of RAM with a load of two documents.

The interface may seem a bit bloated at the beginning, but you can customize it and make visible only the elements you can't do without (Find tool, Zoom control or Navigation tabs). The pages and bookmarks of the documents are visible in the left hand side of the interface for easier browsing of the PDF while the greatest portion of the application screen is occupied by the document itself.

In the lower left hand corner there are some more aspect related options. The program can stretch the view of the document on the entire screen of your desktop (the only way out of this is pressing the Esc key), view Bookmarks, Pages Thumbnails, Layers, Fields and Comments and all the bars can be shown or hidden with a simple press of F11. All of these operations come with keyboard shortcuts correspondents, so power users should be happy.

At the opposite end there are the options for type of page view (single, continuous, facing and continuous-facing) and a shortcut to opening the active document in Adobe Reader. So PDF-XChange Viewer will not impose itself on your computer and still lets you access Adobe's PDF reader application.

Page markup tools are the central element of the application as they allow you to append text and objects to any PDF document. The list is quite large and includes both drawing instruments (shapes) as well as text editing ones.

You should know from the start that you cannot edit the PDF document, only add notes of your own. Sticky notes can be added to the document, containing date and timestamps as well as the name of the author. The actual sticky icon alerting that a part of the text contains annotations can be selected from the 15 examples available in Properties window (star, check mark, cross, paragraph sign, key, help sign, etc.). For not intruding on the document you can lower its opacity level and change the default bright yellow color.

Cross out text tool will cause all the text to be crossed by a line. The tool does its work at a simple selection of the text you want to cross out. Opacity and color can be changed if red is not among your preferences or does not suit the page. Underlining works in the exact same way, as well as highlighting.

For text writing there is Typewriter tool which can be used anywhere in the document. It is a simple writing instrument which comes with a few aces in the sleeve to spice up things a bit. You can choose the border style (which can be anything from a dotted line to a fancy cloud-like bordering), select its thickness, stroke and fill color and the eternal opacity level. It is not an extraordinary instrument but it could come in handy if you are going for a tad of embellishing of the document.

Next in line there are the shapes that range from arrows (that can be drawn in any direction) traditional ellipse (hold Ctrl while drawing to get a perfect circle), polyline, polygon, pencil (freehand drawing), or cloud (almost every time it was in use the application crashed) which can be used to draw a cloud-like border to a paragraph or piece of text.

Another interesting tool made available by PDF-XChange Viewer is the stamp. You can mark your documents with one or more of the 14 different stamps available. Label your documents as "Top Secret", "Draft", "Sold", "For Public Release", "Not Approved" or "Confidential". In their case the Properties window will no longer allow you to mess with the titles, not even with the color and all you can do is set the opacity, the name of the author and their size on the document.

PDF-XChange Viewer is a great PDF viewing and marking tool. It is lightweight and contains all the options a regular person would need when working with portable document formats (PDF). It allows opening them in tabs and easy toggle between them as well as a wide range of options in Preferences menu (set the maximum amount of RAM to use, maximum working threads for CPU or color management).

The Good

The application handles well all PDF documents, no matter the size. Page marking tools are varied and offer good help when annotating something on the side, crossing out or highlighting text.

PDF-XChange Viewer is lightweight and handles PDF documents in tabs so multiple documents in the same interface is not a challenge for the application.

All the documents can be exported to image formats like JPEG, JPEG2000, PNG, TGA, TIFF, BMP, GIF, PGM, PBM (portable bitmap), JNG (JPEG network graphic).

The Bad

The user cannot edit the PDF document provided that it is not protected in any way. Cloud marking tool caused multiple crashes.

Switching back from fullscreen view is done by pressing Esc key which is a bit confusing. It would have been logical to use the same F12 shortcut key to toggle between normal and fullscreen view.

The Truth

All in all PDF-XChange Viewer behaved and handled all the PDF documents very well. The RAM footprint will increase gradually once you start scrolling like crazy through the document, but after a while it'll return to normal.

PDF-XChange Viewer provides a suite of options absolutely necessary for everyone that wants more than simply reading PDFs.

Here are some snapshots of the application in action:

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user interface 5
features 5
ease of use 5
pricing / value 5

final rating 5
Editor's review

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