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PDF Viewers

A Portable Document Format (pdf) file is a self-contained cross-platform document. In plain language, it is a file that will look the same on the screen and in print, regardless of what kind of computer or printer someone is using and regardless of what software package was originally used to create it.

An important part of the format is its portability. In order to ensure portability not only between different operating systems, but also a wide variety of readers, we would encourage you to try to make use of a wide variety of tools. By encouraging the use of many different PDF generators and readers, we are ensuring that the PDF format remains portable.

Here is a quick list of PDF readers, with a number of other links following:

Ghostscript, Ghostview and GSview (Variety of Software licenses, with some tools are under the GNU General Public License)

This includes a class of tools that can view PostScript and PDF files. Most tools available for Microsoft Windows, Macintosh, and most flavors of Unix. This tool is normally pre-installed with most Linux distributions. Enabling this viewer for Web-usage involves configuring ones browser if this was not already done by the OS distribution vendor.

Xpdf (GNU General Public License)

Xpdf is a viewer for Portable Document Format (PDF) files. (These are also sometimes also called 'Acrobat' files, from the name of Adobe's PDF software.) Xpdf runs under the X Window System on UNIX, VMS, and OS/2. The non-X components of the package (pdftops, pdftotext, etc.) also run on Win32 systems and should run on pretty much any system with a decent C++ compiler.

BePDF is a program based on Xpdf that runs on BeOS.

Adobe Acrobat Reader (Proprietary, with this End User License Agreement)

Adobe Acrobat Reader is software you can download for free that lets you view and print Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) files. Available for Microsoft Windows, Apple Macintosh, and some versions of UNIX and Linux.

Related links and Utilities

Note: This set of links was started from the list published on Xpdf site. If you know of any other tools I should be providing a link to, please contact me.
While the easiest and cheapest option to generate PDF files is to use the OpenOffice.org office productivity suite or other free PDF generation software, the following is an alternative method. This is a demonstration of how easy it is to generate a PDF file, without the use of (possibly expensive) tools from Adobe, with the following example being for Microsoft Windows. Others have written similar articles, such as Quick Guide to Making PDF Files - by David Hineline


Last update: $Date: 2004/02/11 17:57:52 $ UTC

Creative Commons License

Copyright 2004, Russell McOrmond

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.