FOUR Free Alternatives To Adobe Reader Malware Magnet


FLASH – A critical vulnerability (March 14, 2011), exists in Adobe Reader, as well as Flash Player and Acrobat. But don’t worry, Adobe will address this issue during the week of March 21, 2011. (OK, enough sarcasm).

If you’re shaking your head and wondering if you’ve heard this before – you can stop wondering. The date might be different; the vulnerability might be different, but you have heard this before – unfortunately, not once before, but often.

The graphics below (courtesy of Secunia – the developers of Secunia PSI), convincingly illustrate why Adobe Reader is considered one of the most hacked pieces of  software.

Month by Month (so far) in 2011
The “Month by Month” graph below shows the number of issued Secunia advisories affecting Adobe Reader 9.x on a month-by-month basis.

Month by Month in 2010
The “Month by Month” graph below shows the number of issued Secunia advisories affecting Adobe Reader 9.x on a month-by-month basis.

While it’s true that Adobe releases patches and updates to close security holes, they generally appear long after the vulnerabilities have been discovered and used to maximum advantage, by cyber crooks.

If you continue to use Adobe Reader, make sure you install the latest version. Users who continue running older versions of Adobe software (not uncommon), is a major element in cyber crooks successful manipulation of this  application.

Better yet – don’t even consider running Adobe Reader. Instead, choose one of a number of much faster, more streamlined free applications.

Nitro PDF Reader


View, review, and create PDF files without compromise with the free solution PCWorld deemed “the most powerful free PDF reading and creation tool you can find…”

Fast facts:

Create PDF from 300+ file types

Comment, review, and collaborate on PDF files

100% compatibility with Adobe Acrobat and other common solutions

Fill, save, and submit PDF forms

Enable/disable JavaScript and control Web-based interactivity from PDF files

System requirements: Windows XP SP3, Vista SP2, Win 7 (x86 and x64)

Download at: Nitro PDF

Foxit Reader

Foxit Reader is a free PDF document viewer and printer. Small and fast, with a rich feature set.


Fast facts:

Incredibly small: The download size of Foxit Reader is only 2.1 M which is a fraction of Acrobat Reader’s 20 M size.

Fast: When you run Foxit Reader, it launches instantly. You are not forced to view an annoying splash window displaying company logo, author names and so on.

Annotation tool: Have you ever wanted to annotate, or comment on, a PDF document. Foxit Reader allows you to draw graphics, highlight text, type text and make notes on a PDF document and then print out or save the annotated document.

Text converter: You can convert the whole PDF document into a simple text file.

Security and privacy: Foxit Reader doesn’t connect to the Internet without your permission. Other PDF readers often connect to the Internet in the background.

System requirements: Windows 2003, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows XP, Windows 2000

Download at:

Cool PDF Reader

This viewer has many the features of Adobe Reader, but unlike Adobe Reader, Cool PDF Reader loads PDF files extremely fast. Conversion from PDF to text and graphics formats is included.


Fast facts:

View and Print PDF


Extract PDF to TXT

Support PDF files of all versions

Work with 68+ different languages

Zoom in/out and Rotate page displays

Slide show PDF document with full screen

Small in size, only 650KB

System requirements: Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows Server 2008, 2003, 2000. (32-bit and 64-bit support)

Download at:

Sumatra PDF Viewer

Sumatra has a minimalistic design, with its simplicity attained at the expense of extensive features. Sumatra takes up little disk space with an installed size of only 1.2MB, whereas Adobe Reader requires 335 MB of available disk space.


Fast facts:

Sumatra PDF is a slim, free, and open-source.

Portable out of the box. Doesn’t write to registry.

Sumatra has a minimalistic design – simplicity has a higher priority than a lot of features.

It’s small and starts up very fast.

Hyperlinks embedded in PDF documents are supported.

Sumatra is multilingual, with 20 community-contributed translations.

System requirements: Windows 2000/XP/Vista

Download at:

Additional free PDF applications recommended by readers include:

Nuance PDF Reader

PDF-XChange Viewer

Both Foxit and Sumatra, are also available as portable versions from

If PDF conversion is one of your considerations, then take a look at the free online conversion services offered by Nitro PDF Software – including Word to PDF, PDF to Word, HTML to PDF, and PDF to Excel.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Adobe, Application Vulnerabilities, cybercrime, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Free PDF Software, Freeware, Internet Security Alerts, Portable Applications, Productivity Software, Software, USB, Windows Tips and Tools

23 responses to “FOUR Free Alternatives To Adobe Reader Malware Magnet

  1. Pingback: FOUR Free Alternatives To Adobe Reader Malware Magnet « Jerry620′s Blog

  2. Michael Fisher

    Hi there Bill ~ Foxit is the beez kneez !

    QUESTION: Can I uninstall Adobe Flash Flayer & replace with A.N.Other product in the same way as Foxit Reader replaces Adobe Reader ?

    Adobe Flash Player annoys the hell out of me with frequent large-sized updates & I would love to have an alternative for my XP + FireFox. Especially as some of the Adobe updates require that I uninstall previous versions of Adobe before the update. Bonkers clunky software design.


  3. Charlie

    Hi Bill:

    Sometimes I download things that say “Uses Adobe Reader”, meaning I have to have Adobe installed to read the download. Will any of the above programs work in converting an Adobe download over to the non-Adobe program? I’d love to get rid of Adobe, but the things I download only seem to work with it. Thanks-

    • Hi Charlie,

      Yes, you can uninstall Adobe Reader. Any one of the recommended applications will, at a minimum, read a PDF file. Following the change to the new application, when you next need the PDF app to open, then Windows will prompt you for the name of the application which you want to use.

      If it’s a PDF in a Browser, you can set the application to use by opening “options” – “applications” and then choosing the new app – kind of like how you do it in Windows.

      Chrome, by the way, has a PDF reader built in and no adjustments are required.



  4. TeXaCo

    Hey Bill,

    Adobe is a big company and they have much more important things to take care of then getting a critical security update out to protect the people that use their product. How selfish of you to think that they should patch this asap. They are too busy working on their next idea on how to make Adobe Reader the most annoying, insecure and bloated software out on the market.

    Anyway, I use Sumatra because I only need to view a PDF occasionally.

    Great article



  5. teknophilia

    I use PDF-XChange. No automatic updates, background processes, or viruses. For some more readers and a good overview of them, Lifehacker has a roundup not too long ago:!5328211/five-best-pdf-readers and!5329922/best-pdf-reader-pdf+xchange

  6. Mal

    Hey Bill,
    I’ve been using Foxit Reader for yonks now. Isn’t it funny how bank, social security, and other important sites have a link to Adobe Reader should you need to view a pdf from said sites. With no other alternative. You think they would know better, wouldn’t you?

    • Hey Mal,

      It’s been so long since I’ve had Adobe Reader on one of my systems, I forget what it looks like. 🙂

      But, to you’re point – yes, you’d think they would know better. Now that I’ve said that, I’m going to hear from all the guys who’ll explain it’s not their fault, since the “system” doesn’t allow for alternatives.

      The other side of that coin is – it’s often been said that many companies spend more on employees coffee than they do on IT security. Just sayin’.



  7. Bill,

    Great article. What you say is so important.
    I have been using Foxit for a while now and it seems to be stable and fast. When it first loads there are masses and masses of toolbars to hide but other than that it seems to work well.

    From a security angle, it’s interesting that the Adobe bugs demonstrate the benefits of Windows UAC. Under Vista / 7 with UAC switched on, the potential consequences of a breach are minimised considerably.

    – Tom Colvin
    Conseal Security

    • Hi Tom,

      Yes, I agree – Foxit is definitely a worthwhile addition.

      Rather than depending on Windows UAC (although I agree with your observation), I’m convinced we’ve reached a point where Browser virtualization should be considered as a primary security layer.

      Good to have you drop in.


    • MrLokiNight


      …When it first loads there are masses and masses of toolbars to hide…/blockquote>

      Open a document with Foxit
      Right-click a toolbar & choose which toolbars to have on display
      Also by selecting the last option in the same drop down menu named “Customize Toolbars” you can choose what buttons are displayed in each tool bar
      Foxit should remember your changes each time it opens ~ my Foxit does anyway

  8. Hey Bill,
    Just grabbed Foxit and installed it. I like it so far. (Bye bye, Adobe!) The proggie is quick on its feet, light on resources and more secure. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction.

  9. Rob

    Hey Bill,
    Great articale… I’ve been into Foxit for some time and love it…
    Yesterday, I had an interesting experience with a app that required Adobe Flash… downloaded it and Adobe Flash kept trying to load… even though it had… again and again and again. It was a client’s system and didn’t want to get too involved, but warned them of the incident…
    Pls do a blog on alternatives to Flash and other Adobe bricks…
    Tnx, Rob

    • Hey Rob,

      Yes, Flash problems can be difficult to diagnose. Uninstalling with free Revo Uninstaller (gets all the dirt out), followed by a clean reinstall, can often be helpful.

      Thanks for the suggestions – I’ve made a note.

      Good to hear from you.



  10. Hi Bill,
    I have to admit I wouldn’t even consider Adobe reader for PDF’s. I’m actually done with Foxit as well, trying to install a toolbar, please no! Primo PDF is just fine, works as well as I need and is very light weight. I guess the one thing I could add is that the PDF standard is also flawed, there are many exploits with are application agnostic, so the other lesson is all (PDF) apps need to be checked for updates frequently.

    • Hi mark,

      I hear ya – I’ve got Primo PDF on an XP machine and it works very well.

      Glad you brought out the fact that PDF exploits are not restricted to just Adobe Reader. Your advice re:updates, is dead on. Last year for example, Foxit had some issues.



  11. Siam

    I’ll put my hand up for PDF-XChange Viewer. Loved it from the moment I first used it, and have never looked back since. The only time I have used Adobe was last year when I was doing up a report and wanted to embed multimedia items within the .pdf. And for that I used a friend’s Acrobat 10 program – the full paid-for version, which is beyond my financial reach. I’ve tried Foxit in the past, just to compare it with PDF-XChange Viewer, but it didn’t win my heart. I am now in a monogamous relationship with PDF-XChange Viewer.

    • Hey Siam,

      Thanks for this. It’s interesting to see the degree of loyalty readers have to a particular application. I’m no different of course – I know what I like, and more importantly – “I like what I know”. And it’s this last, which is often the clincher for me.