PDF-XChange Viewer

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PDF-XChange Viewer is a free PDF viewer and editor that offers a number of useful functions including form filling, typewriter mode (for forms that were not designed for filling), the ability to add annotations and draw shapes into your PDF, as well as the ability to leave comments and embed sticky notes into the PDF document.

Alternatives to Adobe’s free PDF reader were traditionally borne out of a need to have a lean, fast-loading PDF viewing app; PDF-XChange certainly delivers on this, but it also manages to pack a large number of useful functions. Here are some notes on this program:

As a viewer: in addition to the usual viewing tools (e.g. zooming, searching text, highlighting form feeds), PDF-XChange offers Firefox style tabbed browsing, viewing all open docs as thumbnails, and bookmarking pages. The ’pan and zoom’ tool proved to be a surprisingly practical (and pleasant) navigation aide. The side pane on the left hand margin can optionally display thumbnails of individual pages of the document (it can also display bookmarked pages). Compatible with PDF documents versions 1.0 and higher.

As an editor: this is where most of the interesting features are, as follows:

  • Manipulate pages: rotate your document clockwise or counterclockwise with the press of a button (a handy way to transform your document from portrait to landscape or vice versa if you wanted to). You can also delete pages and, although I wasn’t able to do it, there is an option for cropping pages (to be implemented in a future version, perhaps?).
  • Form filling: fill forms easily with the form filling tool (provided the pdf document is designed form). Works really well but provides no formatting options beyond basic text (i.e. you cannot choose bold or underlined or different sized fonts).
  • Typewriter tool: gives you the ability to quickly and easily overlay text on any part of the document. Especially handy when filling out a form that is not actually a PDF form. (This function alone makes this program a cut above the rest in my opinion).
  • Add comments: PDF-XChange allows you to leave a comment anywhere on the document. This will typically look like a colored icon with a sticky note attached to it or hovering nearby; otherwise you can highlight a bunch of text and link it to a balloon hovering close to it (see screenshot). I made comments on a test document and found that although the actual comment will NOT be visible on the page once you print it, I was surprised that the icon denoting the location of the comment in fact did print. You can also underline or strike out text anywhere on the document (and yes this will be printed).
  • Add objects: including text boxes (with extensive text formatting options), callout boxes, and various shapes such as lines/arrows, rectangles, etc. and even free-form drawing. All objects are editable in terms of border, thickness, color, fill color, etc.
  • Stamps: useful for, say, adding your signature in electronic format and ’stamping’ it in the correct location as needed. This option did not work, unfortunately; I’m guessing this function relegated for future versions.
  • Export to images: straight into a number of formats including BMP, JPEG, TIFF, and PNG.
  • Snapshot tool: allows you to capture any part of the pdf that is displayed on screen into the clipboard as an image in order to paste into another application.

My wish list: there are a number of things that would make this program significantly better

  • The ability to ’flatten’ objects and typewriter text that is added to a pdf such that it is preserved when the document is opened in other readers such as Adobe or Foxit. Currently, only the form-filled text and the comments created with PDF-XChange Viewer are preserved when opening the same document with Adobe Reader or Foxit. Ironically I’ve been using the Primo pdf printer to do this before publishing my PDF’s.
  • Better Undo: I mistakenly underlined all text in a page using the ’underline text tool’ and found that I could not undo. In fact, I could not for the life of me figure out how to remove the underlining, and opted to close and re-load instead.
  • Another icon please: for all of its presumed slickness, this program features a gaudy and unattractive PDF icon to. Here’s hoping they will change it.

The verdict: Contains a plethora of useful editing features compared to Foxit (which only does form filling). PDF-XChange Viewer still feels like it needs kinks ironed out but it easily my favorite PDF reader; I highly recommend it.

Version tested: 1.0 build 0017

Compatibility: WinAll.

Go to the download page to get the latest version (approx 13 megs). Also visit the program home page.