Free Software PDF readers

Free Software PDFLinux and BSD desktop distributions have several PDF readers in their repository that any user may download and use. PDF, an acronym for Portable Document Format, is a popular format (designed by Adobe) to publish formatted text and documents. The most popular reader is, of course, Adobe Acrobat Reader. However, it is a proprietary software.

Since we are in the business of promoting only non-proprietary software and operating systems, the following is a listing of free and open source PDF readers that is already available from your favorite distro’s repository. Note that virtually all distros ship with a default PDF reader. KDE-based desktops, for example, ship with KPDF or Okular, depending on the version of KDE.

  • Evince: This is a native Gnome application, and it is also the default portable document reader on modern XFCE-based desktops. Aside from pdf, Evince can also view or read postscript, djvu, tiff and dvi documents.
  • KPDF: This is the native pdf reader for the K Desktop Environment (KDE), and is based on Xpdf.
  • Okular: This is based on KPDF, and it’s the native viewer for KDE 4. Like Evince, it can also be used to read documents other than pdfs: Postscript, DjVu, CHM are just a few of the other document formats it supports. You may view a full listing of the formats it supports here.
  • Xpdf: This, I think, is the original (first if you prefer) free and open source PDF reader. I doubt that you will find it as the default on any modern distro.
  • ePDFView: This has an interface that looks just like Evince. however, I have not seen this as the default portable document reader on any distro.

The Free Software Foundation Europe has a campaign to promote free software-compliant portable document readers. More information about the initiative is available here.

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