As most lawyers are aware, PDFs (Portable Document Format) are now the preferred form for many legal documents. For example, when e-filing in Federal Court, pleadings and other documents typically must first be converted into PDF format before they are filed with the court. Thus, an essential application in most law offices is a PDF Reader, an application that allows you to open and read documents in PDF format.
In many law offices, Adobe Acrobat Reader is the most likely application used to read PDFs. However, is it the best application? The Adobe Reader is free; however, I personally do not like to use Adobe to read PDFs because the application is quite slow when compared to other similar applications (see below). Moreover, the Adobe Reader has been subject to a number of security flaws in recent months. You can link to an example article from October 2009 here.
Did you know that there are a number of other free PDF readers that are faster and less taxing on your system’s resources? Below are some free readers you might want to take a look at as alternatives to Adobe:
- Foxit Reader – Foxit Reader is my preferred alternative to Adobe Reader. Foxit Reader boasts 50 millions users around the globe, so it is no fly-by-night application. I can tell you from my own personal experience, Foxit Reader has proven just as reliable as its Adobe counterpart and it is just as feature rich. As a matter of fact, I now use the Foxit Reader almost exclusively as my PDF reader of choice. One complaint that some users have about Foxit is that it attempts to install a toolbar on your system, so if you do not want the application to do that, be mindful and tell it not to when you are downloading it.
- Cool PDF Reader – Another lightweight PDF Reader is Cool PDF Reader. I have not worked with Cool PDF Reader; however, as the world’s smallest PDF Reader, it boasts to be only a 650KB application. Such a small application should make it run significantly faster than Adobe, but there is the application short on features? I would definitely be interested in feedback about this reader from anyone who has tried it.
- PDF-XChange Viewer – While it does not have a name that rolls off the tongue, this alternative to the Adobe Reader boasts similar features. Again, I have not personally used this reader, but it might be worth checking out.
- STDU Viewer – One reader that has caught my attention is the STDU Viewer (now in version 1.5). While having another rather unfortunate name, STDU Viewer claims to be the one-stop reader for many different document formats. For example, the company’s website claims that the STDU Viewer supports TXT, TCR, TIFF, PDF, DjVu, CBR, CBZ and XPS document formats. These are the most popular formats for scientific and technical documentation. While this may not be of interest to many law firms, the idea of having one reader that reads many different document formats is appealing. Moreover, if your law firm is accustomed to reading large quantities of scientific or technical literature, you may want to look into the STDU Viewer. It should be noted, however, that the STDU Viewer is free only for non-commercial uses.
Being a tech-savvy lawyer means thinking outside the box with applications you may have grown accustomed to using. If you are dis-satisfied with Adobe Reader, or maybe you want to compare how another application functions, check out these alternatives. As always, your comments on these or other applications are welcomed.
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated in any way with any of the companies named in this article, or any of their employees or representatives. I was not promised anything for writing this article, and I do not anticipate receiving anything as a result of writing this article. This recommendation is based solely on my own personal experience.