Free PDF software - Round two

Updated: November 21, 2009

Welcome to the second article on PDF software. The first part triggered quite a few suggestions that I had to write this sequel, with yet more useful, free PDF programs, utilities and tools for Windows users.

Today, we will get acquainted with an additional selection of useful PDF utilities for Windows, which you can use to view and edit documents, print any file as a PDF document, encrypt and password protect your documents, add watermarks and logos, and more. Best of all, they are all free for personal use. So let's get started with another lovely compilation. Follow me.


PDF XChange Viewer


This was a program I've never heard of or used until I posted my first PDF article in one of the forums, which triggered an avalanche of responses and suggestions from fellow members.

XChange Viewer

It turns out that PDF XChange Viewer is a very interesting application. It's light, fast and incredibly feature-rich. Among many things it can do, PDF XChange Viewer allows you to add comments and annotations to any PDF file, apply custom stamps, type directly into any PDF page, export pages or entire documents into numerous image formats, fill and save PDF forms, and more.

PDF XChange Viewer also has plugins for Internet Explorer and Firefox, plus there's a portable version available, which you can run from an external device.

Here's an example of what it looks like working with PDF XChange Viewer:


I really, really like this application! A full tutorial is on the way! Thanks to all who suggested it! Without you, my experience would have been short by one great program. It shall definitely go into the third installment of Windows cool apps, when it gets published.

If you do not feel like installing the big, heavy Acrobat Reader and are looking for a lightweight, yet powerful replacement, PDF XChange Viewer is a very good candidate.

Distillers (printers)



Bullzip is a program similar to PrimoPDF. It allows you to print any file into a PDF document. Bullzip has many useful features, including the ability to add watermarks or background images to your files, change the quality of the output documents, merge multiple documents, and password protect the files. Bullzip comes in numerous languages and supports Windows Terminal Servers and Citrix MetaFrame. It's a really powerful utility.




PDFCreator allows you to convert just about any file into PDF documents. Like Primo and Bullzip, it installs itself as a printer.

Please note that PDFCreator offers to install the PDFForge toolbar (preselected) and it can also install its own add-ons into Internet Explorer and Firefox. If you do not want these components installed, make sure you deselect them.

PDFCreator toolbar

The utility itself works well and has a number of useful features, including changing the default document properties and stamp, encrypt and digitally sign your files, merge multiple documents, and more.


I have listed PDFCreator in my new Windows cool apps mega collection, along with a number of other, useful PDF utilities, so you may want to take a look.

About CutePDF

I've also heard quite a bit of positive feedback on CutePDF. Unfortunately, trying to install this application was a no go. I' tried it on three separate Windows machines, including Windows XP and 7, downloaded the installer several times, but it simply would not work. The installer was corrupt. I will try this application in the future, but so far, the start has not been stellar.

CutePDF error

More reading & additional tools

Here's a number of online sources that should expose you to even more great PDF programs and utilities:

Best free PDF tools on Gizmo's Freeware

PDF tools

You may also want to refer to Wikipedia for more details. Some of the programs listed definitely make a good choice, so you want to consider them using them, too:

pdftk - A mighty command-line PDF utility. You can read my Linux tutorial, if you're interested.

Ghostscript - A powerful, full blown PDF and PostScript (PS) viewer, creator and converter. It's much more than just an ordinary utility, as it interfaces with all sorts of programs for all sorts of purposes, like LyX, for instance. It's a bit more of a geek tool, though.

SWFTools - We talked about these in my Multimedia tutorials, in the Flash chapter. One of the many great utilities available in this multipurpose pack is the PDF to Flash (SWF) conversion tool called pdf2swf. Command line, cross-platform, geeky, but good.

GIMP can also convert PDF documents to raster images.

PosteRastor, on the other hand, allows you to cut raster images into pieces and save them as multipage PDF documents for printing.

Some additional sources ...

I'm less familiar with these few listed below, but I've heard good echoes and whispers so far. If you're familiar with the programs at hand and would like to share your experience, don't hesitate to email me.

P D F Converter - P D F Converter is a free, small utility that can extract text from PDF files and save it as a text file, for easier reading. The program has been designed as an aid to blind people, but anyone can use it.

PDFill tools - PDFill offers a number of free PDF utilities, including merging, splitting, reordering, encrypting, reformatting, adding header and footer and watermarks to your files, editing form fields, changing the meta data, converting files to PS format, and more.


I hope you like this article. It complements the first part quite well. You now have an even greater selection of useful PDF programs and tools at your disposal, all for free.

We will soon have an article that will show us a variety of online services, which you can use to convert your documents, to PDF form and vice versa, without installing software on your machine, all for free. Stay tuned.

Many thanks to the following people for their suggestions: InfinityAz, Bob_D, the_Tester, zapjb, Arup, Longboard, Saraceno, ruinebabine, klivda.