Free PDF software that will make your life easier

Updated: April 22, 2009

This software will not solve all the problems you may be currently facing in this economic whatever, but it will surely help your computer usage become faster, smarter and prettier.

In this article, I will show you a collection of excellent applications that will help you use and manipulate your documents, all for free. You will learn about some pretty decent programs that allow you to print your documents in PDF format, convert your document to PDF format, convert website to PDFs, and more. The article is mainly intended for Windows users. So let us begin.

First, a couple of readers

Foxit Reader

Foxit is my favorite PDF software for Windows. It's light and lightning fast. It weighs only a few MB and loads in nanoseconds. In comparison, Acrobat Reader weighs well over 100MB, installs hundreds of registry keys and takes a bit loading. Furthermore, while Acrobat Reader is quite often prone to numerous vulnerabilities, Foxit Reader has remained blessedly safe.


You may also be interested in the older 1.3 version, which comes with no Javascript support, making it even more impregnable to possible exploits.

The latest Foxit version (3.0) includes an optional Foxit toolbar and homepage change, so be careful when you click Next, Next, Next.

Foxit Reader also has a portable version.

Sumatra PDF

Sumatra is a slim, lightweight PDF viewer for Windows. It can't get any simpler than that. It has no fancy functions; it merely shows you the document you want to see. It's superb for handling unknown documents or for carrying around on a USB stick. Indeed, Sumatra PDF also has a portable edition.

Sumatra 1

Sumatra 2

Now, let's talk about distillers

While you may associate the process of distilling with the creation of fine ale, in this here article, we're talking about printing.

OpenOffice 3

OpenOffice is an excellent office suite. It's free, it's powerful - and it will convert your documents into PDFs in just one mouse click. This is something the non-free Microsoft Office suite does not offer by default, so even if you don't really fancy using OpenOffice, because some of your peers might have problems with file formats or styling, you should consider having it your arsenal, just for this purpose.

Converting files is a breeze. Just click on the toolbar:

PDF OO convert

Or if you want more options, go through the menu, File > Export as PDF ...

OO Export as PDF

OpenOffice offers a range of conversion options, including the quality of images, how to treat hyperlinks, encryption and read-only features, and more.

OO PDF conversion options


PrimoPDF is a neat little thing. PrimoPDF is a PDF converter - and it will create PDF documents from ANY file that is printable. Any file.

It will install as a virtual printer. Then, when you want to convert your documents into PDF, choose Primo from the list of available printers, give the output file a name - and that's it.

Choose the printer:

Primo 1

Choose your output file settings. This includes the quality / size of the output file and post-processing, like opening or emailing the file.

Primo 2

And there you go:

Primo 3

The only limitation is that the software requires .NET Framework 2.0 or higher to run.

Finally, website document conversion

Let's see how you can convert websites into PDF documents, in seconds.

PDF Download

This software comes as an add-on to Internet browsers, either Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox. I'm going to show you what it looks like in Firefox. If you need help installing extensions, please check my Firefox add-ons tutorial.

For the add-on, please visit the Mozilla repository. You should also check the official website for more information.

Once you install the extension, it will show up in Firefox:

PDF Download 1

To use it, click on the drop-down arrow:

PDF Download 2

After a few moments, your document will be converted and available for download:

PDF Download 3

And there you go:

PDF Download 4

Please note that PDF Download renders the documents quite nicely, another bonus.


There you go, a whole load of goodies to make your PDF experience better. With these free utilities in your toolbox, you will gain on many levels. You will save precious space on your hard disk by keeping away bloatware that does the same job with 50 times more resources. You will increase your productivity, as you now have programs that will create PDF documents in just 1-2 quick mouse clicks. You will even possibly increase your security.

Best of all, you can use them all together without any problems. For instance, OpenOffice for documents that require encryption and advanced tagging, Primo to convert images or other files on your machine, PDF Download for website, Sumatra for opening potentially risky PDF documents that might contain Javascript, and Foxit for daily usage.

I hope you enjoyed it.