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What's a good portable PDF reader?


I have many .pdf books and docs … is there a decent portable device to
download and read them on the go? I heard about e-book readers and pda’s, but
am frustrated in internet searches? Must I settle for a laptop to read

So far, every solution I’ve seen to this one has some serious

The most promising, however, depends on how far you want to stretch the
definition of “laptop”.

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Personally, I have yet to come across a good, portable, PDF reader.

Dedicated devices, such as the various ebook readers that I have seen, all
suffer from what, in my opinion, are serious problems. Besides being more
expensive than the usage justifies, the most common issue is simply that they
often only read a proprietary format, not PDF. That proprietary format is
typically one with DRM (Digital Rights Management), preventing you from easily
transferring your ebooks from one computer or device to another.

I’m a big fan of PDF. Outside of dedicated readers it’s ubiquitous and
simple to use and view.

So where can we read PDFs?

I’ll throw out two solutions:

Look into a “tablet PC”. These are typically smaller than a
laptop. Most are possibly still bigger than you’re looking for, but there are
some fairly small form-factor devices out there.

“I’m a big fan of PDF. Outside of dedicated readers it’s
ubiquitous and simple to use and view.”

Advantage number one is that PDFs just work. You’re running Windows XP, you
download Acrobat Reader, and off you go. With a WiFi or other network
connection, downloading’s just as easy as any other PC.

Advantage number two is that it’s more than a PDF reader. You’ve got a PC in
your hands. Read email, do work, whatever, when you’re not reading PDFs.

If I were looking for something to do a lot of mobile PDF reading, this is
probably the route that I would go.

The route that I did go?

Look into a Palm OS device. Adobe makes an Acrobat Reader
for Palm devices, like the Palm Pilot, or my Treo cell phone. It’s what I use.
I always have a book on my phone (an interesting phrase in and of itself) to
read for those times when I’m out somewhere and waiting for some reason.

The down side to the Palm reader is that they must be loaded onto your
device from your PC. They actually get converted and shrunk for the Palm
Acrobat reader before they’re copied over. That means you can’t simply download
a PDF to your device, you need to download it to your PC, and then “hot sync”
it over.

The other downside is that part of that process often loses some of the
“look and feel” of the document. It’s only natural that things might look
different, since the Palm screens are typically much smaller than regular PC
displays. On some occasions things can even get slightly mangled.

However for straight text reading, it’s a viable alternative that could work
with a device you already have – a cell phone or PDA. I know I don’t leave home
without it.

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24 comments on “What's a good portable PDF reader?”

  1. Foxit PDF Reader is a free reader for PDF (Portable Document Format) documents. The app launches instantly with no annoying splash screen. You can view and print PDF documents with it. Support for printing, text selection and bookmarks make all typical PDF functions familiar. Installation is optional, so you can run it from a USB drive.

  2. Well, I highly recommend the FoxitReader program: from Foxitsoftware site, which I am now using instead of Adobe Acrobat Reader for a year or so. Of course, its a portable application, i.e. a single-executable distributed in a .zip archive that requires no special installation (just extract and execute it)

    best regards,
    Ivan Tadej, Slovenija, Europe (direct) (redirect)

  3. Y’all are missing the point of the article. While I agree that Foxit’s a good reader (I use it too), it doesn’t address the question. The person is looking for a device – not software. Foxit requires Windows, and hence would only work on Windows based solutions – such as the table PC I recommended looking into.

    I’d love to hear about alternative *devices* for portable PDF reading.

  4. I’ve been thinking that isn’t it really a insurmountable task to develop a portalbe reading device. It’s not, acutally! In China, there are already a dozen of these tools available. yet pdf still seems inapproachable.

  5. i just don’t understand why such a product is not available. it doesn’t seem as if the technology is that insurmountable, or is there more to it than that? but i’m very glad that such an article is available addressing exactly this issue. ideally, if the sony reader could handle pdf in a convenient fashion, that would be terrific.

  6. I checked the sony reader in the shop, and tried many pdf formats. Almost all of them you can not use sony reader to read. It opens the file fine, but you can only zoom once on the document and it is very difficult to read the text in that size. Very very small font, can’t zoom in more. I was hoping to read pdf on the go, but haven’t heard of such a gadget yet. Thanks

  7. Can u tell me if the Sony Reader with its E ink technology displays coloured photographs in PDF files? I’ve searched but all pics I found were showing b&w pages. Do u think Sony Reader is a good portable PDf reader?

  8. Looking for the same thing i even considered a playstation portable with pdf2psp software as a cheap alternative. Until i have seen it in action i wont bother for now though.

  9. Get a psp, and use Bookr (pdf reader). $120 for a universal system. Use it for gaming, music, video, pdf, macromedia flash/shockwave, (full) internet browser, and the list goes on…

  10. Then there’s Archos’s line of products. Archos 605 WiFi is neat little gadget with 4.3 screen with 16M colours @ 800×480. Its widescreen. Its mainly a PMP, but it can read PDF’s, can handle limited Flash and to top it off, it has Wifi. The Wifi has to be purchased separately though. Video playback is outstanding, and has tonnes of features. Battery life is only average though. You’d get either 14hours of music or 5 hours of video.

    PDF features are quite limited too; don’t use to view graphically heavy PDF’s can lag like hell. If your primary use is text, then its fine.

    Overall, its a great little product. Comes in 30/80 and 160GB of storage plus a flash version which has 4GB and expansion slot that handles SD/MMC cards.

    30GB starts at $270. Don’t know about the rest, but that’s the one I’m looking at.

  11. I was believing that “Amazon Kindle” will help us, but no. Acutally we need an “Amazon kindle” with full PDF support…?

    The Kindle will display PDF documents. You have to have them converted by Amazon, but that’s as simple as emailing them to a specific email address to automatically convert and download to your Kindle. I’ve done it many times.

    – Leo
  12. I’m frustrated with the lack of WYSIWYG PDF support on portables. I’ve used Mobipocket on my Palm for years, but it completely dies on complex, multi-column PDFs with charts, graphs, and vector graphics.

    Foxit (the people who make the popular Foxit Reader, a zippy competitor to the bloated Adobe Reader) have introduced a new device called eSlick.

    It’s nearly as expensive as the Kindle2, but I’m excited to have PDF experts develop an eReader. Let’s see what comes of it.

  13. Hi I am also looking for a good portable pdf reader that wont cost me an arm and a leg. I noticed that this blog entry is about 3 years old. I am looking for someone to recommend such a device, during August-September 2009, that doesn’t use a proprietary format and that isn’t a mini version of a notebook or laptop. All I want is a portable pdf reader (much like a Kimbo) that can preferrably hold a couple of hundred pdf’s. Please respond to this blog comment and do remember to email me at [email address removed] with the link to this page so that I know that my request was answered. Please remember to add this in subject line “portable pdf reader“. This request is also for Leo, the owner of this blog. Thank you so much and please do post my comment, Leo. I just helped to keep your 3-yr old blog post fresh. o_~

  14. For any related query of the portable devices you can visit the site given below.
    First I used to waste a lot of time for searching the internet for the latest mobile phone and other portable devices. But now I get the maximum solution from the given link. I will suggest you to visit this site for the solution of your problem.

  15. Sorry, but spend around 250 bucks on an Electronic Device PDF or Doc reader, it is a waste of money. Just for reading! I will look for an device lower than 60.00 bucks, that it an affordable price for this function. For now on, this technology apparently is too expensive (USD 250~489).


  16. Portable reader and PDF do not go together well, because PDF is made for printing, and usually the paper size is 8.5 x 11.0 inches, too big for most portable devices. It is better to covert the PDF to an ebook when possible (if those converters would just work right!). Thus, I would recommend getting a device with that size screen to read PDFs. The new big Kindle does well with many PDFs, but not all. I am sure that it will get better. The new little Kindle is inadequate because it is quite difficult to move the view around the page. On a small screen, the best I have seen is the Ipod touch with Good Reader. This app has facilities to make PDF reading much more pleasant on a small screen. You can crop off the white space, differently for odd and even pages. You can freeze the left-right scrolling on one column. And the display is great. This is particularly good if you are near-sighted (hehe). It could improve a LOT, though. They need something that pans the view thru the columns as you read them.


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