Today's computers need a Portable Document Format (PDF) viewer as much as a Browser. This read only file format, which stores text, images, and vector graphics also meets secure legal document requirements. Printing to PDF is a great way to save web pages from the internet as it can be viewed on most platforms with a free viewer. Fortunately, Mac users have two free popular options for a PDF viewer: Adobe's Reader and Apple's Preview.
Adobe created the PDF document standard in 1993. Since then, they have provided a reader for many platforms including the Mac. This would seem the obvious choice for a PDF viewer, except Apple's own application Preview comes standard with OS X. Is it worth the effort to install Reader, or is it better to just use Apple's default Preview? Lets find out.
Both Applications do a good job of view and navigating PDF files. Adobe's Reader key features include:
- Full screen mode
- Thumbnail sidebar
- Highlight text
- Add sticky note
- Protected mode for secure PDFs
- Electronic Form submission for approved digital signatures
- CAD and geospatial functionality
Apple's Preview key features include:
- Thumbnail and table of contents sidebar
- View or create password protected PDFs
- Delete Pages from within a PDF
- Merge PDFs with other PDFs or images
- Save a copy of selected pages
- Annotate with arrows, circles, squares, notes, links, highlights, underlines, or strike throughs
There are significant differences between the two applications. Preview is noticeably faster at opening and scrolling through documents. Even on documents with improved scrolling speed, Reader is rough and jumps around when scrolling. Preview, on the other hand is very smooth when scrolling through documents. Preview's interface is much more Mac like and easier to navigate than Adobe's Reader. Preview has more robust annotation and editing features where Reader is mainly a viewer and submission application. While Reader does have a full screen view, PDFs can also be displayed in a full screen mode with OS X's Quick Look, which is built into the Mac OS. Most of Apple's applications lack a full screen mode, which will be rectified in Mac OS 10.7 coming this summer.
10 minutes after downloading and installing a fresh copy of Adobe Reader, Adobe updater popped up and asked to install an update. Adobe's frequent update process can get annoying since they are not part of Apple's update software process. In addition, once Acrobat Reader is installed it takes over Preview's handling of web PDFs. This can also be annoying as it slows down the browser when viewing PDFs online.
Adobe's Reader is slower and has fewer everyday editing features when compared to Preview. It is not recommended to install Reader unless the electronic form submission or CAD and geospatial functionality tools are needed. While Adobe's form submission tools are nice, they are not worth the install process, slower viewing, and update headaches. The Mac OS has the best PDF non-creation tool installed by default in Preview.