Fastest PDF File Viewer

Martin Brinkmann
Sep 20, 2009
Updated • Dec 3, 2012

Adobe PDF is not the fastest pdf reader that is available these days even with programs like Adobe Reader Speedup which remove some of the unneeded features. There are quite a few popular alternatives like Foxit PDF Reader which provide a similar functionality but offer faster startup and loading times.

If speed is the main issue the relatively new pdf file viewer MuPDF could be an option. MuPDF is a bare-bones pdf file viewer with a low memory footprint and the fastest pdf loading times that we have experienced until now. The pdf reader is a portable Open-Source cross-platform program for Windows, Linux and Mac OS operating systems.

Users can either execute the program which will open a small file browser to pick a PDF document or link the pdf file extension to the program so that it will be automatically the viewer of choice for pdf files.

MuPDF is perfect for users who want a portable resource friendly pdf reader. It comes with a few keyboard shortcuts to navigate documents more easily but lacks the functionality of Foxit Reader or Adobe Reader.

  • L, R Rotate page in 90° increments
  • +, - Zoom in and out
  • W Shrink wrap window
  • N, space Next page
  • B, backspace Previous page
  • Shift-N Skip 10 pages forward
  • Shift-B Skip 10 pages backward
  • M Mark page for snap back
  • T Pop back to last mark
  • 123G Go to page

Not everyone needs advanced functionality but some users might miss options to copy text, search for text or print a selection of the pdf file. MuPDF on the other hand is probably the best solution for users who want to view - and only view - pdf files on their computer system without having to download and install a software program. A Firefox add-on is provided by the developer as well to view pdf documents on the Internet.


Tutorials & Tips

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  1. dan said on January 29, 2015 at 12:16 am

    Is there a way of printing the page? I can’t find one! Otherwise this pdf viewer would be ideal

  2. pauk960 said on August 26, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    Anyone knows how can I go into fullscreen reading mode?

  3. OAlexander said on August 9, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    I personally recommend the PDF Xchange Viewer. It has a most satisfactory pop-up speed, and as importantly, displays even highly complicated documents where redraw speed is in demand, fast. To determine this, I use as reference the “Weller’s” Map of Rio de Janeiro, which wis quite a challenge to redraw an scroll and zoom, and clearly shows up the weakness of, eg., Foxit.

  4. olivi78 said on January 6, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    I could compare Adobe Reader, Foxit and Pdf-XChange Viewer and found that Pdf-XChange is the faster than others. Now I use Pdf-XChange PRO and I’m very satisfied with its work. There are Free-version and Free Portable-version too. They have all need features founded in Adobe.

  5. pixelman said on March 18, 2010 at 6:02 am

    Another vote for SumatraPDF. Extremely fast, and has search, bookmarks & printing, which MuPDF does not. We’ve been using it for about a year now.

  6. watch movies online free said on September 22, 2009 at 11:51 am

    yeah, I really like CutePDF, but I’ll get a try to MuPDF.

  7. raneeq said on September 22, 2009 at 5:00 am

    I am using PDF-Xchange Viewer now. It allows me to add comments and annotations to any PDF file.

  8. Womble said on September 21, 2009 at 10:28 am

    SumatraPDF is another alternative open source viewer that is rock solid & blazingly fast. Used it here for a couple of years now.

    1. pauk960 said on August 26, 2011 at 2:04 pm

      That’s because SumatraPDF uses MuPDF for rendering PDF files. ;)

  9. Josep said on September 21, 2009 at 3:56 am

    I want a replacement total for my adobe acrobat. I want just not a simple reader but a piece of software that converts web pages, doc files in pdf format.
    This kind of sofware is available?

    sorry por my poor english

    1. DanTe said on September 21, 2009 at 4:11 pm

      At first glance, I would have adviced any simple software like CutePDF that will print your documents (word docs, html, et al) to a PDF file instead of the printer.

      But I’m getting the sense that you’re looking for basically the Adobe Acrobat Pro. In which case, get the Pro or try using OpenOffice from with plug-ins.

  10. tuna said on September 20, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    It’s been awhile since I looked, but Adobe PDF uses 100+(200?)MB of drive space and runs multiple services to keep it bloated and secure… to open a static pdf

    Foxit PDF installs in under 7MB and has no annoying start-up services that re-enable themselves every time it updates.

    I’ll take MU PDF a spin and see how it compares in size and speed(to Foxit). I certainly hope it doesn’t run a service on start-up.

    1. Martin said on September 20, 2009 at 6:18 pm

      Tuna MuPDF is portable, no startup services or background processes that slow down your system.

  11. DanTe said on September 20, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    I’m going to have to start looking into these stripped down PDF readers. They may actually provide better security. They don’t run anything. Will have to see if they’re susceptible to the same holes a full blown Adobe Reader is.

  12. Jon said on September 20, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    The Worst PDF app ever, be aware not to try !!!

    Only after one run, it takes over your default PDF reader,
    and the PDF icon.

    A shame for the developer that implement that !!

    1. Martin said on September 20, 2009 at 1:24 pm

      Jon it did not do that on my test system (windows xp)

  13. vasiauvi said on September 20, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    I should try it although I use a good pdf reader in Linux: xpdf.
    Thanks for this MuPDF!

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