Individuals, small business owners, and others who need to use PDFs often find themselves between a rock and a hard place; the PDF tools they need are just too expensive. Fortunately, more and more freeware alternatives are putting good, basic PDF utilities in the hands of such users before they're forced to pay big bucks for big-box programs. Altarsoft's PDF Reader is a fine example. It's not a full-fledged PDF solution; it doesn't create PDFs, for instance, but it does display and edit them. It's not flashy; it's just a free tool for viewing and editing PDFs. It can open, display, and save PDFs; encrypt and decrypt them; add watermarks, thumbnails, and attachments; merge and split documents; insert images, text, and blank pages; and more. PDF Reader is compatible with Windows versions from 98 to 8.
PDF Reader's user interface is clean and efficient, with just enough color to make it visually interesting but not enough to dispel the businesslike appearance. Easy-to-read icons made navigating and zooming a snap. From the Tools menu, we could Add, Convert, Extract, Insert, and Split documents in various ways, including converting images to PDFs. The Views menu accesses optional Preview and Attachment panels we could toggle open or leave closed for a cleaner look. We tend to take it for granted that most users looking for PDF utilities have some experience with PDFs, though that's not always so. But PDF Reader's menu bar, toolbar, and layout shouldn't be difficult even for new users to manage. Experienced users will probably be able to start right in with the program. We did just that, opening a series of test PDFs we keep for just such a purpose. PDF Reader rendered the documents as well as any of the premium products we've seen, and essentially as well as our system's graphics could manage. Saved files were fully compatible with Adobe and other PDF apps.
Altarsoft's PDF Reader is an overachiever. It does an excellent job at what it does -- and it actually does more than we expected. If you're looking for an alternative to the usual PDF tools, give it a try.