Private Alternatives to Adobe’s PDF Reader

by Tracy Knauer •

By default, most people use software from Adobe to open and edit PDFs. Unfortunately, Adobe has a bad privacy policy. Here’s why you shouldn’t use Adobe apps for PDFs, along with suggestions for alternatives.

Adobe’s privacy policy makes clear that the company collects a fair amount of information about users. Even if you don’t register with Adobe, it still collects “information about how you use our websites and applications, including when you use a desktop product feature that takes you online.” It also says it monitors information like your IP address. And there is no explicit guarantee that Adobe does not collect information that appears within PDFs themselves.

We’re not saying Adobe’s privacy policy is worse than that of typical major software companies. But given that there are alternatives to Adobe Reader and other Adobe apps for working with PDFs, we suggest using them instead if you are concerned about privacy.

Here are some free PDF apps that offer better privacy features:

  • Foxit Reader. This is a widely used and full-featured app for reading PDFs. (It lacks more advanced functionality like editing PDFs.) It is closed source, which means there’s no way to guarantee that it only collects the information it claims, but the company has a pretty good privacy policy. Foxit Reader is a good choice if you want to balance usability with privacy.
  • Evince. This is a simple and elegant PDF reader. It’s fully open source. It was originally available only for Linux but now supports Windows, too. It doesn’t have much in the way of editing features but if you just want to open PDF documents quickly and securely, Evince is an excellent solution.
  • SumatraPDF. Another great open source PDF reader if you only need to read PDF files. It only works on Windows.
  • Inkscape. If you need to edit PDFs in a serious way, this open-source app is your best option. Inkscape is mainly intended as a graphics-design platform, but it can work with PDF files. (GIMP provides a similar solution.) Unfortunately, it’s not as good for editing PDFs as Adobe Acrobat Professional, but it’s a lot more private.

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