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Sumatra PDF review

A fast, lean PDF viewer with some extra tricks hidden up its sleeve

Our Verdict

A lightning-fast, fuss-free PDF reader with an uncluttered interface and a few extra tricks up its sleeve.


  • Clean interface
  • Favorite documents list
  • Fast


  • Advanced options are tricky to edit

Sumatra PDF is a free PDF reader optimized for speed and ease of use. There are no fancy extras – just the essentials for viewing PDFs and ebooks, navigating, searching and organizing them. As an added bonus, Sumatra PDF is also available in a portable edition so you can stick it on a USB drive and take it with you to use on other computers.

PDF readers have, over the years, managed to earn themselves something of a reputation for being slow, lumbering beasts – thanks largely to Adobe Reader. Sumatra PDF bucks the trend. It is small, svelte, lightweight and lightning fast.

Sure, Sumatra PDF is a little light of features (if you need something more comprehensive, check out our guide to the best free PDF editors), but that's because the focus is on quick and easy viewing of PDFs, plus ebooks in EPUB and MOBI format, and XPS, DjVu, CHM, CBZ and CBR reader files.

The main Options link in the Settings menu reveals a few things you can change, but more can be found under Advanced Options. The only problem is that this is an HTML file that you need to edit. While this isn't a major problem, it's a strange approach to things that could have been better implemented.

Overall though, if you're looking for a quick, simple PDF and ebook reader and organizer, SumatraPDF is perfect. It really is no-frills, but it has all of the essentials covered.

User experience

Sumatra PDF is just about as simple to use as you could hope a program to be. Once you have loaded a PDF (or one of the other supported files), the minimalist tool bar provides easy access to the most common things you might want to do – zooming in and out, skipping back and forth between pages, searching, and printing.

In the majority of cases, all you'll want to do with PDFs is view them, so you may never have to venture further into the program. However, if you peek into the menus you'll find that there are more viewing settings than you first thought, as well as the option to send files via email without leaving the program and add an attachment to a message manually.

Another nice touch is the screen that appears if you launch Sumatra PDF on its own rather than using it to open a PDF directly, which presents you with a list of the files you have opened most frequently. This is a handy feature if you tend to use certain documents for reference – which could be the case if you're looking at recipes books or manuals.

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