Foxit is the most widely spread free alternative to the massive Adobe Acrobat Reader. It is said to be more light-weight and faster than the Acrobat Reader, of course we wanted to find that out.
For reading PDF files Adobe Acrobat Reader takes up 230 MBs, that is a lot of space compared to Foxit, which does the same thing only taking up 7 MB. Hard drive space is not really an issue today, but it does make you wonder what Adobe put in their reader that Foxit did not.
Installing Foxit is a breeze, the executable is just 3.6 MB and the whole installation process takes about 30 seconds on a reasonable fast machine. After install you get the option of installing different plug-ins, for example there is a plug-in for Firefox (which we will get back to).
The interface in Foxit is less cluttered than Adobe Acrobat Reader but looks a bit dated. However if you worked with Adobe Acrobat Reader you will feel at home in Foxit. While Foxit features the standard array of tools and features it brings nothing new to the table. From a feature stand-point users will do just as well with Acrobat Reader.
Foxit is pretty fast, we have not done any scientific tests but viewing a 25 MB PDF-file with a lot of images was surprisingly fast. Even the Foxit PDF viewer in Internet Explorer is much faster than Adobes.
Foxit also came with a Firefox plug-in, which we did not have any luck with. When opening a PDF file in Firefox the browser notified us of that the server was busy, and then the browser crashed. Then we tried again and it happened all over again.
In other third party PDF readers the files often looked differently than in Acrobat Reader, Foxit does a great job rendering PDF files and we could not tell any difference between the two readers.
Adobe Acrobat Reader have a number of different features to sign documents digitally, this is very handy if you or your business is using one of Adobes lifecycle products. Foxit has no similar features built in, which makes it less useable in an already established Adobe environment.
What does the Foxit people make money on if their PDF reader is free, there has to be a catch, right? Indeed, Foxit has applied the same business model as Adobe, to get the Pro version of Foxit you have to pay. The pro version contains the possibility to draw in PDF files, attach files and save them without evaluation markings. However commenting works fine in the free version.
For small businesses and individuals Foxit is a very good alternative to Adobe Acrobat Reader, it is overall leaner and faster. However in a business setting with clients using extra Adobe unique features (such as document signatures or security options) Adobe Acrobat Reader is a better choice.