Approximate time to read: 3 minutes
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I hang around a forum where often there is a default cry of “Foxit Reader” if anybody asks about free PDF readers, even if it’s just to ask about a technical problems with Adobe Acrobat Reader. “Is it worth upgrading to the new version?” “Just install Foxit Reader – it’s a lot quicker and not so bloated.” So it goes.
So, I thought I’d give them both a go.
I’ve used Foxit in the past but found its lack of browser integration and the fact that it wouldn’t handle embedded URL’s a bit of a problem. So I swapped back to Adobe but used a product called “Adobe Reader SpeedUp”. This strips out the often-unused functionality. However, with more recent versions of Adobe being a lot quicker I’ve stopped using it.
My plan was simple – run Adobe, do some tests, uninstall it, install Foxit and do some more tests.
First of all, Adobe Acrobat Reader version 9.
It’s a whopping 33.5 MB download, but an even worse 204 MB once installed (which took about 70 seconds). Running Acrobat on its own consumed 32MB of my system memory. I then launched a 17 MB document – which took under a second to display – and found it was now consuming 63 MB of memory (split across 2 applications for some reason).
The speed was great but the footprint wasn’t. Oh, and it doesn’t place an uninstall application in your startup menu – one of my pet hates.
So, that got uninstalled and I tried Foxit Reader version 2.3.
The download for Foxit is 2.56 to 3.64 MB, depending on the type you want (zip, installer, MSI). Once installed it uses 6.6 MB – obviously a lot better than Adobe. Not only that but it took about 11 seconds to install (that was with the default install option which, unfortunately, adds desktop and quick launch icons). Launching Foxit used 9 MB of system memory and just 15 MB when I launched the same document that I used with Adobe. Oh, and it took about the same time.
There you go – clear cut. It’s quick and has a small footprint. Case closed. Foxit is the winner.
Did you spot the error? I opened a 17 MB document in Foxit and it only used 15 MB of system memory! What I found is that every time I scrolled up and down the document this memory usage increased dramatically and didn’t appear to stop. After a few goes I’d got the memory usage above that used by Acrobat – that sounds like a bad memory leak to me!
Not only that but Foxit does not integrate with the browser so documents have to be downloaded from the ‘net. It does now work with URL’s though. For me, though, one of Acrobat’s recent additions, which Foxit lacks, is the bigger problem – the page thumbnail view running down the side, allowing to quickly skim through the document pages.
However, it gets worse for Foxit.
When I had Acrobat installed I tried Adobe Reader SpeedUp again but that seemed to make little difference. However, I did try Adobe Reader Lite – a stripped down version of the full product. This is a 16 MB download which installs at 54 MB, and in just 26 seconds. Again, it comes without an uninstaller shortcut. It integrates with the browser, does page thumbnails, works with URL’s, the full works. But now it consumes 36 MB of system memory and 48 MB when my document is loaded (and now only running as one application).
Unfortunately, even Acrobat suffered from the memory leak problems and I managed to easily get memory usage over 100 MB. Why this is I simply don’t know, however the leaps weren’t as dramatic as Foxit.
So, conclusion. Both appear to eat memory (one more dramatically than the other) and both are quick. Foxit lacks features but has a smaller footprint. However, as memory usage doesn’t seem to create a winner, I hardly think it can come down to how much they use on your hard disk – the difference of a few dozen MB is hardly going to be a problem with current disk sizes.
Using the Lite version of Acrobat really cuts it down and would certainly be my own personal recommendation. It’s what I’ve left installed.