Adobe Reader’s Tools Pane is a Pain

Here’s a bit of a dirty fix to stop Adobe Acrobat Reader from opening up the “Tools Pane” every time you open the program

Before I go any further, let’s be clear that there are (at least) two limitations to this fix:

  • It will almost certainly be reversed the next time you install an update of Adobe Reader (but you will hopefully be able to re-apply this fix)
  • It stops you using the Tools Pane at all – ie, you can’t manually turn it on again using the top menu

If you are a Mac user, then you can feel smug. The Mac version of Adobe Reader doesn’t have the Tools Pane.

But let’s go back to the beginning. What is the problem?

With the latest version of Adobe Reader (Adobe Acrobat Reader DC), every time you open a pdf document in a new Adobe Reader window, the program “steals” a large portion of your screen by displaying a “Tools Pane” to the right of your pdf file. You can close the pane by clicking Shift + F4, but it will come back again the next time you click on a pdf file to open it.

Adobe Reader with Tools Pane
See how much space is taken with the Tools Pane

Adobe Reader without Tools Pane
Aah, that’s better. Now the dog can see the rabbit.

There is no inbuilt method of turning this “feature” off. After clicking Shift + F4 for the millionth time to dismiss it, it starts to get a bit tedious and you can’t help wondering (for the millionth time) whether it’s just you who thinks that programs are increasingly being written to suit the agenda of the creator rather than the convenience of the user.

Adobe Acrobat Reader Preferences
The tools Pane can be turned off when you open second and subsequent files during a session by removing the tick next to “Open tools pane for each document”
Yes, you can stop the pane from opening for the second and subsequent documents of the current session (by editing the preferences – see the illustration), but you can’t stop the pesky little nuisance from coming back the next time you start an Adobe Reader session from scratch. Isn’t it funny how seemingly small things can drive us mad? I’ve been googling for a solution to this problem occasionally for weeks now, so I know I’m not the only person whose sanity has been threatened by this. Why is it so important? Well, apart from the general principle that I want to see my pdf file and not the program that displays it, I often find myself devoting half the screen to a pdf file (eg my bank statement) and half to something else (eg my cashflow spreadsheet). If part of the “pdf half” is wasted by displaying the tools pane, then the text in the rest of the window has to be reduced so much that I have difficulty reading it.

So here’s the fix. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself, it would take me less than five minutes to do it for you when I’m either making a computer support visit to you or we’re having a Teamviewer support session.

  • Close Adobe Reader (if you have it open)
  • Open File Explorer (aka Windows Explorer)
  • Navigate to the folder where Adobe Acrobat Reader is installed (probably C:\Program Files (x86)\Adobe\Acrobat Reader DC\Reader\AcroApp\ENU)
  • Create a new sub-folder at that location. It doesn’t matter what you call it (use “disabled”, for instance)
  • Drag each of the following three files from the installation folder into the new sub- folder:


That’s it. The next time you start Adobe Acrobat Reader, the Tools Pane will be mercifully absent. I’ve been getting a childish pleasure from thinking I’m putting one over on Adobe every time I open Acrobat Reader and see a lack of Tools Pane.