Use a browser to open pdf files

virtual document in front of typist's hand

Even the name has become bloated – “Adobe Acrobat Reader DC”

pdf = portable document formatAre you fed up with the complexity and bloat of Adobe Reader and no longer wish to use it to view pdf files? There are other pdf readers available, but there is a simpler alternative. You can use a browser to open pdf files.

I have three or four pdf files that I refer to often. Often enough that I want them to be available in just a very few keystrokes and within a very few seconds. Adobe Reader just isn’t very good at this any more. It’s too big, slow, cumbersome.

So, instead, I’ve turned to the modern browser’s ability to view pdf files quickly and efficiently. And, since these are files that I refer to regularly, I have added bookmarks to the browser. Now I can return to the pdf files easily, without the need to find the file and open it. All I need is the browser and the bookmark.

To do this, you can either use your first-choice browser for opening pdf files as well as browsing websites, or you can have a second browser that is used just as a simple pdf reader. This is just a matter of choice. In either case, you just need to know how to initially open the pdf file in the browser of your choice and then how to add the pdf files to the browser (as bookmarks / favorites) so that you can access them quickly in the future.

To begin with, we must instruct Windows to use a browser to open pdf files

The instructions below are for Windows 10:

  • If necessary, download and install your new pdf-reading browser
  • Click on the Start menu
  • Type the word “default” (without the quotes)
  • Click on “default apps”
  • Scroll down and click on “choose default applications by file type”
  • Scroll down until you find “.pdf” in the lefthand column
  • Click on the righthand column (that shows the current default program for .pdf files)
  • Scroll through the list of installed browsers and click on the new chosen one

choose default browser

Now we need to add bookmarks (aka “favorites”) for the pdf files:

  • In File Explorer, find the file, or first file, for which you would like to create a bookmark
  • Double-click on it so that it now opens the file in your chosen browser
  • If you look in the browser’s address bar, you will see the filename of your chosen pdf. This is preceded by the name of the folder in which your file resides (see illustration below). Luckily, we don’t need to copy this, re-type it or anything like that. Instead, we just add the contents of the current tab (ie the name and location of our pdf file) to our bookmarks (or favorites) in exactly the same way that we would bookmark a website. This varies by browser, but is now commonly achieved by clicking on the star at the righthand end of the address bar and following the instructions.

filename in address bar

Searching. To search in your pdf file for specific text, hit “Ctrl f” if you are using Firefox or Chrome. This brings up a search box at the bottom of the screen in Firefox and near the top of the screen in Chrome. In Edge, you don’t need to click “Ctrl f”: just click on the magnifying glass in the line above your pdf file to initiate a search.

As always (almost), these instructions are for a Windows computer. Why? There are far more Windows users than Mac users. My own client base reflects this. The principles are the same, though,  and can be used as a guide for setting up the same facility on a Mac.

Image by DilokaStudio on Freepik