8 Best Free PDF Readers for Mac To Use In 2021

5 min read

PDF is one of the ubiquitous document formats that has been with computers for the last 25 years. In these years, the PDF reader options have manifested into full-fledged software dedicated to PDF viewing, editing, and security. Adobe is not the only player in the game now, as more PDF reader software options are available for both Windows and Mac. We will limit this post to PDF readers that are available either exclusively or also for macOS.

  1. Adobe Acrobat Reader
  2. PDF element
  3. PDF Reader
  4. PDF Professional
  5. Skim
  6. Foxit PDF reader
  7. Haihaisoft PDF reader
  8. Soda PDF

Adobe Acrobat Reader

Adobe Acrobat Reader is the oldest player in the dedicated PDF reader software game for a long time. Slowly, the Adobe Acrobat Reader has evolved and is not only limited to basic reading functions which were the highlight of older versions. The Adobe Acrobat Reader comes with basic PDF file options such as view, comment, print, and sign PDFs.

Apart from that, users can collect feedback and track it. The option to create a pdf file from scratch and to add a digital signature to it is also available for premium users. This happens in real-time to verify the nature of transactions. Adobe Acrobat Reader also provides you the option to convert the pdf files and export them to Excel or Word format which is a plus. You can also password protect the files to prevent them from undue replication or alterations. Adobe Acrobat Reader is slightly expensive if you want to cherish all the premium features but it is the most reliable PDF reader that is compatible with macOS.


  • Digital signatures
  • Password-protected files

PDF element

PDF element is the only PDF reader software that has come close to the popularity of the Adobe Acrobat Reader in a short time. The PDF element is a sub-product of the Wondershare software brand, that builds useful software bundles for enterprises, entertainment, and much more. However, the PDF element is a more workflow and documentation-focused software by the brand.

PDF element surpasses the Adobe Acrobat Reader in terms of features. It allows you to create, edit and convert any PDF file to Excel, Word, or PowerPoint. It also facilitates easy reviews by presenting an option to add comments, review the updates, and digital signature of sensitive documents.

PDF element also allows you to create interactive PDF forms within the software that can work as a full-fledged form and collect data from users. It has a robust approach to security and allows the creator to add password protection. A permissions feature is built-in to allow the placement of restrictions for printing, copying, or altering the document. You can also redact information from a PDF file that is sensitive to the creator. One more lucrative feature that the latest version of the PDF element brings is the OCR feature to extract text within the images using the scanner. PDF elements have an overwhelming set of features, even in the free version, and are the best PDF reader for Mac.


  • OCR scanner
  • Generation of PDF forms

PDF Reader

PDF Reader is a feature-packed software that lets you work with PDF format files with ease. The first striking feature is the availability of different reading modes to reduce eye strain if you work with PDF files and documents on a regular basis. There are three modes to choose from, namely day, night, and sepia. The software presents you with an option to annotate the pdf files as per your wish. Digitally signed e-documents are possible with the software with the ability to add predestined stamps. You can also create your own stamps to mark the status of a document.

PDF reader tries to promote editing the pdf files without having to convert them into the word format. It is under the beta phase but is a useful approach to save time. The software also promotes file compression and assures a non-wavering quality despite the reduction in size. Transforming PDF files to Word, Excel, or PowerPoint is supported along with the ability to rearrange pages inside the file and add and remove encryption from files. PDF reader is a powerful software with emphasis on pdf file alteration and security.


  • File encryption and decryption
  • PDF file compression

PDF Professional

PDF Professional is a pdf reader software by Build to Connect that makes software products for the Mac OS. PDF Professional is exclusively available for Mac and there is no mention of rollout to other operating systems as of now. It is more than a simplified PDF reader as it comes with a comparable feature set to any of the pdf readers mentioned above.

PDF Professional allows you to make annotations into the pdf file and also convert it to a variety of formats that include HTML, TXT, JPEG, WORD, etc. Special pdf file operations such as merging pdf files, inserting pdf, splitting, and file compression are available for the users. There is also an annotation history pane that lets you view the changes made to the file in exact sequence.

PDF Professional also allows sharing the pdf file and uploading it to Dropbox with a secure connection. For security, passwords can be set on the pdf files and a few attributes can be altered to make copying or reproduction impossible. If you are looking for an exclusive pdf file reader with useful features, PDF Professional is a great option available on the App Store.


  • Annotation history
  • Direct upload to Dropbox


Skim proclaims to be an e-book reader software that is more powerful than its claims. Yes, you can read ebooks but that is not the end of the features that are bundled with Skim. It is only made for Mac users and doesn’t have a windows release on its website. The software has received an update after quite some time for macOS Big Sur, so any security issues prevalent with older versions must be patched by now.

Skim offers the users to view pdf files and add and edit notes. You can highlight important sentences or parts using the one swipe feature and then revisit the document to find it all in one place. You can take snapshots and then use them to retrace your trail of thoughts. Skim has a minimalistic user interface that doesn’t overburden the display with features. The document scanner features like OCR isn’t available in Skim, so unless that is an absolute necessity, the pdf file reader will do just fine for Mac OS users.


  • Highlight
  • Screenshot feature

Foxit PDF reader

Foxit PDF reader is a great documentation tool for users that are dependent on macOS and are burdened with PDF file formats. The pdf file reader lets you edit, create, modify your pdf files and even add annotations to them. Digital signatures can be embedded in a pdf file. Foxit PDF reader provides enterprise-grade solutions to share files in a CMS platform and access your files stored on cloud file managers such as Dropbox.

File conversions are also supported with a variety of file formats. Foxit PDF reader is free as of now and if you want to save some bucks while getting a robust pdf file reader, you should go for the Foxit PDF reader.


  • Annotations on pdf files
  • Digital signatures

Haihaisoft PDF reader

Haihaisoft PDF reader has the smallest storage footprint with a tiny installation file of 5 MB. The pdf file reader isn’t only available for Mac but also can be downloaded by Windows and Android users. As expected from freeware, Haihaisoft PDF reader still surprised us with its attention to the privacy of users. The application assures the users to never connect to the internet in the background without asking permission from the users.

Moreover, it can read pdf files encrypted using the DRM-X platform without the installation of additional software to support the decryption. Haihaisoft PDF reader instantly launches as it is less hardware-dependent and doesn’t require an internet connection to do so. Overall, a great free pdf file reader software for Mac OS users.


  • Can read DRM encrypted files
  • Tiny storage footprint

Soda PDF

Soda PDF another great option for the free pdf reader for Mac OS users that comes with great features and an economical pricing tier in case you want to use it to the fullest. All the pdf file editing features are supported along with the ability to sign documents and make annotations. Soda PDF also lets you use the OCR feature to carve out important information from images, infographics, etc. PDF file compression and conversion to other popular formats are also supported by the application. Once you try soda PDF, you will love the clean interface with the ability to continue your task anywhere with its cloud-based infrastructure.


  • Easy to use
  • Cloud based support


These were the best pdf file readers available for Mac OS users that consist of both free and paid options. PDF element is the best pdf file reader application available for Mac OS users that is slightly pricey but has unmatched features with round-the-clock support. Mac OS users that want completely free and tiny PDF reader software, can go for Haihaisoft PDF reader.

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