The Foxit PDF Reader - fast, free, portable and new

A new version of the Foxit reader contains important bug fixes

The big claim to fame for the Foxit PDF Reader has always been speed - it opens PDF files much faster than Adobe's own Acrobat Reader. Then too, it's free and much smaller than the Adobe Reader. Plus, people just like it. At download.com, the CNET review gave it 5 stars out of 5.

But there is another big advantage, the Foxit Reader is portable.

Portable applications are those that can be run without being installed. I'm a huge fan of portable applications and use them whenever possible, running them both off the C disk and USB flash drives. By distancing themselves from the host copy of Windows, portable applications offer two advantages. First, they insulate you from problems with Windows or the registry. On the other end, they are less likely to cause problems for the host copy of Windows.

For whatever reason, the fact that there is a portable copy of the Foxit Reader seems to be a secret. It is not mentioned on either the Foxit download page, the Foxit overview page or at download.com.

To get the portable version, simply download the 2.9MB "ZIP Package" from Foxit Software. This downloads a Zip file consisting of a single file, FoxitReader.exe. When unzipped, the reader is 6.5MB.

The portable version of Foxit saved me on one computer where the old version 7 of the Adobe Acrobat Reader could not be un-installed, and the new version 8 could not be installed. Foxit to the rescue.

The current version, 2.3, was released at the end of April. According to Foxit Software, many new features have been added. According to Brian Krebs, writing for the Washington Post, critical security bugs were fixed in this release.

While elsewhere on CNET, new features are considered a good thing, they scare me - new code is more likely to be buggy than older, established code. Still, I will use and recommend version 2.3 because of the bug fixes it contains, but be sure to check for updates (Help -> Check for Updates Now... ) relatively often.

Normally-installed software requires certain file names, but this is not true of portable software. If you do run the portable version of the Foxit PDF Reader, let me suggest changing the file name. I use:

FoxitReader.v2.3.April.2008.Portable.exe

This tells me at a glance the version/release, the date it was released and that it is the portable version rather than the setup file for the normally installed version.

The Foxit PDF Reader runs on Windows 98, ME, 2000, XP, 2003 and Vista.

Update May 7, 2008: I just stumbled across a feature in the Adobe Reader that is missing from the Foxit Reader - the ability to copy images. I was recently using a PDF file that had started out as a Word document. As shown below, the Adobe Reader lets me copy individual pictures out of the PDF simply by right clicking on the image. Foxit does not seem to support this.

Update May 20, 2008: A critical bug was just found in the Foxit PDF Reader.

Update May 23, 2008: A new version of the Foxit PDF reader was just released.

See a summary of all my Defensive Computing postings.

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About the author

    Michael Horowitz wrote his first computer program in 1973 and has been a computer nerd ever since. He spent more than 20 years working in an IBM mainframe (MVS) environment. He has worked in the research and development group of a large Wall Street financial company, and has been a technical writer for a mainframe software company.

    He teaches a large range of self-developed classes, the underlying theme being Defensive Computing. Michael is an independent computer consultant, working with small businesses and the self-employed. He can be heard weekly on The Personal Computer Show on WBAI.

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