How to Open PDF Files on Mac For Free

By Sidharth | Apple

Here we continue to suggest you some of the best tools and services that will help you open and view PDF files for free on your Mac machine without having to download any “paid” PDF reading apps.

Open a PDF File: Freeware Apps

Adobe Reader for Macintosh is the most popular PDF reader that is now free to download. You can open every kind of PDF files — large or small — very easily. You can also insert notes, change the text size and highlight text. Adobe constantly pushes security-related updates to Adobe Reader — it’s an added bonus, really.

Skim is another freeware application that lets you take notes and open PDFs. Benefit of this tool is that it’s lightweight and small in size. Skim also has an option where you can export all your PDF notes into a text file. There are many convenient features like “snapshots” and “crop” that makes Skim a really useful PDF viewer.

Skim app with a PDF file opened

Interface of Skim: Free PDF Viewer For Mac OS X

Read Right is an interesting reader built for netbooks and laptops like MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. This lightweight PDF viewer offers fullscreen viewing and rotates automatically when holding your laptop sideways. The app is not loaded with heavy features, so the only thing you could do with this is read PDFs — you cannot highlight text, comment or annotate PDF files.

Open a PDF File: Use Web Browser

Apple Safari:

If you have the latest version of Safari browser running on your Mac, you don’t have to download any special software to view PDF files. It’s easy to use Safari to open existing PDF file or any PDF page available on the Internet. Here’s how to do it: let’s say you have found a PDF file on this website. Click on the link (the URL must end with a .PDF extension) and Safari browser will automatically open a new window and loads the content of the file on your screen. You can also download and save this PDF document on your Mac computer.

Another technique Safari offers is related to “drag-and-drop.” Say you have a PDF document on your desktop, so you have to open Safari -> drag-and-drop this PDF file into Safari’s window. There is no need to use additional plugin or download any third-party tools.

Internet Explorer:

As Mac does not support Internet Explorer, you cannot use IE to open PDF files.

Mozilla Firefox:

This year we have seen many new updates to Mozilla Firefox, one of them includes the addition of “built-in PDF” plugin that forces the browser to display PDF files insider the browser window.

Using Firefox to open Adobe PDF document

Mozilla Firefox: Opening a PDF file

You don’t have to do anything special for this. Simply download the browser from Mozilla’s website, then load the PDF file like you’d do in Safari. See: How to Enable Built-in PDF Viewer on Firefox.

Google Chrome:

Previously you had to download addons to view PDF files on your Chrome browser. All this has changed this year, which means Chrome browser comes with a built-in PDF viewer that can be used to open PDFs like you’d do on Safari and Mozilla Firefox.

Open a PDF File: Online tools

You will find hundreds of online tools that can open PDF files, but the best one is Google Docs (now Google Drive). You can upload a PDF file, view the content, and even edit it using this free tool.

Using Google Docs to View a PDF File

Google Docs: Viewing a PDF File online

Samurajdata is yet another dedicated tool that lets you view PDF and Word files online. There is also an option to enter the URL and the tool will automatically load the content on your browser’s window.

Zoho Docs offers free 1GB file storage along with an option to easily manage, organize and read wide variety of file formats in a secure way.

Slideshare, although a slide (PPT) hosting service, allows its users to upload PDF documents on their website. The file will remain public once it is hosted/uploaded on the website. You may want to do this if you want to share the PDF file with your friends.


After trying several apps you will understand that opening an Adobe PDF file takes no more than a few minutes, thanks to the default application and Internet tools available. PDFs can be viewed using third-party tools as well, but you generally don’t need them as you have Preview on your Mac, which is probably the best PDF opener on your Mac.

About the Author

Hi, I am Sidharth. Full-time blogger. Editor of Blogote. And a self-proclaimed geek!