Nitro PDF Reader 2 review

Adobe’s PDF reader software is about as ubiquitous as software gets. Everyone who has ever needed to read a PDF has probably installed it at one stage or another, with Adobe claiming it’s installed in 90% of all PCs.

That’s impressive, but it still leaves 10% of people who don’t use it – a large proportion of whom take issue with the Reader’s tendency to go slow on older systems and its OCD need to update itself every ten minutes.

That’s the audience at which Nitro is aiming its latest Reader 2 software, and it hopes to lure users away from Adobe with a host of bonus features.

It’s certainly more powerful than Reader X. With Nitro PDF Reader, the ability to convert files to PDF is built in, and converting office documents or images is a doddle. You can do this from inside the app itself, by dragging files directly onto the Nitro shortcut, or by printing to the Nitro printer driver. Adobe has creation features, but only via the CreatePDF service, and the number of files you can convert for free is limited.

Elsewhere, there’s the ability to extract both text and images from PDF files – Reader X can only pull text out – plus a selection of more powerful annotation tools. Not only can you add sticky notes and highlight text, but you can type text directly into PDF files and then flatten the file for output too. That’s useful for filling in flat forms without fancy interactive fields.

Nitro PDF Reader 2

For those whose daily routine involves having to approve contracts and sign off invoices, Nitro also allows you to quickly drop signatures onto PDFs. Scan in your signature, or take a picture of it, and Nitro will remove the background and store it for later use – there’s even password protection for added security. We also like the fact that Nitro has added a “send to Evernote option” to its Ribbon-style File tab – a quick way to make non-searchable PDF files searchable.

But performance is even more important than features, especially in software that’s used as frequently as a PDF reader, and on this count Nitro PDF Reader 2 falls short. In our tests, on an ageing AMD Athlon 64 X2, a basic 1.57MB file took five seconds to open in Nitro, three seconds in Foxit, and only one second in Reader X. More concerning, though, is the memory footprint: with that same file and three other smaller PDFs open Nitro consumed 93MB of memory, Foxit took up 28MB, and Reader X 60MB. With several larger PDFs open, we can see that becoming a bit of an issue.

So do we recommend you uninstall Adobe Reader and replace it with Nitro? Or even your current favourite alternative? If all you want is core reader facilities, we’d have to say no – the performance and memory footprint mean that would be a backwards step. But there’s no doubt its extra features are worth having, and it’s certainly worth adding to your free software toolkit.


Software subcategoryOffice software

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported?yes
Operating system Windows XP supported?yes

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