Lately I have been struggling with issues getting Adobe Reader to install correctly on client machines. Because of these issues, I have begun looking for another solution to the PDF problem. My search for a lighter PDF application with less problems at deployment lead me to Foxit Reader Enterprise.

The basics

Foxit Reader is a free PDF reader like Adobe Reader, but I have found it to be have a much smaller footprint. The application opens faster and has a tabbed interface, which allows multiple PDF files to be open in the same session. When I installed the program on a laptop in a pinch, I was pleasantly surprised at the speed and overall functionality. The thing I couldn’t figure out was how to quickly get the reader application out to multiple users.

This is where the enterprise application came in. When I landed on the page for applying to download the enterprise version, I expected to get an email from the sales team with a cost per user. I did receive an email from the sales team, but it also included a link to the download and some documents to get me started.

The enterprise version remains a free download, but is contained in a ready-to-deploy MSI file. The installation supports switches to allow more options to be configured during installation. The features available via these switches are:

  • Installdir – the installation directory used for Foxit Reader
  • Allusers – specifies whether the application should be installed for all users
  • Desktop_Shortcut – specifies if the installer should create a desktop shortcut
  • Startmenu_shortcut – specifies if the installer should create a start menu icon
  • Makedefault – this option sets Foxit Reader as the default
  • ARHELPLINK – configures default help link to go to
  • View_in_browser – allows PDF files to be viewed in a browser
  • Safemode – enables trusted file mode, enabled by default
  • Keypath – sets the location of a license file

In addition to being created for deployment, Foxit Enterprise brings some features to PDF files that Adobe sells at a bit of a premium. These include:

  • Commenting
  • Annotation
  • Drawing
  • Highlighting
  • Conversion to text files

In addition to these included features, FoxIt Reader supports a good amount of add-ons as well. These can enhance the functionality of the PDF experience and are available as free downloads. Click here for a list of add-ons.

Another feature that is handy is the Read Out Loud feature. It reads the text of the PDF open in Foxit reader. Allowing Foxit to read PDFs will allow you to work on other projects. This feature works pretty well, however this might work better in a mobile solution to allow a PDF to be read from a mobile device — perhaps in a future release.

What’s the bottom line

So far my experience across a bunch of workstations with Foxit Reader has been great. The application starts immediately and does everything most users need to do with a PDF. Sure there are some, perhaps in graphics departments and web design shops that might need the full on capabilities of Adobe Acrobat, but for the general office worker, Foxit hits the sweet spot for me.