Anyone using Google Chrome knows that it can do much more than just browse the Internet for you. Chrome allows you to customize your browser to make it do just about anything it cannot already do. However, most users do not realize that Chrome actually has a built-in PDF viewer. In fact, you probably have used Chrome’s PDF viewer and just shrugged your shoulders thinking the functionality of it came from Adobe.

Chrome’s built-in PDF viewer takes up fewer system resources than Adobe Reader; this means that you can view PDF files in the browser instead of having to open up another program to take a look at its contents. We will take a look at Google Chrome’s built-in PDF viewer first, then we will take a look at a few other ways to use Chrome as a PDF reader.

How to use Google’s built-in PDF viewer

In order to get started with Google’s built-in PDF viewer, all you need to do is install Chrome. It comes pre-installed.

Simply open a PDF file in Google Chrome. You can do this by clicking a link on a website to a PDF file. Chrome will open the PDF in a new tab window. For example, I have opened up GameStop’s store associate application in Chrome.

Gamestop application in PDF format

If you hover your mouse over the bottom right-hand corner of the browser, the PDF options will appear.

Chrome PDF options

The options for Chrome’s built-in PDF viewer are:  Fit page, fit width, zoom out, zoom in, save and print.

  • Fit page makes the entire PDF file fit into the view of your browser so you can take a cursory examination of it.
  • Fit width will fill the browser window with the PDF so you can clearly see its contents. You will have to scroll down to see the entire file.
  • Zoom out and in allows you to zoom in our out on the PDF so you can find the right distance to read it for your computer screen.
  • Save allows you to save the PDF to your computer. When you click “Save,” you will be asked to save it wherever you want; you will also have the option to rename the PDF if you choose. You can also use “Ctrl+S” or right-click and select “Save as…” to save a PDF file in Chrome.
  • Print will let you print the PDF. Depending on your printer settings, Chrome may open a print preview tab for you to choose options before actually printing the PDF. You can also use “Ctrl+P” or right-click and select “Print…” to print your PDF in Google Chrome.

If you have a PDF that allows you to fill in data, you can also do that via Chrome. Simply click on the text field, type in what you need and then “Tab” to the next text box. When you are finished filling out the PDF, you can “Save” or “Print” it depending on what you need to do next.

PDF with fields to fill in

How to get more from Google as a PDF Reader

While Google Chrome’s built-in PDF viewer allows users to do just about everything they need with a PDF, you can utilize some extensions to make Chrome shine as your default PDF reader.

Web2PDF Converter is the best extension to use to save just about any website you visit into a PDF file. You can add this extension to Chrome from the web store. Once installed, you can begin saving websites as PDFs immediately.

Web2PDF Converter

To start using Web2PDF, you want to look at your extension toolbar at the top right of Chrome. You should see a PDF in a file folder, this is the Web2PDF icon. Click on it.

Chrome toolbar

You want to click on “Convert to PDF.” This will start the conversion process.

(7) converting pdf

Do not navigate away from the website or close the box that popped up.

Converting to PDF

When Web2PDF is finished, it will let you know and then give you the option to either save the PDF or view it in GoogleDocs.

PDF successfully created

Convert PDF to Word is the next extension you want to add from the Chrome Web Store. This extension will allow you to convert PDFs into Word documents to work with within the Microsoft Office suite.

Convert PDF to Word

Once installed, you will see a red icon in your Chrome extension toolbar. Click it.

Chrome toolbar

A pop-up will appear and you will want to click on “Choose File” to locate the PDF to convert. Once you have located it, click “Upload and Convert.” When the process has finished, you can choose to save the Word document to your computer.

Choose file to convert

PDF eBook Searches is another must have an extension for Chrome to improve the functionality of your built-in PDF viewer. While PDF eBook Searches does not actually add features to view PDFs, it does something Adobe Reader cannot: It allows you to search for PDF files.

PDF eBook Searches

You will find PDF eBook Searches in the extensions toolbar at the top right of your browser. Click on the Adobe icon.

Chrome toolbar

Now, you can enter what type of eBook you want to search for. For example, I am looking for anything by the author Charles Dickens.

(16) search

A new tab will open up with the results.

(20) results

As you learn how to use PDF Search Engine more thoroughly, you will be able to narrow down your eBook results much quicker. You can also find results from YouTube and Twitter as well.

These are just a few extensions to improve upon the built-in PDF viewer Google has added to Chrome. You can find a variety of other extensions, similar ones and more by checking out the Chrome Web Store.

How to set Google Chrome as your default PDF viewer

Now if you are ready to use Google Chrome as your default PDF reader, you have to let Windows know.

In order to do that, you want to right-click on a PDF file on your computer. Click on “Open with…”

Open with...

Windows will recommend the “best” program for this. Most likely it will be Adobe Reader. Make sure “Always use the selected program to open this kind of file” before you continue.

(22) open with

Now, we want to change that to Google Chrome. If you do not find it under Other Programs, you want to click “Browse…” to find the EXE file associated with the browser on your computer.

Locating Chrome

Once you find it, click “Open.

Choosing Chrome and setting it as default

Finally, click “Ok.” If you go back to the PDF file you originally opened, you will now see the Chrome logo on it as opposed to Adobe Reader or any other program you were using. PDFs will now always be opened by Google Chrome.

PDF associated with Chrome

Pros of using Chrome as your PDF reader:

  • Chrome takes up fewer system resources than Adobe Reader
  • You have all the basic functionality in Chrome without having to open a PDF up in another program
  • Security issues are not a problem with Chrome’s built-in PDF viewer

Cons of using Chrome as your PDF reader:

  • You do not have the entire functionality of Adobe Reader at your disposal
  • May have to install extensions in addition to using the built-in viewer to get everything you want out of a PDF
  • The only way to eSign an Adobe PDF is through Adobe, you cannot do that through Chrome

Why should you use Chrome as your default PDF reader?

If you are looking for an easier way to view, use and interact with PDFs, utilizing Google Chrome’s built-in PDF viewer along with extensions is the way to say goodbye to Adobe Reader. Chrome offers the functionality where Adobe Reader falls flat. When you want to read a PDF, you should not have to rely on another program to do that especially when you are looking to save system resources.

Google has also ensured that Chrome offers unparalleled security and stability in its browser which is something Adobe has faltered on in the past few years. Google Chrome can be an effective alternative PDF viewer for those looking to walk away from the Adobe brand.

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