Is there a pdf viewer in linux that can do all of the following:

  1. Deal with large pdf files easily
  2. Support annotations
  3. Support pdf forms
  4. Have a fullscreen reader mode that hides all menus and allows zooming in and has smooth scrolling

I have tried a lot of pdf viewers but none of them can do all four so I usually end up having to use two different viewers together. Right now, I am using foxit reader for annotations and evince for filling out forms. And I haven't been able to find any viewer that has a fullscreen read mode. Generally, either the menus are not hidden or the full screen mode is for pdf presentations with only one page visible at one time.


I have already tried foxit reader, qpdfview, okular, evince, xpdf and a bunch of other lightweight ones. I do not remember their names.

  • 2
    List ones that you have tried, or people will end up suggesting those.
    – muru
    Apr 20, 2017 at 15:51
  • Possible duplicate of Which PDF Viewer would you recommend?
    – Anwar
    Apr 20, 2017 at 16:43
  • I'm voting it to close because either it is duplicate or you asked about a very narrow usecase, which also falls under off-topic. Especially since you won't even tolerate the tiny toolbar shown in fullscreen.
    – Anwar
    Apr 20, 2017 at 16:45
  • I have already tried all of those viewers and none of them fullfill the very specific need I have outlined above
    – yolo7398
    Apr 20, 2017 at 16:46
  • 2
    @Anwar I don't agree, the suggested dupe is much too broad, while this questions asks for a specific and clear set of qualities. Moreover, obviously the answers in the suggested dupe did not satisfy the question. Apr 20, 2017 at 17:21

3 Answers 3


Short answer

Not that well known, but Master PDF Editor is one of the better "regular" Acrobat- like pdf options we have at the moment imo.

enter image description here

I don't have statistics on the speed, but compared to other pdf applications I have on my system, it performs remarkably well.


Possible downside is that it is propriety software, and the free version has some limitations. These limitations are irrelevant to me however:

Following functions are locked in free version:

- Optimizing PDFs.
- Function "Paste to Multiple Pages"
- Add/Edit Document Actions.
- Manage Document JavaScript.
- Page Properties options.
- Sign PDF document with digital signature.
- Add Headers and Footers to PDFs.
- Add Watermarks to PDFs.
- Add Background to PDFs.
- 256 bit AES encryption.
  • I think this is better than evince. The only problem I have is that since this is not in the default repositories, I will need to update it manually
    – yolo7398
    Apr 20, 2017 at 16:39
  • @yolo7398 partially true; the application notifies you on launch on important updates. Apr 20, 2017 at 20:19
  • I have gotten rid of the other pdf viewers and have been using Master PDF for all of today. Will update in a few weeks time on how it works out. I like it so far
    – yolo7398
    Apr 21, 2017 at 11:29

I have been on the quest to find an appropriate PDF viewer with the mentioned features for years now. I am happy to share my experiences under Linux as an answer, listing the so far used tools in the order of my personal preferences along with some pros/cons:

  1. MasterPDFEditor (pay to remove watermarks): (+) many nice features incl. full screen mode (F11), reasonably fast startup/to use, rich and easy to use commenting; (-) non-lean GUI, distractive/complicated to use side panels, difficult to operate via keyboard
  2. Evince (free): (+) multi-viewer, full-screen (slide show), focus on most important features, very fast startup, very lean GUI; (-) limited and comparatively difficult to use commenting features
  3. Okular (free): (+) multi-viewer, full screen via Ctrl-Shift-F and F7, focus on most important features, essential commenting features, fast startup, lean GUI; (-) clumsy/low-fi full-text search, complicated to use commenting features, sometimes opens multiple instances
  4. FoxIt Reader (freemium): (+) overall nice interface, rich commenting features; (-) no full-screen, extremely slow start-up, starts new instance everytime when opening a PDF from file manager/console, complicated to use by keyboard, relatively complicated access/handling of commenting features
  5. Zathura (free): (+) full-screen (F5), extremely lean and fast, very easy to use via keyboard, brilliant in combi with Emacs; (-) only essential features, no commenting
  6. Firefox (free): (+) easy to use, fast, integrated; (-) only essential features, no commenting

I have not tested in recent years:

  1. xpdf, gv (free): (+) very fast start, lean GUI, focus on essentials; (-) no commenting, not so easy to use and potentially obsoleted GUIs
  2. Adobe Reader (freemium): (+) many nice features, good commenting (-) rather slow, limited compatibility with linux (last security updates from 2013)

You will find a more detailed evaluation, e.g., here.

MasterPDFEditor, Evince, and Okular fulfill all criteria (1.-4.) from the question according to my experience, although to varying degrees. FoxIt and Adobe Readers seem ok as well but I haven't tested them comprehensively. The other readers are not focusing on such features, hence, they are out of this particular competition.

Although all listed viewers have shown to me to be reasonably stable tools and all free tools are impressive on their own, as a professional I am getting to the limits to all of these tools when it comes to fluent usage for commenting or redaction (under Linux).


Evince (called Document Viewer in Ubuntu) does all four of your requirements.

  1. Deals with large PDF files easily
  2. Supports annotations and highlighting
  3. Supports PDF forms
  4. Has a fullscreen reader mode that allows zooming in and has smooth scrolling, but Evince doesn't hide the toolbar at the top except for when using the Budgie desktop environment.

For step-by-step instructions about how to add highlighting and annotations to a PDF document in Evince see this answer. The annotations added with Evince can be also viewed in Windows by installing Evince in Windows, and there is also a portable version of Evince for Windows at PortableApps.com that can be run from a USB flash drive without installing Evince on your hard drive.

If Evince crashes when too many annotations have been added, you can partially ameliorate this by using the nice command to give the Evince process a more favorable scheduling priority. Niceness values range from -20 (most favorable to the process) to 19 (least favorable to the process). To show the Evince process ID (PID) run:

ps -aux | grep evince
  • I think I was not clear earlier but I need to be able to make annotations, I do not think it is possible to do that in evince. And it crashes if there are too many annotations on a page
    – yolo7398
    Apr 20, 2017 at 15:58
  • I found the add annotations thing but it still crashes if there are too many annotations. Evince is the best option I have found too but I was looking for something better
    – yolo7398
    Apr 20, 2017 at 16:02
  • The reader view I am looking for is something like what adobe acrobat has in windows. Since I read a lot of pdf ebooks, especially textbooks, I want to remove all possible distractions on the screen and just focus on what I am reading. That includes menus, icons, contents, thumbnail view, etc
    – yolo7398
    Apr 20, 2017 at 16:05
  • 1
    I changed my desktop environment to budgie recently. I do not not know if this is specific to budgie or if it exists in vanilla gnome too, but evince auto hides the bar at the top in fullscreen mode. This is better than masterpdf and also integrates well with other gnome applications
    – yolo7398
    May 1, 2017 at 5:52

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