Tutorial on how to open PDF files

What is a PDF file?

The Portable Document Format (PDF) was launched in 1993 by Adobe Systems for document exchange purposes. It is an open commercial format. This means that anyone who has programming skills can write a tool that creates and opens PDF files.

One great advantage of PDF files is the cross-platform compatibility. It runs on Linux, Max, Windows, and most of the smaller operating systems. All of these systems contain or support tools that open or create PDF files.

This document will look the same on any of the operating systems. Since it contains text, fonts, images, and 2-D vector graphics, you can imagine why every operating system can open or create this format. Are you unable to open PDF files? If you are, it means your operating system lacks the necessary tool. So, let’s find the best free tool available.

Finding the right tool

The best tool you can find for free is Adobe’s own reader. Its name is…Adobe Reader. You can find it on Adobe’s webpage. We recommend that you download the reader directly from the developer’s webpage to make sure you are safe. There are a lot of hidden threats when it comes to downloading .exe files from the Internet. You can find Adobe’s website here: http://www.adobe.com/

Here is how it looks like. You can also see how fast you can get the tool:

Adobe main page

As you can see, the link to the Adobe Reader is right on the main page, so you don’t even have to look for it. Go ahead and click the link. You will reach a web page like the one below:

Download latest version

On this page, you can see what you are about to download. We are going to download Adobe Reader 9 for Windows XP SP2 – SP3. The English version. Just below this info you have the download link. You must agree with me – Adobe has one of the cleanest web sites on the Web. Everything is where you would expect it to be.

Go ahead and click Download. You will reach a page similar to the one below:

The actual download

The download should start automatically and should look like the box above. If it does not start, click “click here to download". This will force the box to appear. As you can see from the title of the file, it is the right thing: AdbeRdr90_en_US.exe. This would mean Adobe Reader 9.0 English, US version. So go ahead and click Save File.

Save the file on your hard drive and make sure you remember the path. Before proceeding to the actual installation, we recommend you to save the file on a CD or DVD. This way, you will have easy access to it later. Whenever you reinstall your operating system, you will need to reinstall Adobe Reader.

Installing Adobe Reader

Once the file is saved, double click on it (either on the hard drive, or on the removable media).

The following box should appear. This is a security warning and has its right to be there. As we agreed above, downloading files from the Internet can be very dangerous. These files might contain viruses, worms, or Trojans. Downloading is one thing, but think of what could happen if you run an infected file. So this is why this security warning is here.

Since we know this file is from Adobe’s own website, it must be clean. We can see the Publisher in the Security Warning box:

Windows security warning

Go ahead and click Run. After you click Run, you are entering the main setup and the installation begins. Here is the next screen that will appear:

First step of the setup

As you can see, Adobe Reader 9 Setup is being processed. It should not take more than 1 minute, but it always depends on the hardware. For me, it took approximately 15 seconds. Even if it takes more, do not click Pause or, worst, Exit. You will Pause or Exit the Installation. It is better to leave the setup do its job.

Once this phase is completed, here is what we encounter next:

Second step of the setup

You are being asked where to install the tool. You can leave the folder as it is and it will install it in C:\Program Files\Adobe\Reader 9.0\, or you can change the folder by clicking on “Change Destination Folder …". After you change the folder (if applicable), you must click Next to go to the last screen before the actual installation:

Third step of the setup

This is the last step from where you can return to change anything. To return, simply click Back. If everything is set (check if you have at least 500 MB of free disk space on C:\\), all you have to do now is click Install and enjoy:

The installation

An error can occur. It is caused by some files that must be updated and are in use at the moment. Adobe Reader will show what you need to close. In my case, it is just Mozilla Firefox, my browser:

Program in use warning

You can choose to Retry, Ignore, or Exit. Ignore and Exit are not viable options, se close the application and click Retry. Adobe Reader should finish its installation. After it finishes, click Finish and you will be prompted to restart your computer. It is highly advised that you do so.


After you are back in Windows and, hopefully, still reading this tutorial, we need to make sure we can open PDF files. So, go to one of the files you were unable to open 15 minutes ago. If you notice, the icon has changed. It now clearly reads Adobe:

An example

This means that Adobe is successfully installed and ready to use. Don’t believe me just yet? Go ahead and double click on the PDF file. Here is what happened to me:

The license agreement

This is normal. Adobe just wants you to agree to their terms. This is a good sign. Go ahead and click Accept. If you Decline, Adobe Reader will not start. After I clicked Accept, here is what happened next:

Adobe is working

It is working now. You have just installed Adobe Reader and will be able to open any PDF file. Thank you for reading this tutorial and I hope you have had a pleasant lecture. Congratulations!

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