PDF-XChange Viewer: Possible Alternative to Adobe Reader


I don't know how well this "plays with JAWS" overall, but I do know that what testing I've been doing with it with clients has been going well.

There is a company with the unfortunate name, these days anyway, of Tracker Software that makes a competitor to Adobe Reader called PDF-XChange Viewer (and that's a direct link to the download of the ZIP file, it's a bit of a pain to find on their website with JAWS) that I dearly love for several reasons both for myself and for those with low-vision or blindness.

The biggest reason I love it for my low-vision or blind clients is that it includes an absolutely excellent built-in OCR function that allows you to create a text layer for files that are actually text but that were scanned way back when in image format, which makes them useless with JAWS.  Even if it doesn't "play well with JAWS" as a full-function reader, it does work just fine with it for opening an image PDF, running the OCR function with Ctrl+Shift+C, and then saving the resulting file so that it can be read by JAWS in consort with Adobe Reader.  I just tested it as far as filling in fillable PDF forms using the IRS W4 form and it works for that as well.

Another big advantage is if you're using what I call hierarchical PDF files.  I have a number of manuals that open a table of contents that allow you to click a link that opens a chapter, that allows you to click a link opening a supplement, etc.  When you do that in Adobe Reader it keeps replacing the page you were just looking at with the page whose link you just clicked on.  This is fine if you know exactly where you're going or what you're looking for, but if you're exploring to find something it makes it a grand PITA to work backwards and you must most often simply open the first PDF in the hierarchy and start again.  PDF-XChange Viewer, by contrast, opens each successively clicked link as a tab to the immediate right of the one you just clicked in and switches your focus there.  That means if you hit a dead end you can simply close the tab and then your focus is thrown back to the page you'd been on immediately prior.  It makes it very easy to step back level by level or even to choose to go back several levels and then drill down through the hierarchy via a different route, keeping the pages you've opened via both drill-downs opened in a series of tabs to the right.

If anyone decides to do any heavy duty experimenting with PDF-XChange Viewer and JAWS please do report back on how it's going.  If nothing else this is an invaluable tool for doing nothing else except OCR conversions on files containing text that were scanned as image files.


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