When I read PDF files with Adobe Reader or Adobe Acrobat Pro, the display quality is superb. However, for the same files, other PDF readers like Foxit Reader, Sumatra PDF Reader, etc show poor quality: quite timid and fuzzy display. At least in Windows. In Linux systems, any reader is not satisfactory even the Adobe Reader.

Why? Is it because the PDF format is created by Adobe?

EDIT: Here are some sample screenshots. All viewers are set to zoom to page width.

(1) Sumatra PDF

Sumatra PDF

(2) PDF X-Change

PDF X-Change

(3) Foxit Reader

Foxit Reader

(4) BlueBeam


(5) Adobe Reader


To me, Adobe Reader clearly is the best. Especially look at the italic capital T.

Here is the sample PDF file.

  • 3
    This viewer is unable to discern any superiority in the Adobe Reader sample.
    – kreemoweet
    Feb 23, 2016 at 10:30
  • To me they all look blurry.
    – a06e
    Apr 3, 2016 at 10:41
  • FYI, using subpixel rendering will cause any user of monitor with subpixel scheme different from what you used to create these screenshots to see terrible image. Oct 27, 2018 at 16:53
  • Printing a PDF using Adobe vs Firefox, in Adobe the document text comes out crisp while from Firefox it looks like the text was converted into an image and contains a rather blurriness to it like other images in the document. Sep 10, 2023 at 20:13

6 Answers 6


Only Adobe and Foxit (of those 5) have subpixel rendering. This is seen by zooming way in on the screenshot and seeing color fringing. This is because each pixel on an LCD display is made of 3 subpixels: red, green, and blue. These can provide extra resolution. Foxit maybe just doesn't have as good of a rendering method. Hinting could play a part.

  • 3
    +1. Actually hinting plays a large part. Adobe's font look better than Foxit's because Adobe's hinting tries to "flatten" circular strokes (such as the top and bottom arcs of the capital "S", and the lower-case "o"). The flattening reduces the transition of stroke width (thickness) from the sub-pixel anti-aliased (vertical) strokes to the non-aliased horizontal strokes.
    – rwong
    Apr 18, 2014 at 22:33

I think am pretty sure now that it's one of the rendering/smoothing options in Preferences->Page Display. Try changing them (there's quite a few) and seeing if it makes a difference.


If you change the "Smooth Text: For Laptop/LCD Screens" to "For Monitor", you'll see that it'll look like other programs' smoothing.


Actually, I think Adobe Reader seems to benefit from the fact that it knows well how to render non clearype fonts (fonts not hinted by utilising Microsoft technology). Most PDF's use professional fonts which are provided by type foundries not using cleartype compatible hinting. Since only Adobe implements the specific rendering for all such professional fonts, Adobe Reader is on top perfectly rendering the smoothing effect.


I finally figured it out and I'm not an IT person (I'm a lawyer and I'm stubborn). I have used PDF Converter Pro 5.11 for several years and I love it. I continue to use it with Windows 10 so don't let anyone tell you it is not compatible. I can solve your problem for this program (PDF Converter Pro) but cannot address the same problems with other pdf programs. You might get some ideas from my solution though. So, I noticed that sometimes, pdf scans barely showed the text in PDF Converter Pro while appearing very nicely in Adobe.

I FINALLY found the solution. When you have your pdf document open in PDF Converter Pro, select the Tools drop down menu, then optimize pdf. There are three tabs, General, Images, and Fonts. You can play with the setting here to change sampling and compression. In the General tab, select "leave compression unchanged" from drop down menu. In the Images tab, select "leave original sampling" from the Sampling drop down and "leave compression unchanged" from the Compression drop down menu. Voila! All the text comes through clearly. I never take time to help others when I find solutions.....very selfish of me. Here, I struggled so long and nobody had the answer. I had to help out. Hope someone finds this after all these years as this is a very old thread!


It depends on the PDF.

I uses a variety of PDF readers myself because Acrobat can be a dog loading up on my laptop. I generally haven't seen the same fuzzyness, unless the scan was using a 200dpi. . .

  • I don't see how there could be any difference at all with bitmap scans, as you mentioned, while the rendering of the actual PDF typesetting could differ in regards to font rendering, kerning, line-spacing etc. I have not noticed any difference when using Sumatra, but I will start looking and comparing with Adobe Reader more closely.
    – paradroid
    Jul 22, 2011 at 22:42
  • @paradroid I uploaded screenshots.
    – Chang
    Jul 23, 2011 at 2:33
  • @Chang: From your screenshots, I can only see differences that may be related to ClearType settings. Have you tried tuning the settings using the Control Panel tool? If you are using XP, you need to install it: microsoft.com/typography/cleartype/tuner/step1.aspx. However I am not sure if it is possible to adjust how individual programs use ClearType.
    – paradroid
    Jul 23, 2011 at 3:01
  • Man, the other one suck pretty bad. Have you tried to force a different font on them?
    – surfasb
    Jul 23, 2011 at 4:06
  • @paradroid: Are you sure that PDF viewers use ClearType on Windows? I am almost sure that ClearType is used only for Windows font system rendering and I think that no PDF viewer uses Windows font system rendering but I can be wrong. Jan 8, 2014 at 8:51

Google Chrome Pdf Viewer looks almost indistinguishable from Acrobat, though this is unsurprising given 9 years have passed since this question.enter image description here

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