How to View PDF Files on a Mac

PDF files are an essential part of the digital workspace in 2020. If you're working on a document, sending your resume off, or going through research papers – PDFs are both indispensable and widespread. Whether you are the boss or the employee, a student or the teacher, there is no escaping the PDF.

If you're confused about how to access PDF files on your Mac, we have created this guide that covers the best PDF viewing applications available for Macs and how to use them. Read on!

A Little History About PDF Files

Adobe first introduced the PDF file system in 1993. Back then, it was popular mainly in desktop publishing workflows. However, it soon gained exponential popularity. 15 years later, in 2008, Adobe released the file format as an open standard, and that led the popularity of PDFs to rise even further. Soon, the PDF format began dominating the online exchange of files, to a point where they became an integral part of every professional's workflow.

Best PDF Viewers for your Mac

PDF stands for Portable Document Format file. PDFs are used to distribute documents in read-only mode. The format not only preserves the layout of the pages but also denies any edits to the primary form (without the correct editing software and/or password). Since the primary file can't otherwsie be edited, it is an ideal tool for business communication.

To view a PDF file, you must have either a PDF Reader installed on your Mac or you can use an online viewer. In our experience, Apple's own Apple Preview and Adobe's Acrobat DC worked perfectly once installed on the Mac. For online viewing, PDFPro turned out as a great option.

Adobe Acrobat DC

Adobe Acrobat DC comes loaded with features. You can view PDFs, of course, or you can get them electronically signed by clients or employees. It also has an option that enables you to enhance PDF scans and make them text searchable.

With Adobe Acrobat DC, editing PDFs is possible too. You can combine, reorganize, add bookmarks, redact documents, all in a matter of seconds. Given its wide range of tools, it is no surprise why Adobe Acrobat DC is one of the most popular workplace software pieces today.

However, it does come with a few cons. The first being that the software is not entirely free. In fact, the free version only lets you view the document. To enable the other features (such as editing), you will have to pay USD$180 per year - a considerable amount! Another problem with Adobe Acrobat DC is that while it markets itself as the most efficient PDF editing software, it's still not as snappy as alternatives. In our testing, the simple task of adding a fillable text box got fairly complicated at times.

How to Install

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to Install Adobe Acrobat DC to your Mac.

  1. Head to the Adobe Acrobat Reader page and click 'Install Now.'
  2. Now select 'Save File.'
  3. Double-click the file that you just downloaded (alternatively, you can find the downloads by clicking Finder > (User Name) > Downloads).
  4. Double-click 'Install Adobe Acrobat Reader DC'.
  5. Now click 'Open.'
  6. Enter your macOS username and password.
  7. Now click Finish.

Apple Preview

Apple Preview comes pre-installed on your Mac. Some might term it 'bloat-ware,' but we at MacInfo believe it is a convenient feature to have. With Apple Preview, you can easily view your PDF files, fill out, and sign documents. What's more, Apple, continuing its tradition of providing customers with that little extra something, lets you password protect your files with Apple Preview!

The best part about Apple Preview, other than it being integrated perfectly in macOS, is that there is no installation process. This means all you need to do is double click the file, and Apple will do the rest. Of course, you can always simply hit when the file is highlighted within Finder, and a preview will be shown then too.

PDFPro (Online)

If the two above options failed to impress you, or are not available, don't worry, we have a third. This service is called PDFPro. While there are many online PDF viewing and editing services available, this one happens to be completely free. There is no trade-off either, because it functions perfectly.

To use PDFPro all you need is a working internet connection, a Mac, and a PDF file (of course). The service also provides cloud storage, so if you're running out of space on your Mac, you can simply keep safe all your PDF files on your PDFPro account. Just note that this storage feature costs extra. While it does temporarily hold your files for 24 hours, if you don't want them deleted, you will need to pay a premium.

How to View a PDF

Now that we have sorted out the options for PDF viewing, we can get into how to actually view a PDF file. Don't be worried if you haven't done this before, it is fairly simple.

On On Mac

This is how you can view a PDF on your Mac.

Adobe Acrobat DC or Apple Preview

  1. Navigate to The PDF File

  2. Double Click the File
  3. It will open up on Adobe Acrobat X/Apple Preview


This is how to view a PDF on your Mac online.

PDFPro Online

  1. Go to
  2. Drag and Drop/Click to Upload
  3. Once it is in the queue, Click 'Open PDF'
  4. The PDF will now load in a new Window


PDF files are everywhere and it is becoming increasingly necessary for you to be able to view and edit them. If you are looking for a paid, more advanced option for your PDFs, we suggest Adobe Acrobat DC. On the other hand, if you're looking for something which works well and does not cost, we suggest Apple Preview, which is already installed on your Mac. Finally, there is PDFPro, which you can use online.

Muaz Ashrafi

Hi! I am Muaz, a Mass Communication major. I like to think I am a free urban spirit. I write blogs with a focus on tech and gadgets. When I'm not writing, you can find me with my headphones on, relaxing to some good house EDM music. I'm also a hobbyist photographer, you can find me on Instagram @mzwithacamera.


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