Updated July 16th, 2023.
If Acrobat Reader has taken over your PDFs you’re being doubly punished. First punishment: Adobe’s punishing your by making you use Acrobat Reader (or Acrobat Reader DC, or Acrobat Reader Pro DC, or maybe an older version of Acrobat Reader). Every version of Acrobat Reader is misery to use: slow to launch, clumsy to operate, thousands of indecipherable options in the Preferences dialog, and very “un-Mac-like.”
I wouldn’t make my dog use Acrobat Reader. If I had a dog.
Second punishment: by using Acrobat, you’re NOT using Apple’s built-in, elegant, powerful, joy-to-use Preview app. Which means you’re punishing yourself. Using the Preview app is a treat, with plenty of groovy features under the hood should you care to go deep. Most of the time, though, all we want to do is double-click a PDF and have a look at it. Acrobat and Preview can both do it, but Preview does it faster and nicer, so let’s see how we can make that happen.
Here’s another reason to use Preview: in many cases, when Acrobat can’t print a document, Preview can. I see this every so often, especially with PDFs that have a lot of pages. The print job times out from Acrobat, but works perfectly (to the same printer) when the document is opened with Preview.
How to change the app that opens when you double-click a particular PDF
- First, find a PDF. Don’t open it, just find one.
- Next, click on it ONCE, and then go to the File menu and choose “Get Info.” Shortcut: ⌘-I (that’s a capital I, not the number 1.)
- Look for the part that says “Open with:” It might look like this:
All you need to do is change the “Open with:” to say “Preview.” It will look like this:
How to set the default app for all PDFs
Obviously it would not be very much fun to have to do this for every PDF on your Mac, one at a time. So don’t do it that way. Instead, use that “Change All…” button and change them all. You’ll get a box asking you to confirm.
Of course, if you make a mistake and choose the wrong app you can just Get Info again and fix it. Easy.
How to open a PDF with some other app, on a one-time basis, on the fly
If you have the occasional document that you want to open with some other app, generate a list of possible openers by Control-clicking (or right clicking) the document’s icon and choosing “Open With…”. Then choose an app from the pop-out list. Like so:
Doing the “Open With” via Control-click opens your document with the app you choose that time only. If you want to make your choice permanent, Get Info and change it there.
One more thing: if you accidentally open Acrobat, and you get this dialog box:
… check the “Do not show this message again” box, then click “No.” Those Adobe rats, they’ll keep trying to hijack your PDFs. Don’t let them. You’ll be happier with Preview. Trust me.
Copyright 2008-2023 Christian Boyce. All rights reserved.
Note: on occasion, you may receive a PDF that has to be filled in, like a form. If the form was created with Acrobat, you may be forced into filling in the form with Acrobat as well, because Adobe has their own way of doing things, and Preview might not know how to handle it. In that case, do the Control-click thing, and open that particular PDF with Acrobat Reader so you can fill it in. Here is a link to the free Acrobat Reader page on Adobe’s site, in case you need it.