I run on Debian testing / GNOME and I have to work with a pdf file of ~500 pages. The default software, evince, cannot do the job, it is too slow because it reloads the page every time I scroll through the file.

I am looking for a free software that can read such a file (an open source one would be better). I want a side pane with the preview of the pages. The possibility of adding notes is a plus.

I already tried: okular (slow), xpdf and mupdf (no scrollbar)

  • If you know vi keystrokes zathura will deal with large files easily. You already tried mupdf, zathura is just a forked and bestowed mupdf. – grochmal Jul 5 '16 at 13:03
  • :set show-scrollbars? (although it only works in GTK environments, but you're using GNOME apparently). On a final note the end of zahura manual complains that GTK screws scrollbars on large documents (make things slow). Therefore your inherent problem is with GTK scrollbars, not the viewer. – grochmal Jul 5 '16 at 13:21
  • @grochmal Ok, I can use the vi keystroke, that fullfil the lack of scrollbar, I guess. It is really light and fast, that is cool, but it lacks the preview. – Boiethios Jul 5 '16 at 13:30

Use the best pdf reader: foxit reader for free.

Download page


a. Change to the directory containing the downloaded file (used /tmp as the example):
# cd /tmp

b. Uncompress the executable file
# gzip -d 'FoxitReader_version_Setup.run.tar.gz'

c. Untar the .tar file
# tar xvf 'FoxitReader_version_Setup.run.tar'

d. Run the installer:
# ./'FoxitReader_version_Setup.run'

e. Follow the steps on the screen to complete the installation
  • 3
    step f. after you've trusted foxit with root access to your system, enjoy the benefits of being a product. With commercial software, if you're not the customer, you're almost certainly the product. Usually you're still the product even if you're a paying customer. – cas Jul 6 '16 at 1:54

epdfview and/or zathura.

I use both. epdview is fast and simple and easy to use, but I've found that there are some PDFs that it just can't display properly (or at all, sometimes).

zathura so far has been able to display everything I've thrown at it, and it's very fast. It doesn't, however, have the usual menus and buttons that most GUI programs have. You have to memorise the key-bindings (most of which are obvious). I'll probably switch to this as my default PDF viewer.

Both are packaged for Debian, and probably for other distros. epdview will almost certainly be packaged - it's been around for years and is based on the poppler PDF rendering library. zathura is newer and seems to be based on it's own fork of poppler.


epdfview hasn't been maintained since 2011 (see What happened to ePDFview‽). qdfview seems like a good replacement for it.

It has a scrollbar for the Thumbnail sidebar, but seems to only display a scroll bar in Continuous view mode (View menu -> Continuous, or Ctrl+7.

Debian package info says:

Package: qpdfview

Version: 0.4.14-1

Description-en: tabbed document viewer

qpdfview is a simple tabbed document viewer which uses the Poppler library for PDF rendering and CUPS for printing and provides a clear and simple Qt graphical user interface. Support for the DjVu and PostScript formats can be added via plugins.

Current features include:

- Outline, properties and thumbnail panes
- Scale, rotate and fit
- Fullscreen and presentation views
- Continuous and multi-page layouts
- Search for text (PDF and DjVu only)
- Configurable toolbars
- SyncTeX support (PDF only)
- Partial annotation support (PDF only, Poppler version 0.20.1 or newer)
- Partial form support (PDF only)
- Persistent per-file settings
- Support for DjVu an**d PostScript documents via plugins
  • aptitude search epdfview shows nothing. – Boiethios Jul 6 '16 at 8:13
  • it must be an old package... i still have it installed from i don't know when, but it's no longer in debian. Even the domain for the home page no longer exists. See unix.stackexchange.com/questions/180326/… - the accepted answer there recommends qpdfview, which IS still packaged for debian. – cas Jul 6 '16 at 8:56
  • qpdfview only seems to have scrollbars for the thumbnails, i haven't looked too hard but couldn't find any way to turn on scrollbars for the .PDF document itself. other than that, it's pretty good. zathura seems a bit faster (important for complex PDF docs - the freely available Eclipse Phase RPG core rulebook is what I use for testing, it's very large and has lots of pictures and tables and unusual fonts etc), but qpdfview has tabs and the usual GUI stuff like menus and file-selection dialog boxes etc. – cas Jul 6 '16 at 9:09
  • Finally, you can still find epdfview in debian's Wheezy archive. It will still run on Jessie or Stretch (i'm running it on Sid). packages.debian.org/wheezy/epdfview. You may also need to download and install dependencies like libpoppler-glib8 and maybe other libs too. – cas Jul 6 '16 at 9:40
  • Vim like key biddings in zathura are cool – Gayan Weerakutti Sep 21 '17 at 7:08

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