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How to Use Google Chrome as Your Default PDF Reader (the Easy Way)

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If you’re anything like 99% of everybody, you have some sort of PDF viewing software installed on your PC—but did you realize that you can use Google Chrome to view PDFs from your PC? It’s easy!

We’re showing off how to do this in Windows, but theoretically it would work for OS X or Linux as well. If you’ve tried it, let us know in the comments.

Enabling Google Chrome as Your Default PDF Reader

Start off by right-clicking on any PDF file, and heading to the “Open with” item on the menu. If you don’t see this, you can usually hold Shift and right-click, and it will be there.

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This will bring up the Open with dialog, which lets you choose what to open your PDF files with, but sadly Google Chrome isn’t listed—but no matter, you can just click the Browse button.

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If you know where Google Chrome was installed, then just browse to that location—otherwise, you can right-click on the Chrome shortcut, head to Properties, and then Shortcut. You’ll see the location in the Target box (best bet is to copy and paste the full path).

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Once you’ve selected chrome.exe and clicked the OK button, you’re done. That’s it. Easy, right?

And now when you double-click on your PDF file, it’ll launch straight in Chrome.

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Not working? Head to about:plugins in Chrome and make sure that the Chrome PDF Viewer is enabled.

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For the purposes of this article, we’re using the dev channel release of Chrome, but it should work in earlier versions as well.

Note: the original idea for this article came from Lee Matthews over at Download Squad, but our method is easier.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 02/17/11

Comments (24)

  1. Ja5087

    I… Like it! I still wish there was more control over the pdf like adobe reader X. Sigh…

  2. rayswchiu

    but how you save a copy of pdf on your local drive when you read it in Chrome?

  3. dragonbite

    You should be able to Cntl+S to bring up the Save dialog, no?

  4. Sergei

    While it is quite cool, to use Chrome as PDF-viewer, it is really too bad that there are not even next/ previous page controls to skip through a file. I hope it comes in one of next releases. Does anybody knows more on this issue?

  5. csw21

    Why not just use Firefox and its PDF add on?
    Easier.

  6. gerry (N. Ireland)

    I have found Google Chrome to be pretty much a use with all, I view pdf’s images and video clips, Have not tried it yet for full length films but I imaging it will work

  7. peter

    Yes, it works in Linux (Ununtu 10.10 64bit)… but why in the world would you want to do that?
    Just because you can?
    Chrome is a real funky interface for anything other than web browsing, and it is clunky for the web too.
    FYI: it works in most all browsers in most platforms.

  8. trm96

    I have found that PDFs load fairly slow in Chrome but I do like using IE9 (OMG I found a use for IE) for opening PDFs.

  9. Scott

    I can not get Chrome to work on my dell desktop computer, it keeps coming up with that stupid “Snap” error and goes back to my desktop. No matter how many times I undelete, and re-install its the same thing. I would really like to get it loaded (I do a lot of work in Google documents). I have it on my laptop (Linux Mint based) and it works fine.

  10. rino

    how do you tell chrome to open a particular file type with a particular windows application instead of chrome downloading it?

  11. Kushal

    loving chrome even more!!!!!!!!

  12. Noltus

    Why not use IE,it’s faster and dont need any plugins

  13. phil

    The thing is, pdf xchange viewer is much more powerful, light weight, and fast. What I’d like to do is make pdf links in chrome automatically open in xchange viewer.

    Not bashing chrome, I use it and the integrated pdf reader is great too, it just can’t do very much besides display pdf’s (granted, that’s all most people need most of the time).

  14. Matt

    This works with Firefox and Opera as well – I suspect it works with all browsers?

  15. Ryan

    This is a nice alternative to Adobe Reader, and I always liked its convenience for online PDFs, but with Sumatra as my default PDF viewer I am extremely happy. Frankly I have never seen a quicker PDF program than Sumatra and have no reason to switch other than if I wanted to reduce the number of programs on my computer.

  16. Duckbrain

    You can also find the registry key where the path to Chrome is to change the %1 to –app=”%1″ this will clear all the GUI, but the PDF and the title bar.

  17. firestork

    Why do I need to use GC while we have Foxit and a ton of alternative PDF reader programs. I give it a try just for fun because Chrome cannot satisfy me with lack of many functions for reading.

  18. Marcy

    any other alternative programs to Adboe 10

  19. kimyun

    i works on ubuntu.

  20. jean helft

    Why look for complex manipulations when there is an excellent software called “Nitro PDF Reader” where you can even add your signature? (better than Foxit)

  21. rroberto

    Chrome is already doing this task for me, but I’d rather make PDF-XViewer my default.

    What’s the trick? Chrome keeps taking default privileges back….

  22. glowflu

    very niffty and nelly swell

  23. Jerry

    I use “cutepdf” and it is lightening fast. I do not use any other except “Cute PDF” and Foxit Reader.

  24. Godric

    “Why not use IE,it’s faster and dont need any plugins”

    that’swhy.

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