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How Microsoft Edge will beat Chrome as the best PDF reader with the Fall Creators Update

Microsoft Edge is gaining new PDF reader features within the Windows 10 Fall Creator’s Update—everything from sticky notes to inked signatures. It’s part of Microsoft’s bid to compete with Chrome and Firefox as the best Web browser, and along the way, carve out a niche as the best free PDF viewer available.

We tried Edge’s new capabilities within Build 16251 of the Windows Insider program, several iterations after Microsoft debuted the new functionality as part of Build 16188. The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update has since rolled out, and all of these features are now live.

No, Edge won’t compete with full-fledged PDF editors. But based on these builds, you’ll be able to fill fields, re-orient PDFs, add sticky notes, and adjust the PDF layout—even mark them up with digital ink, and sign PDF documents with a stroke of your stylus. 

The basic PDF features Edge already has

If you downloaded a PDF file with the previous Creators Update (which you still might have!), you’d have found that  Edge’s capabilities were bare-bones. You could navigate to a page, zoom in and out, save and print. The only way in which Edge actually recognized the contents of the document itself were via a search bar at the top of the page, which allowed you to search for a term like “household,” for example, inside an IRS document.

Microsoft edge PDF current version IDG

The Edge PDF viewer available in the Creators’ Update is pretty bare-bones.

Of the major browsers, Firefox currently has the most robust tools for viewing PDF files. Chrome and the Chromium-based Opera browser allow you to fill in fields with data, making them marginally more useful. The new version of Edge within the Fall Creators Update, though, helps put Edge over the top. Here’s a quick rundown of how each feature works. 

firefox pdf IDG

By contrast, the Firefox PDF viewer is pretty robust. Note that it can’t fill fields, though, and actually recommends another browser or app to do so.

Edge will have fillable PDF fields

Fillable PDF forms don’t just look nicer—they can also speed up the processing of important documents like IRS tax filings. Right now, both Chrome and Opera boast fillable PDF fields, while the Creators Update version of Edge did not. With both browsers, though, you can’t save a PDF file with fields filled out, unless you “print” to the Microsoft Print to PDF service. 

Microsoft edge PDF fillable fields IDG

The ability to type into and fill fields not only can make a document easier to process, it also looks nice and neat.

Edge does away with this nonsense. Here, you can fill out a form and then—using an actual Save dialog—store the filled-out form to your hard drive.

Just be a bit careful: If you save the PDF within Edge, it’s still editable, and any field or data that you can manipulate could also be edited by whoever receives the PDF. Instead, to lock the PDF into read-only mode, you’ll need to “Print to PDF” and then save that file. You (or anyone else) won’t be able to manipulate those fields or edit your text. Microsoft might think about making that distinction more explicit.

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