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Did you know you can customize the Chrome PDF Viewer? Read on to learn how to enable, disable and configure the default PDF viewer for Google Chrome.

In a world where almost everything is happening online, PDF documents are vital for sharing information between individuals and businesses. In fact, PDF documents continue to increase in popularity day by day, and so do PDF document readers.

Luckily, today it’s easy to view a PDF document online using the default Google Chrome PDF viewer. It’s an excellent browser based tool, especially when you receive a document in PDF format but are yet to install a PDF reader.

Read on to learn nine Chrome PDF viewer tips that can come in handy when viewing a PDF document on your PC or Mac.

1. Enabling the Chrome PDF Viewer

It’s easy to enable chrome PDF via Chrome settings. You can do so whenever you want, disabling and enabling it as many times as you please.

Whether you’re a Chrome user on Microsoft Windows, Linux, macOS, or any other major operating system, you can enable the Chrome PDF reader extension by following these easy steps:

  1. Open the Google Chrome web browser on your computer. This should be at the All Apps area of the Windows Start menu.
  2. On macOS, you’ll find it in the Applications folder.
  3. At the top right-hand corner of the Chrome browser, click on the three vertical dots. A drop-down list will appear from which you should select Settings.
  4. From the vertical menu appearing on the left, scroll down to the bottom and click on Advanced.
  5. A submenu will open, from which you will click on Privacy and Security.
  6. Select Site settings or Content Settings towards the bottom of the appearing list. This will depend on your browser.
  7. Scroll down to the bottom of the Permissions list of options and click on PDF documents.
  8. Slide the switch to OFF. That means you cannot download PDF files but can automatically open them in the Chrome browser. As long as the toggle remains switched off to the left, it remains grey and can automatically view PDF files in Chrome PDF viewer until you disable it.

2. Reasons for Enabling the Chrome PDF Viewer

The Chrome PDF viewer is a powerful tool that helps people easily access documents in PDF format. Some of the reasons why you may consider enabling the viewer are:

  • To get instant and fast access to PDF files
  • To view a PDF file without necessarily having to download it
  • If your Adobe Acrobat won’t open and you need to access a PDF quickly
  • If you like the Chrome PDF viewer more than all the other PDF programs

3. Disabling the Chrome PDF Viewer

To disable a PDF Chrome viewer is as easy as enabling it. In fact, the steps are similar, except for at the end of the process. To turn off the viewer, follow this procedure:

  1. Open the Google Chrome web browser on your computer. This should be at the All Apps area of the Windows Start menu. On macOS, you’ll find it in the Applications folder.
  2. At the top right corner of the browser, click on the three dots.
  3. A drop-down list will appear from which you should select Settings.
    From the appearing vertical menu on the left, scroll down to the bottom and click on Advanced.
  4. A submenu will open, from which you’ll click on Privacy and Security.
  5. Select Site settings or Content Settings towards the bottom of the appearing list. This will depend on your browser.
  6. Scroll down to the bottom of the Permissions list of options and click on PDF documents.
  7. Slide the toggle to switch ON. This means you cease opening PDF files automatically on the Chrome browser. Instead, you’ll be downloading them to view or edit later with another PDF editor. All this time, the toggle will remain blue.

4. Reasons for Disabling the Chrome PDF Viewer

There are numerous reasons why you may not want to view your PDF files using a Chrome PDF viewer. These may include:

  • If, after opening PDF files in Chrome, you want to save a copy.
  • If you always forget to download PDF files every time you open them in Chrome. This means you’ll have to relocate the link to the PDF file sometime later, which can be challenging.
  • To automatically download PDF files.
  • If you prefer to use another PDF program that you feel is better for viewing and editing PDF files than Chrome PDF viewer.
  • If, in fact, what you’re looking for is how to edit Adobe PDF or how to type on a PDF—in this case, an extension, even if it’s the best viewer, won’t suffice.

5. Changing the Default PDF Viewer in Windows

Sometimes, you may want to use another more advanced PDF program that enables you to view, share, and protect your documents, other than Chrome PDF editor or any other viewer set as the default.

You can do this in your windows with these steps:

  1. Click on the Start menu at the bottom left corner of your computer screen.
  2. On the left side of the menu that opens, select Settings.
  3. Windows Settings menu will appear with a list of items. On the right-hand side, the second item from the top is Apps.
  4. Click on it.
  5. Select Default app on the left column of the page.
  6. Scroll down through the list and select ‘Choose default apps by file type.’ On the left side of the window, a list of file types will appear. At the same time, each file type will have an app associated with it on the right.
  7. From the resultant list of file types, select ‘.PDF.’ You’ll see the default viewer app appear to the right of the PDF entry.
  8. Select the PDF reader you have set as default. If your current default PDF viewer is Google Chrome, click on it. A list of all other apps that can read PDF files will open.
  9. You can now select the app you want to use. For instance, you can select the Sizle PDF editor, which will now open PDF files on your computer by default.

6. Changing the Default PDF Viewer on macOS

On macOS, change your default PDF program following these steps:

  1. While clicking on one of the PDF files on your Mac, press the Control button.
  2. From the menu that appears, select ‘Get Info.’ This will make the default PDF reader appear on the same screen, next to
  3. ‘Open With.’ For instance, if Google Chrome is the default app, it’s what will appear.
  4. Select the drop-down menu adjacent to ‘Open With.’
  5. From the list of alternatives that appears, select the app you would prefer to be opening your PDFs by default. If Chrome is your favorite, click on Google Chrome. Else, you may want to change from Chrome to another option.
  6. Click on ‘Change All.’ A confirmation message will appear.
  7. Select ‘Continue.’ You’ll have effectively changed your default PDF viewer, with the new program now opening your PDF files.

7. Using Google Chrome PDF Viewer to Read Your PDF Files

Apart from the ‘enabling Chrome PDF’ method discussed in our first tip, you can also use this alternative procedure to set Chrome as your default PDF software.

  1. Look for the document you want to open and right-click on it.
  2. From the menu that opens, select ’Open With.’
  3. From the list of programs that appears, select Google Chrome.
  4. If you cannot find Google Chrome, select ‘Choose Default Program’ to open the ‘Open With’ window.
  5. Here, you can now select ‘Browse’ to help you locate Google Chrome.
  6. If you cannot remember the location of your Chrome folder, right-click on Google Chrome’s desktop shortcut icon.
  7. Select ‘Properties’ and copy the location in the Target text box (Ctrl+C)
  8. Paste the same into the new file box (Ctrl+V)
  9. Click Open.
  10. Select Google Chrome. It’ll open the select PDF document in the browser.
  11. If it fails, type ‘about plugins’ in the Chrome address bar. This opens a page with the Chrome PDF viewer plugin present.
  12. Check that the Chrome PDF viewer is enabled. If not, an option to ‘enable’ will appear at the bottom. Click on it to open documents with Google Chrome.

It’s worth mentioning that once the document opens, you have access to several basic options. Just move the cursor to the right corner. At the bottom, you have options such as zoom in, zoom out and print.

However, as we mentioned, Chrome doesn’t make the editing option available. That means if you require editing the document or perform any other advanced action on the file—for instance, if you are wondering how to search a PDF—, you need a different software.

An example of such a PDF program is Sizle PDF editor. This program performs numerous tasks on the document, including converting to other document formats, rotating PDF, merging PDF, searching PDF, signing PDFs, tracking PDF opens and views, and protecting PDFs, among many other actions.

8. Fixing the Chrome PDF Viewer If It’s Not Working

Sometimes, you have to set your Chrome PDF viewer as the default PDF viewer, but it seems not to work. Relax because there are remedies to the problem.

Most of the reasons it cannot work are trivial, depending on the type of error you’re experiencing. You can employ any of the following easy fixes.

For extra support, visit Google Chrome Support.

Solution 1: Disable Extensions

If you notice a problem where the Chrome PDF View opens but cannot load a file, disabling extensions may be the ideal solution.

This occurs when the toggle is already switched to the left and in grey. But when the document is in the loading phase, it cannot complete loading the PDF file. Reasons for the same include:

  • Issues with extensions
  • Internet speed/ poor connection

To solve this problem, first, check your internet connection to ensure it’s okay. If it’s poor with a low speed, that may be the reason your Chrome PDF viewer is taking too long to load a file.

If you have no problems with your internet connection, and the speed on other websites is reliable, chances are, an extension has broken. This usually causes malfunctioning of the PDF viewer. The method below will help to confirm whether this is the issue.

  • Open an incognito window of the browser.
  • Load the website that hosts the PDF file you’re trying to open.
  • The incognito mode disables all the extensions by default. Thereupon, if your file loads well while in this mode, this confirms there’s a broken extension. Without a doubt, it’s the cause of the mishap in the normal window.

Your focus must now turn to disable the extensions. Subsequently, you’ll have to re-enable them one after the other. There’s no shortcut, as this is the only way to identify the misbehaving extension.

Well, it may sound daunting, but it’s the best chance you have. If you cannot pinpoint any broken extensions, or have no downloaded extensions at all, then it means the issue is due to another reason. This should take you to the next potential fix.

Solution 2: Disable Downloads

If you’ve unknowingly disabled the PDF viewer, it means you have set it to download the files rather than open them automatically in your browser.

Thereupon, to solve the issue, you’ll have to change your settings. But it’s important to note that you’ll be disabling downloads, and you’ll be back to viewing PDF files in the browser. You cease downloading them.

To change the setting, follow the procedure for enabling the PDF Chrome Viewer above (#1). Once through with the process of disabling downloads, restart your browser.

You already have sorted your problems. Try to open any PDF file, and your Chrome PDF viewer will open it automatically instead of downloading.

Nevertheless, there are exceptions where the URL hosting a PDF has different settings. Some URLs will set Attachment as their Content-Disposition header. In this case, all PDFs from that website will download, regardless of your settings.

Solution 3: Malware Removal

While in the incognito mode, it may have indicated there are errors, while you have already disabled downloads too. In this case, one possible cause of the error is a malware attack on your system.

Google is very cautious in its approach to operations. Its priority is on the safety of its users and data protection. Google developers have therefore provided Chrome with its /-tool to help detect and remove malware.

You can find the Chrome cleanup tool that helps identify malware and remove it in ‘chrome://settings/cleanup.’ Once you’re on this site:

Select the Find button. It’s just next to ‘Find and remove harmful software.’
Clicking on this button will run the checker tool, after which Chrome will display the search results.

If there is any malicious software on your PC, they may be the reason you have mishaps trying to open PDF files in your Chrome PDF viewer.

Solution 4: Clear and Update All Cookies

After running a check on your system to only find no malware, it means there is a potential corruption or breaking of files responsible for running Chrome. This mostly occurs due to an outdated cache.

To correct the error:

  1. Press the Ctrl + Shift + Delete keys. This will open Clear Browsing Data in Chrome.
  2. Select all cached files and images, and cookies stored for the browser.
  3. Select ‘Clear data.’ This will clean all the selected files.
  4. Then, select the hamburger menu.
  5. Scroll down to ‘Help’ and select ‘About Chrome.’
  6. If any updates are available, Chrome will detect them automatically and display a prompt to install them.

Once this is complete, the problems you had to do with the loading of PDFs in the Chrome PDF viewer should be a thing of the past.

That said, note that this may also fail to solve the problem, leaving you with the last option, which should be to use the Adobe PDF plugin to view your PDF files.

Solution 5: Use Adobe Plugin

The last resort in solving the issue with your browser not loading PDF files is to use the adobe acrobat extension. This is usually available from Chrome Webstore.

This should be easy because you only need to visit the Adobe Acrobat Extension page and select ‘Add to Chrome.’

Alternatively, things get easier when the Adobe PDF viewer is already in your system. You’ll only be required to visit the PDF file host website, and a popup prompting you to open the page in Adobe Acrobat Reader will appear over Chrome PDF viewer.

9. Drawbacks of Chrome PDF Viewer

While Chrome PDF viewer is probably the best PDF reader for viewing documents fast and instantly in your browser, it has limited options and tools. In fact, the only thing you can do is zoom in and out and print.

Sadly, you cannot perform any other action, such as searching for a specific word, editing, signing, merging, or rotating the file. This is its biggest drawback.

If you want to access these tools, you have to disable Chrome PDF viewer. Additionally, you need to set any other advanced PDF viewer with the features.

Wrap Up

The tips mentioned above will help you use Chrome PDF viewer effectively to open PDF files. You also know how to go about any issues with the PDF viewer malfunctioning. Otherwise, for more professional secure document sharing, file sharing and document management solutions that offer more than what Chrome PDF viewer provides, you have many options out there.


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