Since Chromebooks can’t run traditional software, they can’t do much with a PDF out of the box. Web-based tools help, but if you’re offline you’re out of luck. Fortunately, you have some free or inexpensive options to enhance your Chromebook’s PDF handling.
Chromebook’s Built-In PDF Viewer
If all you need is the basics, the Chrome PDF viewer might be all you need. It should be enabled by default. If you leave Always Allowed to Run unchecked in chrome://plugins/, you’ll need to right-click to open the PDF. I have my Chromebook set that way to prevent PDFs from opening automatically.
Need to Print that PDF? You can’t just plug a printer into the USB port. You’ll need to follow our guide for Chromebook printing.
Besides just viewing a PDF, you can do some basic modifications. Since PDF creation is also part of ChromeOS, you can extract just the pages you want by printing the document to PDF. With the PDF open, select the print icon. If your destination isn’t Save to PDF, then click Change and choose that option. In the Pages section, select just the pages you want and then click Save. You’ll be saving your PDF with just the pages you want by creating a new one. The PDF Viewer also lets you rotate individual pages.
If it’s a form, you can fill it out some basic fields. Chrome won’t save your changes if you click the Save icon. Instead, you’ll create a new PDF by using the Save to PDF print option.
Google will do OCR on a PDF without additional software. You’ll need to upload the PDF to your Google Drive. Then right-click on the document and select Open With->Google Docs. That creates a new Google Doc with the converted data.
Kami (formerly Notable PDF)
We covered Notable PDF before, but on a Chromebook, Kami takes on some great new features. It’s one of the few PDF tools that works offline. With the free version (ad supported) you can make a bunch of changes to a PDF like adding, highlighting, underlining and striking through text. It also gives you a freehand drawing tool to annotate the PDF.
The premium version adds splitting and merging pdfs and OCR. You could do that for free using the tricks for Chrome’s built-in viewer, but Kami gives you a direct approach. They also add the ability to sign PDFs and collaborate with other users.
XODO PDF Viewer and App
XODO has all the great features of the premium version of Kami like signing documents and collaboration but does it free. The drawback is it doesn’t work offline. I like the interface on XODO a little better. I’m used to my tools on the top rather than the side. XODO also works on iOS and Android so you’ll only need to learn one app.
Folia by Branchfire
Folia is an Android app that was converted to work on Chromebooks using ARC. The free version lets you annotate and sign a PDF. Folia has an iOS version so you’ll be in sync with your other mobile devices that are using Folia. If you need to work with more than 20 PDFs you’ll need to upgrade to the paid version.
If you don’t mind being online, previously covered SmallPDF lets you do just about any type of conversion with a PDF. It lets you convert Microsoft Office formats to and from Word. As the name suggests, it also compresses a PDF. They have a series of extensions for individual conversions, but all these do is take you to the SmallPDF website. Once you find a conversion you use often, click the Add to Chrome button to add that link to your App launcher.
Since most of these apps are free, I keep Kami’s free version and XODO loaded on my Chromebook. I right-click on a PDF to tell it which tool to use: Kami or XODO. I don’t need to sync my experience with Android, so Folia doesn’t add value for me.