Howto Open a PDF file under Linux / FreeBSD

by on March 2, 2006 · 11 comments· LAST UPDATED March 26, 2008

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PDF is an acronym for Portable Document Format. It is a proprietary file format developed by Adobe Systems for representing two-dimensional documents in a device independent and resolution independent format. You can open pdf file using graphical as well as command line tools (i.e. without GUI). Linux supports following PDF viewer under X window:

  • Gnome pdf viewer (gpdf)
  • KDE pdf viewer (kpdf)
  • xpdf
  • Official Adobe acrobat reader

Graphic pdf viewer under Linux/FreeBSD

If you are using Gnome desktop...

Open a shell prompt and type the command:
$ gpdf file.pdf
OR
$ evince file.pdf

If you are using KDE desktop...

Open a shell prompt and type the command:
$ kpdf file.pdf

You can also click on K icon > Select Graphics > Select PDF viewer

Console pdf viewer under Linux/FreeBSD

Console pdf viewer

As far as I know there is no console based PDF viewer exists. But you can use the following trick to open a PDF file:

a) First install pdftohtml - A command-line tool for converting pdf-files into html and other formats.

Debian User install pdftohtml using following command:
# apt-get install pdftohtml
Red Hat / Fedora user install pdftohtml using following command:
# yum install pdftohtml
FreeBSD user install pdftohtml using following command:
# pkg_add -v -r pdftohtml
OR use ports collection:
# cd /usr/ports/textproc/pdftohtml
# make; make install

The idea is very simple you will use a pdftohtml program to convert a PDF file into html, xml and png images and then display them using text browser such as elinks or lynx. This is useful when you works on remote server or if GUI is not available:
For example to convert CH09.PDF file you need to type the following set of commands:
$ pdftohtml CH09.PDF
$ lynx CH09.html

OR
$ elinks CH09.html

You can also convert a PDF file to text file using following command:
$ pdftotext CH09.pdf
$ vi CH09.txt

See also

=> You can get Official Adobe acrobat reader here for UNIX/Linux oses.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lego November 16, 2009 at 3:07 pm

For RHEL5 gpdf is obsolete. You now use evince.

–Lego

Reply

2 Igor Ganapolsky December 3, 2009 at 5:06 am

Great advice. I now use KDE and couldn’t figure it out until I read your article.

Reply

3 sunardo March 23, 2010 at 3:57 am

In Linux C programming how to open a pdf file with default reader?

thanks for advance…

Reply

4 Ankie May 11, 2013 at 5:54 pm

xdg-open file.dvi

Reply

5 tagnu September 24, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Thank you for intro to pdftohtml .

Reply

6 Ritwick February 28, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Thanks buddy..!!!

Reply

7 Deepak Pandit June 16, 2011 at 5:06 pm

great article

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8 shivangpatel September 20, 2012 at 6:51 pm

there is no any other way to open .pdf file in terminal? without converting file???

Reply

9 Deepak September 21, 2012 at 11:26 am

You need not convert pdf to view it

On the terminal type the following command
user$ evince .pdf

This opens up the pdf for you to view

Reply

10 shivangpatel October 30, 2012 at 7:29 pm

but it’s open Document viewer…. i wan’t to show pdf complite on terminal… It’s possible?

Reply

11 Laszlo Blanar December 7, 2012 at 2:31 pm

$ pdftotext file.pdf -

Reply

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