Howto Open a PDF file under Linux / FreeBSD

Posted on in Categories , , , , , , last updated March 26, 2008

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.

Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. He has worked with global clients and in various industries, including IT, education, defense and space research, and the nonprofit sector. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+.

15 comment

    1. 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

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

  1. I’m using Putty and I want to display the PDF file, Which command will I use?
    Thank you

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