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Howto Open a PDF file under Linux / FreeBSD

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
$ 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

$ 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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{ 14 comments… add one }
  • Lego November 16, 2009, 3:07 pm

    For RHEL5 gpdf is obsolete. You now use evince.


  • Igor Ganapolsky December 3, 2009, 5:06 am

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

  • sunardo March 23, 2010, 3:57 am

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

    thanks for advance…

    • Ankie May 11, 2013, 5:54 pm

      xdg-open file.dvi

      • SRIKANTH POLISHETTI November 7, 2016, 3:30 pm

        thaks.., but how to close the file i mean the command for closing

  • tagnu September 24, 2010, 2:53 pm

    Thank you for intro to pdftohtml .

  • Ritwick February 28, 2011, 5:34 pm

    Thanks buddy..!!!

  • Deepak Pandit June 16, 2011, 5:06 pm

    great article

  • shivangpatel September 20, 2012, 6:51 pm

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

    • Deepak September 21, 2012, 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

      • shivangpatel October 30, 2012, 7:29 pm

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

        • Laszlo Blanar December 7, 2012, 2:31 pm

          $ pdftotext file.pdf –

  • Godefroy June 19, 2014, 3:57 pm

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

  • Pullua October 28, 2014, 8:30 am

    thanks, good work!

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