How to View & Open a PDF in Chrome

PDFs help users easily share documents between different devices and operating systems. However, this popular file type can sometimes be difficult to open and view. 

Don’t have Adobe Reader or any other PDF reader installed on your computer? Fortunately, you can open PDF files in Google Chrome without a plugin or third-party software. Even better, you can do so on your phone and on your computer.

We’ll show you how you can view PDF files and open downloaded PDFs in Google Chrome on your preferred device, and explain how you can set your device to automatically open PDFs in Chrome’s PDF Viewer in the future.

How to make Chrome’s PDF Viewer default for opening PDFs (PC)

If you have Adobe Reader or any other PDF reader software installed on your computer, you can change your default PDF reader to Chrome.

Turning Chrome into your default PDF viewer is useful if you’re always online and need to move your PDFs between devices (or send them to other people like colleagues or classmates).

Follow these steps to make Chrome’s PDF Viewer your default for opening PDF files on PC:

Step 1: Choose any PDF file on your computer

Step 2: Right-click the PDF and then click ‘Open with’ on the dropdown menu

screenshot with 'Open with' highlighted of Windows' file explorer, showing user how to make Chrome the default PDF reader

Step 3: Select ‘Google Chrome’ from the nested dropdown menu

Tip: Click ‘Choose another app’ from the ‘Open with’ menu if you don’t see Google Chrome in the menu

Step 4: Check the ‘Always use this app to open.pdf files’ box

View of the file explorer on PC, Google Chrome highlighted, and the box for 'Always use this app to open PDF files' highlighted as well

Step 5: Press the ‘OK’ button.

Now you’re set — whenever you open a PDF on your PC, it will always open in Google Chrome.

Open a PDF in Chrome using Google Docs

Google Docs is much more than a collaborative Word processor. The web app actually allows you to edit, create, save, and convert PDF files. 

Using Google Docs might be the fastest way to open PDFs in Chrome, especially if you’re already logged into your gmail on your browser.

Plus using G Docs will automatically create a copy of the PDF in your Google Drive. This feature can be helpful if you’re working on a project that involves multiple PDFs because it keeps everything together in a central location on the cloud.

Here’s how to open a PDF with Chrome using Google Docs:

Step 1: Navigate to Google.com in Chrome and sign in (note: if you’re already logged into your gmail, you can skip this step).

Step 2: Open a new tab in Google Chrome and type docs.new into the address bar. This shortcut is a convenient way to open a Google Doc on the fly.

Step 3: Click ‘File’ and then choose ‘Open’. Or, you can use the ‘Ctr­­l + O’ shortcut.

Inside Google Docs, File dropdown is visible, red arrow pointing at the Open selection

Step 4: Click the ‘Upload’ tab from the horizontal menu.

Step 5: Choose the PDF file you want to open. Click the ‘Open’ button. Alternatively, you can drag and drop the PDF document into the window.

Opening your PDF in Google Docs after finding it on your computer

The PDF file will be uploaded and opened in Google Docs after being saved to your Google Drive.

Tip: Did you know you can also convert a PDF to Google Docs, as well as save a Google Doc as a PDF?

View a PDF in Chrome on your Windows computer

When you double-click a PDF on Windows, your computer will open the document in Microsoft Edge (unless you’ve changed the default settings as outlined earlier).

Here’s how to quickly open a PDF in Chrome on Windows: 

Step 1: Select the PDF file that you want to view with Chrome and then right-click on it.

Step 2: Pick ‘Open with’ from the dropdown menu.

File explorer on Windows with Open with dropdown highlighted

Step 3: Select the Chrome browser, and your PDF will open in Chrome.

Open a PDF in Chrome on your Android phone

PDFs may be built for accessibility, but viewing them on a phone isn’t always easy. However, with Chrome for Android, you can open PDFs directly in the browser without having to download or open them in a separate app.

Viewing PDFs on your Android device is now just as easy as it is on your computer. To open a PDF document in Chrome on your Android phone or tablet, follow these steps: 

Step 1. Open Chrome. Download it from the Google Play Store if you removed it from your device.

Step 2. If your PDF is already online, go to its location and tap on the PDF to open it. If you’ve already downloaded the PDF, tap the menu button in the top-left corner of the screen (three-dot icon).

Android screenshot with the three-dot dropdown highlighted

Step 3. Scroll down and tap on ‘Downloads’.

Step 4. Find the PDF you want to open in the ‘Downloads‘ list.

Android Downloads highlighted in the dropdown

Step 5. Finally, click the PDF file to open it in your Android’s Chrome browser.

PDF reader view on an Android device, highlighted with a red border

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