Up until recently, I found no need to change the default PDF Viewer in Chrome or Firefox. The default PDF Viewer can render pretty much all the PDF out there except … interactive PDF forms. With that, you need Adobe PDF reader to view them and save those fillable PDF forms. Chrome and Firefox have already implemented its own PDF render engine within the browser, hence, such render does not support Adobe’s special interactive PDFs.
You can change the default built-in PDF viewer in Chrome or Firefox. Here is how,
Change Default PDF Viewer in Chrome
Head to chrome://plugins/ in Chrome, this will bring up the plugins page. Scroll down a little you will find Chrome PDF Viewer click disable to disable the built-in PDF render in Chrome. Also be sure to make sure Adobe Reader is enabled, or else you will have no plugin to view PDF documents in Chrome.
/Updated on Dec. 10, 2017/
Since the plugins page has been removed in Chrome version 57, here is how you can disable the default PDF viewer and use the native Acrobat PDF Reader to open and read PDF files.
Go to chrome://settings/content page, scroll down to the bottom of the page to find PDF documents section. Click to open it and enable the setting “Download PDF files instead of automatically opening them in Chrome”. The change takes place right away.
Change Default PDF Viewer in FireFox
In Firefox, you can change the default PDF render under Options > Applications > scroll down at the very bottom. Find Portable Document Format (PDF) and change the Action tab to “Use Adobe Acrobat” or “Use Adobe Reader” whatever you have installed to view the PDF. Click OK when done.
What about IE?
Well, the good news is that IE doesn’t have a built-in PDF reader, it uses Adobe’s PDF reader instead.
Here is the dilemma, Yes, those built-in PDF renders are quicker and faster in opening PDFs in those browsers. But they can do better to improve and including more format support or to build an automatic fall-back option, if the built-in browser’s PDF render can’t open the file properly, then use Adobe’s render. This way, we get the best of both when viewing PDFs in Chrome and Firefox.