Everyone needs to access PDF files now and again, but Adobe's Reader software is hideous to install and update and a major security risk. There are lots of free alternatives for reading PDFs, but the newly-released (and equally free) Nitro PDF Reader gives them a serious run for their money, letting you read, edit, create and save PDFs, without annoying crippleware features or intrusive adware.
I've been working with Nitro PDF Reader in beta ahead of its official release this week, and I have to say I'm very impressed. It's a lightweight install (22MB), with an unintrusive update mechanism. The software uses a Ribbon-style interface, which I've often railed against in its Office incarnation but which actually works pretty well here (and includes plenty of keyboard shortcuts). Like most of its rivals, it's easy to open, read and annotate PDF files, and considerably quicker at rendering than Adobe Reader. The select and copy tools can handle both text and graphics without requiring you to awkwardly toggle between different options.
The real standout benefit (and the real distinction from most other PDF readers) is that you can readily save your changes. There's nothing more annoying than filling out a PDF form and then discovering the only output option is to print it. Even on PDF files without explicit entry fields, you can enter text in any available space and save the results. There's also a handy automatic signing tool that lets you store a scan of your signature (password-protected it if you like), apply it to any document and resize it as needed.
PDF manipulation features include the ability to automatically create PDFs from a wide range of file formats, and export all the text or images from an existing PDF file. A built-in printer driver also lets you create PDF files from any other Windows application.
The only potential criticism is that there's no in-browser viewing plug-in, but that's no major loss: the software launches quickly, and not having a browser interface makes actually working with your PDF easier, as well as minimising the odds that Firefox will have a major meltdown. It's certainly worked out much better for me than Foxit, which has often been the recommended Reader alternative around these parts.
Nitro PDF Reader is a free download for Windows only. There's a Pro version available for $US99 that adds full-blown form creation, but the free version will more than likely cover anything you need.