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How to Download PDF instead of Viewing in Chrome

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By default, the Google Chrome browser is set to view the PDF file in the browser. However, it also allows downloading the PDF file and saving it locally instead of opening the browser. You can toggle the option – Download PDF files instead of automatically opening them in the Chrome option from the settings page.

While Chrome has quite a few nifty features, there are still some that many users might not appreciate. In this regard, the way it handles PDF files has always been a matter of discussion for a long time.

For the unaware, it wouldn’t be directly downloaded onto your PC when you click on a PDF file link in Chrome. Instead, it will bring up the file preview window, and you will only be able to download it once the file has been completely loaded.

PDF Reader in Chrome Browser

So isn’t it good that the browser shows the file’s contents before we can download it? Well, it might be in some instances, but in most cases and for a significant chunk of the users, that isn’t what they want. Some would want to save the PDF file locally on their PC and wish to view it later.

Furthermore, waiting for the file to be loaded entirely onto the browser before being able to download it ends up consuming a few extra seconds.

Likewise, it also calls for extra efforts in manually closing the PDF file that shouldn’t have been loaded in the first place. Considering all the issues, consider a scenario where a user needs to download multiple PDF files.

All the problems above will only get multiplied by the total number of files they download!

With that said, fortunately, the browser has a built-in option to change this default setting. You could instruct Chrome to download the PDF file automatically without opening it in the preview window.

Download PDF in Chrome

While Chrome has a built-in PDF viewer, it’s just a barebone version and doesn’t offer much help to the users compared with standalone PDF apps such as Adobe Acrobat. This is entirely understandable, as Chrome is a browser first, and the ability to view PDF files is just an added feature.

Although there’s nothing wrong with this feature, its behavior to bring up the preview window automatically seems to infuriate a few users. However, you could easily change this browser’s default functionality.

Here are the steps to enable PDF download in Chrome instead of loading:

  1. Launch the Chrome browser on your computer.
  2. Click on the Menu vertical 3dots icon situated at the top right.
  3. Select Settings from the menu list.
  4. Scroll to the Privacy and Security section.
  5. Click on the Site Settings menu tan.
    Site Settings menu in Chrome Browser
  6. Scroll down to the bottom and open the Additional Content Settings section.
  7. Select the PDF Documents menu.
    Additional content settings PDF documents tab
  8. Enable the toggle button for Download PDF files instead of automatically opening them in Chrome option.
    Download PDF files instead of automatically opening them in Chrome toggle

That’s it, relaunch the browser and see the changes in action. Henceforth, Chrome will directly download the PDF file without bringing up the preview window. And if there’s ever a change in plan, you need to disable the toggle, and its behavior will be reversed.

Bottom Line: Chrome PDF Download

This was all from this guide on downloading PDF files instead of viewing them in Chrome. Recently I had to download a bank statement on one of the shared computers. The bank in PDF format provides these statements.

So as soon as I clicked on the file’s link, Chrome directly opened it inside the preview window, and all the critical information was there for everyone to see.

At this moment, I decided to keep this toggle enabled and have planned to keep it in this state in the near future as well.

What are your views on direct downloading the PDF file in Chrome? Have you chosen the PDF viewer or downloading option?

Lastly, if you've any thoughts on How to Download PDF instead of Viewing in Chrome, then feel free to drop in below comment box.

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5 thoughts on “How to Download PDF instead of Viewing in Chrome”

  1. I have chrome set to download pdfs instead of opening them. But in the last few weeks it wouldn’t download them unless I highlighted the link and told it to open in a new tab. Now when I try that, it briefly opens up a new tab and doesn’t download the file. This is making me a little nuts and I can’t find anything about it online.

    1. Hi Debbie, that looks a little odd. Can you confirm if the browser is updated to the latest version? And, by any chance are you downloading the file from an unsecured link (a URL begins with HTTP instead of HTTPS)? Thank you!

  2. The same thing has happened to me for the last few months. I cannot get Chrome to automatically open PDFs in Adobe or Download them. No matter how many times I have followed the instructions above, it ALWAYS opens PDFs in a browser window

    1. Hello JP, if you’re using Windows OS then you can set to open a PDF file on Adobe reader. Follow these instructions:
      1. Select the PDF file.
      2. Right-click on the mouse for the context menu.
      3. Hover on Open With the option.
      4. Select the last option within the Open with menu list – this will open the list of software installed and support PDF files on your Windows machine.
      5. Select Adobe reader and make sure to enable checkbox – always open with same program.
      6. Hit on Apply and OK button.

      It will change the default PDF reader software from Google Chrome to Adobe reader. You can choose any other software at step #5 to make it as default PDF reader. I hope this helps.

  3. Time saver. Thank you so much for writing this very clear and simple article which helped remove all my frustrations of this past week when Chrome decided to not download or save the PDF files. Now everything works! Thank you!

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