# Free PDF viewer allowing to measure in a document?

Adobe Acrobat allows to measure distances in a document, which is helpful and saves making test printouts when trying to get a certain layout right point-perfect.

Is there a free (as in beer) PDF viewer that allows the same? Or can a PDF viewer actually be relied on to reproduce distances closely enough on-screen, to the point where one could measure distances directly on the screen?

• I don't know about point-perfect, but for the purposes of theses and dissertations I've assisted with, I always zoomed whatever PDF viewer I used to make an on-screen page the same width as a real page, and stuck a ruler up to the screen. – Mike Renfro Sep 23 '11 at 19:18
• Is the PDf you are trying measure produced by LaTeX? If so, you add a grid to see where things are exactly on a page. Otherwise with the use of pfdpages this will help you obtain the same result. – Peter Grill Sep 23 '11 at 19:21
• – Peter Grill Sep 23 '11 at 19:37
• I know that you are asking for a PDF viewer with such feature, but have you thought about using a screen ruler? It might not be the best thing since sliced bread, but I think it's an alternative. There are some free programs available for Windows, like Ruler or A Ruler for Windows. There's also ScreenRuler for Linux. Disclaimer: I have no idea how to use them. :-) – Paulo Cereda Sep 23 '11 at 19:39
• Any one know of a Max OSX option? – Bryan P Oct 7 '12 at 23:05

Free as in beer, but not as in speech, PDF XChange Viewer has a fairly comprehensive set of measurement tools that I find quite useful. It is, however, Windoze-only, I think.

Here's a sample:

• Windows only, but works quite nicely under Wine. – DevSolar Sep 23 '11 at 21:32
• Great description: "free as in beer, but not as in speech". :-) – Paulo Cereda Sep 24 '11 at 0:23
• That's great, but how did you manage to choose the measurement units for each distance measure? For me it always measures in inches, even though I changed the default measurement units to cm in the preferences (I'm using version 2.5 of PDF-XChange viewer). – Joe Nov 15 '14 at 15:30
• Click and hold the Measurement Tool Icon -> Show Comments styles palette, where you can change colour, etc, and scaling, and create multiple different measuring profiles if you do this very often – Brent.Longborough Nov 16 '14 at 9:35

(from my comment to this answer)

Another suggestion is to use a screen ruler on top of your .pdf document. For Linux, I strongly suggest ScreenRuler:

ScreenRuler is a small GNOME based utility that allows you to measure objects on your desktop. It can be used to take both horizontal and vertical measurement in 6 different metrics: pixels, centimeters, inches, picas, points, and as a percentage of the ruler's length.

In Fedora, I know it's easily available through yum install screenruler. In Ubuntu is probably the same.

Consider the following example:

\documentclass{article}

\usepackage[top=1cm, left=3cm, right=2cm]{geometry}
\usepackage{lipsum}

\begin{document}
\lipsum
\end{document}


After compiling it, I opened the resulting .pdf file and ran screenruler:

As DevSolar mentioned in the comments, if you zoom your file, you need to manually set the dpi resolution. :-)

• In Debian / Ubuntu / Mint it is apt-get install screenruler. I actually found this to be more comfortable than the measuring features of the XChange Viewer, and filed a feature request for the one shortcoming I found (ruler resolution not increasing at high DPI settings - the lines on the ruler always measure 6pt at once). Sometimes workarounds are better than what the OP requested. ;-) – DevSolar Sep 24 '11 at 6:38
• Very nice! thanks very much for this suggestion. I have been looking for this exact feature on linux. – Ariel Apr 11 '12 at 14:33
• Just a note to be careful with screenruler: on my Ubuntu 14.04, xdpyinfo reports 1366x768 pixels (361x203 millimeters), that turns out to be 96.1119 x 96.0945 ppi; screenruler by default is set to "System Settings" for the resolution, which reads 96 x 96 pi (no floats accepted). However, when I put an actual ruler next to screenruler, the screenruler has a smaller "cm". Then, if I use xrandr I get: "eDP1 connected 1366x768+0+0 (normal left inverted right x axis y axis) 293mm x 164mm"; which turns out to 118.418 x 118.946 ppi, and setting that for ppi for screenruler works. – sdaau Feb 25 '18 at 9:15

For Mac OSX users here are two options:

In Preview,

1. Select a rectangular area to measure. Either with the toolbar button or by selecting "Rectangular Selection" under the tool menu.
2. open the Inspector (Command-I)
3. Select the Crop and Rotate tab, whose icon looks like a small ruler. Change the units as required
4. Now use the select area tool and the corresponding (printed) dimensions will be shown in the Inspector.

-OR-

Download Free Ruler, which displays a nice ruler on screen, though requires care in both setting the ruler DPI and ensuring that the PDF is viewed at 100% size.

Other answers have solved the problem so just for completeness' sake, inkscape is a free vector editing program that can import PDF, it has extensive support for dimensions, rulers and measurements. I frequently make use of it to measure layouts, match fonts and similar work.

• Ah, that gave me the idea to use gimp, which also does it! – Raffi Khatchadourian Jun 29 '18 at 16:02

yum install gv