File viewer

Updated: 01/31/2019 by Computer Hope

A file viewer is a software program capable of properly displaying information stored in a file. Unlike an editor, a file viewer is designed only to show the contents of a file and in many cases save that file as a different type of file. One of the best examples of a file viewer you already have on your computer is your browser, which is capable of displaying HTML, XML, text, graphic files, and other file types.


Each program is only capable of viewing so many files, if the program does not support the file type you are trying to open it displays garbage or gives an error.

Examples of file viewers

General file viewers

  • Universal Viewer - The Universal Viewer program is great for viewing a variety of files, including images (40+ types), videos files (170+ types), documents, PDF, spreadsheet files, and many more.

When searching for free file viewers, be careful of scams and programs that are primarily designed to install malware or other programs you do not want on your computer.

Office file viewers


Microsoft has retired the Excel, PowerPoint, and Word file viewers. Security updates are also not available for older versions of those viewers.

PDF file viewer

Command line file viewers

File, Image viewer, Software terms, Text editor