Adobe Acrobat is perhaps the most well-known PDF editor, but there are other options to consider. Having access to a PDF editor gives you the possibility of editing texts, adding images, filling out forms, and converting your PDF files to other formats. A PDF editor is a useful tool if you work with this format on a regular basis.
We tested different PDF editors to find the best alternative to Adobe Acrobat, the best free editor, and the best web-based PDF editor, among other categories.
The best PDF editors at a glance
- Our pick: Adobe Acrobat Pro DC
- Simplest editor: Microsoft Word
- Best Adobe Acrobat Alternative: PDF Architect 7
- Most secure PDF editor: iSkysoft PDF Editor
- Best free PDF editor: Sejda PDF Editor
- Best web app: PDFescape
Adobe first introduced the PDF format 20 years ago and today Acrobat Pro DC is the industry standard when it comes to editing PDF files; one that combines the hallmarks of the other programs on our list into one, unified piece of software. It’s also one of the few premium programs available for both Windows and MacOS, and boasts dedicated mobile functionality and the ability to convert PDF files into multiple HTML pages, in addition to the standard Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents.
The software instantly converts and saves scanned documents to PDF, and even possesses the ability to merge multiple documents, spreadsheets, webpages, and the like into a single PDF that’s easy to share on multiple devices. Adobe also offers cloud-based storage and document access through acrobat.adobe.com, along with password protection and the ability to redact private information.
Past versions of Microsoft Word have been limited to saving a document in or out of the PDF format, and that was about it. The more recent 2013, 2016, and 2019 versions, however, allow you to open a PDF and then make specific edits to the piece as a Word document. When finished, you simply save it as a PDF again.
It’s a simple tool, and formatting doesn’t always line up correctly based on the PDF, but it’s an excellent alternative if you need to dip into a PDF fast for a bit of basic editing or text changes. Plus, it’s a very easy method for employees and students to use without having to learn a new tool.
Best Adobe Acrobat alternative
German company Pdfforge offers a unique purchasing option when it comes to PDF-editing software. PDF Architect is a modular program that’s available as a free download, or as part of three separate packages (Standard, Pro, and Pro+OCR). Each package includes a set of modules for the program, which dictates its editing power. These modules—which range from Edit and Convert to Sign & Secure—are available for individual purchase, too, just in case you only need a select number of editing tools and don’t want to break the bank.
Even the Pro+OCR package is available at a reasonable price; and the full suite of editing tools makes up one of the most complete, inclusive PDF editors out there. The latest version of PDF Architect is PDF Architect 7 and premium subscriptions to it include features such as the ability to insert pages and hyperlinks (Standard), 256 bit encryption (Professional), and the ability to scan documents and convert them to “editable” PDFs (Pro + OCR). There is also a (limited) free version of PDF Architect 7.
Most secure PDF editor
iSkysoft evens the playing field by providing a streamlined, feature-laden PDF editor for Mac users as well as Windows devotees. The standard version for MacOS allows you to easily convert PDF files to Word, and comes with a score of basic editing tools that allow you to treat any PDF as if it were a word processor file. Users can annotate PDFs quickly, and edit the layout of any document by adding, removing, or flipping pages. Standard users can also fill out PDF forms directly on their computer, without any printing or scanning.
The real power of iSkysoft, however, comes with the Pro package. For a reasonable fee, you can password protect PDF files, convert them to a number of different formats, and edit PDFs using optical character recognition (OCR) technology, thus ensuring greater accuracy. The Pro and Windows versions also allow users to add stamps and signatures, and OCR is supported in more than 20 languages. However, keep in mind that the Windows version requires an additional add-on if you’re looking for OCR support.
If you want to try out iSkysoft’s editor before you buy or just have a couple of one-off edits to make, there is a free trial you can take advantage of too.
Best free PDF editor
Sejda is a web app designed for speedy PDF work, and it does that very well. It’s very simple, focusing on fast PDF signatures, and offers only basic text editing for the files you upload. But that’s also why we like it.
It provides very clear instructions, it’s hard to mess anything up, and it’s quick. If your boss or coworker doesn’t really understand technology or have the patience to download new apps—but you still need their signature on random PDFs—this is one of the best options available. There are also mobile download options available for Android and iOS.
Best web app
PDFescape is a web app accessible through your favorite browser. There’s no lengthy installation process, and users can access the editor using any operating system connected to the internet. This service is currently compatible with Safari, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Opera browsers—and you can access the web version here.
Once you open a PDF document within the interface, you can quickly add text, white out previous content, add images, and digitally sign documents wherever you are. Users can also rotate and zoom in on the documents to achieve their desired viewing angle, while utilizing a slew of common support tools. It packs a capable reader and form designer, along with various annotation tools and the ability to auto fill forms. Needless to say, it’s a multi-faceted application and takes up little memory.
There’s also a desktop version that provides the same functionality without requiring an internet connection. While the web version is free, the desktop version requires a minimum of $3 a month after a 14-day trial.
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