This guide is constantly growing and being updated to provide the most up-to-date information to help people make informed decisions.
PDFs are some of, if not the most commonly used type of document that is used today. They're used in everything from legal documents, medical, real estate, to academic papers, handing in assignments, and even storing documents to print out later.
PDF makes is convenient to preserve and store documents, share and collaborate, and view them on any device.
However, one thing that PDFs aren't good known for is being easy edit or make changes to them after they've already been created.
At least not without a PDF editor.
If you want to modify, edit, change, create forms, secure documents, or even create blank PDF files, you'll need a PDF editor with the tools and features that can handle those tasks.
While Adobe Acrobat is probably the most well known PDF editor, it is far from the only one. And others may have just what you need at a price that's even better.
We understand that not all PDF editors are the same, and that it can be confusing to research and compare all the different editors, features, prices, and more.
That's why we've created this guide.
We want to give you an objective look at the best Adobe Acrobat alternatives so you can make the best choice for you — even if it's not us!
Adobe Acrobat is a PDF editor created by Adobe.
Adobe is actually the inventor and creator of the PDF format, itself! But they have since made the PDF format open and available for others to use and work with.
This has only benefited people like you.
There's never been more options and tools to choose from when it comes to picking out a PDF editor.
But that's also part of the problem! All these choices can be confusing.
That's why we've created this helpful list and regularly update it so that you have everything you need to make the most informed decision for your needs!
While Adobe Acrobat is powerful, feature-rich, and is created by the inventors of the PDF, it's not the only PDF editor out there, and isn't exactly what everyone needs.
Adobe Acrobat has focused on innovation and pushing the PDF to greater heights. But this has made it so that the program isn't the best for everyone, and has its own drawbacks.
Cluttered and confusing interface
This is probably one of the biggest issues people have found when using Adobe Acrobat. While Adobe Acrobat boasts many robust features and powerful tools, it can be pretty overwhelming when you first launch the program, especially to beginners.
This is only exacerbated with the fact that most buttons have their own separate menus and pop-ups that appear when you are using them, as well as the different ribbons (top and side of screen).
High-learning curve, especially for beginners
Because of the feature-overkill that plagues many Acrobat users, Adobe Acrobat is known for it's steep learning curve, especially for beginners, those new to Adobe, and for anyone that is looking for a PDF editor that they can just start up and get running quickly.
Expect to read many guides and forums, and do lots of Googling when using Adobe Acrobat, especially for the first time or for more advanced features.
Bugs and Tech issues
Because Adobe is always innovating and pushing the PDF format to the future, it's expected and common place for bugs, issues, and errors to slip through the cracks.
Adobe Acrobat is expensive, to put it bluntly. While the cost is justifiable to those that need all the bells and whistles and advanced PDF tools, for many others they were simply stuck with Acrobat because there weren't many alternatives around.
Things are very different today. It's a lot easier to find a PDF editor that focuses on your needs while at a price point that you can afford. The rise of Adobe Acrobat alternatives has only benefited users like you!
If you use other Adobe products you'll notice that all the programs play nice with each other, and work well with other programs in the Adobe ecosystem. This includes PDF. This is partly why many people feel stuck in the Adobe after using Acrobat or other Adobe products.
Acrobat is not a lightweight application; in fact, it's quite heavy and bulky. It makes sense considering all the features, tools, patches, and popups that are common to Adobe, that it can slow down your device.
What's a bigger issue is that companies or users of older devices, such as Windows 7, may find themselves "locked-out" of Acrobat as the PDF editor continues to get updated and focus on newer operating systems and neglecting older systems. So you can not only slow down your older system, but it's possible to completely not even use Acrobat anymore, or any of the new features and fixes they release.
There are different factors that we consider when comparing Adobe Acrobat alternatives, and you should consider them when making the best decision for yourself.
How the PDF editor looks when you open it up, and how easy it is to start using. While many PDF editors have the same powerful tools, the way the programs are organized are not the same. If you're a beginner or you have simple tasks you want to do often, you just need an easy to use PDF editor without feeling like you need a computer degree, then you'll want a PDF editor that is easy to use and simple to get working right away. On the other hand, if you are a more advanced user of PDFs, are more tech-savvy, or enjoy all the bells and whistles, then a more advanced PDF editor like Adobe Acrobat may be what you want.
It's important to identify your needs and goals when comparing PDF editors. What features are important to you? Do you want to edit PDF files or just create them? Do you want to do simple edits like adding text, or do you need more advanced features like making scanned documents into searchable PDFs? Are you working on individual PDFs or many different types of files or multiple documents at once? While many PDF editors have similar features, some may have their own specialties.
Scan & OCR
If you regularly scan documents or work with scanned documents then you'll probably want a PDF editor with Optical Character Recognition (OCR). Simply put, OCR is a technology that turns text within images (pictures, scanned documents, image-based PDFs, etc.) into real text that you can interact with, edit, search, and more.
Not all PDF editors have OCR, if you need it, be sure to keep that in mind when making your selection.
Collaboration features such as comments, authors, notes, etc. are useful when working on the same documents with different people, peers, colleagues, or teammates.
Online & Offline Access
Some PDF editors are strictly offline (desktop application), some are only online (browser), while some are both. Consider how and where you work with PDFs to decide which you would prefer. Offline and online programs have their own set of pros & cons, however, so be mindful when making your decision.
The benefits of offline, desktop PDF editors is that they'll always work, even without internet access, and the added security of keeping all access and storage of your PDFs on your computer. Online PDF editors often require uploading your PDF files to their cloud or online services before being able to interact with them. This can make it convenient because there may be no need to download the PDF editor program, but online PDF editors can also be slower due to needing Wi-Fi, they won't work without internet connection, and they can be less secure since you're uploading documents to their servers.
One of the best parts of PDFs is their ability to be secured and protected through passwords, restrictions, signatures, digital certificates, and more.
This is why PDF is such a common file type for important documents like legal, financial, taxes, medical, and more. Not all PDF editors have the ability to secure (or unlock) PDFs, while others excel at them.
Now that we've covered what to keep in mind when comparing PDF editors, let's review our top picks (in no particular order).
PDF Pro is an all-in-one PDF editor, creator, converter, merger, and OCR tool.
PDF Pro is our affordable, no nonsense Adobe alternative.
What does "no nonsense" mean?
It means that PDF Pro was created to be simple and easy to use, while not compromising power or quality. No endless pop-ups, no confusing buttons, no steep learning curves! Just open your PDF and get to work.
Anyone that's ever used a Microsoft or Google application (Word, Excel, Google Docs, etc.) will feel right at home in PDF Pro. The layout of the program is simple and intuitive, so you can clearly and quickly find the tool you need.
Monthly - from $4 per month
Pros: lightweight program, intuitive design, easy-to-use, beginner-friendly, affordable, OCR, batch processing, both monthly & lifetime license options.
Cons: Windows only
pdfFiller is a popular online web-based PDF editor that specializes in creating and filling PDF forms. They have templates that you can use to jump-start your next PDF or form and streamline the (virtual) paperwork process.
pdfFiller offers a simple design that is similar to other online, browser-based web tools such as Google Docs. This makes it easy to find the tools you need to create PDFs and forms.
Monthly - from $8 per month
Pros: simple design, forms & template library, mobile app, beginner friendly, integrates with popular CRMs (Salesforces, etc.)
Cons: online-focused (desktop version is in Beta testing phase and has limited functionality and tools), limited batch processing
Nitro PDF is a PDF editor that was originally only for Mac but has also branched out with a Windows application. They have different tiers of their program that include their own prices and functionalities, including monthly subscriptions and a lifetime license for more basic things. If you're an avid Apple user, then you'll be pleased to know that Nitro is also available in iOS, so you can work & view PDF between your computer and phone easily.
Because Nitro was originally meant for Mac (which is known for it's sleek, simple UI), Nitro PDF was created to seamlessly work on Mac OS. This means the design will be familiar to Mac users, while it should make sense if you're coming from Windows.
Monthly - from $14 per month
Lifetime license - from $250
Pros: Works well in Mac & iOS, offers both monthly and lifetime licenses (their most expensive tier is subscription-only), simple design interface, templates and forms
Cons: Pricey (especially if you want access to all the features, like OCR & signature tools), No Android version, lifetime updates not included in lifetime license
SmallPDF is an online collection of helpful PDF tools that are ready to be used right from your web browser. This means you won't have to download any software to start using it, but it also means that you'll need internet access to use smallPDF, and any sensitive or confidential documents that you're working on will need to be uploaded to their servers before you can work on them.
SmallPDF has simple design that is just an upload sign, with the relevant tools on the right-hand side. This makes it pretty easy to use for beginners. There isn't much in terms of layout since the tools are web based and show up after uploading your document to their servers.
There are two plans available:
Pro - from US $9 per month (billed annually)
Team - US $7 per month (billed annually)
Pros: Mobile apps (iOS & Android) , beginner friendly, simple design
Cons: have to switch to different tools rather than a centralized single app, cost extra to work offline
Foxit PDF editor is a PDF editor that allows you to edit and create PDF documents. They also have cloud services which makes them good for teams of any size, including remote workers.
Foxit's design layout is similar to any Microsoft program (Word, etc.) so Windows users will feel familiar. This also makes it good for beginners or those that are less tech-savvy.
Foxit offers perpetual licensing for their more basic versions (editor & editor pro), but only have subscription for their most advanced editor (PDF editor Pro +)
Foxit PDF Editor - monthly subscription from $79 (annual) US $159 one-time cost
Foxit PDF Editor Pro - monthly subscription from $99 (annual) US $179 one-time cost
Foxit PDF Editor Pro + - from US $149 per year (plus update costs)
Pros: easy collaboration, good for teams
Cons: mobile application is a bit slow,
Sejda is an online and desktop PDF editor. It focuses on editing and signing PDF files. It's an easy to use Adobe Acrobat alternative. The free version offers premium features with a limit on the amount of documents that you'll be able to process (3 per hour).
Similar to smallPDF in that Sejda is a collection of PDF tools and focuses on their web version of their application. It makes it extremely easy to use online, but will need to pay if you want a desktop or offline version of the program.
Sejda offers a clean, easy to use interface that will be friendly to beginners. The online version will have a specific tool for a specific function, so you'll need to switch pages to use different tools.
Web (online only) monthly - US $7.50 per month
Web & Desktop - $63 annual
Pros: can work online & offline,
Cons: offline (desktop) only available with an annual subscription
PDF Element is a PDF editor that is able to do both basic and advanced PDF editing tasks. The layout of the program will look familiar to anyone that's used Windows before, since the button design is similar. While powerful, PDF element can be a bit bulky and has a high minimum system requirements, so older computers or operating systems may struggle to use PDF element effectively.
The design of PDF Element will feel familiar to Windows users. The layout of the program is similar to Windows, with clear buttons and labels.
yearly subscription - from $79.99 annual
lifetime perpetual license (one time purchase) - from $129.99
Pros: Cloud service
Cons: bulky, heavy minimum system requirements,
Soda PDF is an online-first PDF toolkit, similar to SmallPDF. It's easy for beginners to use, with the different tools clearly labeled. Since it was made for online first, the online version of the app has the most support and functionality. There is a desktop version of the app, but that's only available in Windows.
Clean and simple interface makes it easy to use for beginners. For the online version, tools are located on separate pages each rather than having all tools in one window.
There are two versions of Soda PDF: Standard & Pro. Home offers basic PDF editing capabilities such as ... while Premium includes advanced features such as secure, sign, convert, review, and more. Both are annual subscriptions.
Standard - from $80 per year
Premium - from $127 per year
Pros: online and desktop versions available
Cons: desktop only available for Windows
There are multiple questions you should ask yourself when selecting a PDF editor that's right for you.
You should consider the price, the operating system you're using, the main functions you need from a PDF editor, and the ease of use.
After all, it can be tempting to get the most expensive PDF editor with all the bells and whistles, but if don't need all the tools or you'll need to read endless guides just to figure out how to use it, then the higher price isn't really worth it.
We've compiled this helpful list of Adobe Acrobat alternatives for you to choose from when Adobe isn't exactly what you need.
We hope this was helpful!
This guide is constantly growing and being updated to provide the most up-to-date information to help people make the most informed decisions!