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Best PDF Editor for Students (2023 Guide)

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January 31, 2023
Last Updated
March 3, 2023
8 min read

The best PDF editors allow you to add and edit existing test, annotate, convert, and more. A good PDF editor pays for itself in convenience and the time saved by having a reliable tool.

But how do you pick the best paid PDF tool for you? We'll cover that in this helpful guide! This guide is constantly updated to be as recent and helpful as possible.

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A good PDF editor can save you time and streamline how you view, use, work with, and study from PDFs and other kinds of documents.

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More than ever PDFs are being used in academics. PDF is a popular format for storing and sharing lecture notes, slides, text books, novels, and more. And the pandemic has only increased the use of online forms and documents in our lives.

While we may see, receive, and use PDFs on a daily basis, editing and modifying PDFs is more challenging than it should be. This can be especially frustrating if you're trying to take notes, highlight, or perform other changes to a PDF for a class, lecture, or assignment.

Fortunately, there are paid PDF editors that are powerful, easy to use, and won't break the bank. Which one is the best for you?

What to Know Before You Start

  • PDF editors can save students time and money, from not printing papers to working with documents and assignments for efficiently.
  • All PDF editors on this list work with Windows, some may also include Mac functionality.
  • Ask yourself what your needs and budget are when comparing PDF editors.

Why Do Students Need a PDF Editor?

A PDF editor for students is almost a must for students these days. More than ever, lectures notes, assignments, reading materials, course outlines, and more are being done in the PDF format.

This means that it's never been more important to have a tool that's able to work with PDFs efficiently, without breaking the bank (or adding to the student loans).

While online PDF tools exist, they come with drawbacks:

  • They often have limits to what you can do, and how much of it you can do.
  • They are often less secure or safe than desktop PDF editors (due to being an online service).
  • They require internet access to use.

While those are just a few of the biggest reasons why students should have a PDF editor, what are the specific benefits of owning one?

Let's explore those next.

Benefits of PDF Editors for Students

  • Save time & money on printing
  • Save paper
  • Improve document organization
  • Offline PDF editing & converting
  • Improved collaboration and sharing
  • Convenience
  • Note taking
  • Creating personal study materials
  • Perfectly formatted assignments

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying

Before you decide on a PDF editor to buy, keep in mind a few questions to help determine if the PDF editor will meet your needs.

Some important questions to ask yourself include:

  • What kind of PDF documents will I be working with?
  • What functions or tools do I need the most?
  • Will I need to add text and images? Will I need to edit existing text in a PDF document?
  • Will I need to extract/modify text from PDFs or scanned documents?
  • What's my budget?
  • Will this run on my computer well?
  • How challenging will it be to use the software? Will there be a learning curve?

Criteria for Choosing a PDF Editor

Here are some the the criteria to keep in mind when comparing PDF editors.

  1. Price
  2. Tool Functions (basic vs advanced tools)
  3. Design (simple design or more advanced)
  4. Learning Curve (beginner-friendly or not)
  5. Minimum System Requirements (Lightweight program or do you need a modern computer)
  6. Security (password tools)
  7. Signature tools
  8. OCR (recognizing & extracting text from images and documents)
  9. Mobile support (is there a mobile app?)

PDF Editor Criteria — Tool Functions

When evaluating the tools of PDF editors, you can break the functions into two categories:

  1. Basic features
  2. Advanced features

Basic PDF editing features commonly include:

  • Create, convert (to PDF), & export PDF files
  • Adding text
  • Minor editing of existing content — rotate, merge, resize, move images, merge, split
  • Annotations & markup for notetaking

Advanced PDF editing features may include:

  • Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
  • Editing existing text
  • Converting PDF into other formats (Word, Excel, image, etc.)
  • Adding or editing images
  • Inserting pages
  • Creating fillable forms
  • Signing documents

PDF Pro

PDF Pro is our all-in-one PDF editor, converter, creator, and OCR tool made specifically for Windows desktop.

We created it to be a no nonsense, affordable Adobe Acrobat alternative.

What does "no nonsense" mean?

It means that we made PDF Pro to be powerful, reliable, easy to use, with a intuitive design so you can quickly find the tool you're looking for.

PDF Pro has everything you need to perform simple or advanced edits on your documents; recognize or extract text, edit existing text from pictures, images, scanned documents and more.

PDF Pro is one of the most affordable all-in-one PDF editors on the market, making it perfect for students.

Key Features

  • Basic & Advanced editing tools
  • OCR
  • Annotations and markup tools
  • Convert to and from PDF
  • Security and signature tools

Pricing

  • Monthly - from $4 per month

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Powerful
  • Made specifically for Windows
  • Easy to use
  • Beginner friendly
  • Lightweight program requirements

Cons:

  • No mobile support

Adobe Acrobat Pro

Since Adobe Acrobat is one of the most well known PDF editors around (and since Adobe invented the PDF format), our list would not be complete without it.

Adobe Acrobat isn't for everyone due to its high annual cost and the learning curve associated with learning how to use the program effectively.

But, if you need access to state-of-the-art PDF functionality (like cloud services), or if you already use other Adobe tools and like their ecosystem, then Adobe Acrobat may be right for you.

There are two versions of Acrobat: Standard and Pro; with Pro being highest tier version (thus it will include all the tools).

Key Features

  • Advanced PDF editing tools
  • Part of the Adobe ecosystem (useful if you use other Adobe products)
  • OCR
  • Cloud services

Pricing

  • Monthly - from $14.99 per month

Pros:

  • Advanced & innovative PDF tools
  • Streamlined sharing & collaboration of documents
  • Cloud services

Cons:

  • Steep learning curve
  • Lots of pop-up menus
  • Expensive
  • All the tools can be confusing for new or less experienced users

Nitro

Nitro's PDF editor was originally created for Mac, but they have since branched out with a Windows version. Like many PDF editors, theirs comes with different tiers, each with their own price and tools. Though, it can get pretty expensive if you need access to all the tools.

If you use PDF templates or PDF forms, Nitro users get access to their library of ready-made templates. This feature is more popular with those in business.

Key Features

  • Advanced PDF editing tools
  • OCR
  • Batch processing
  • Ready-made templates & forms

Pricing

  • Monthly - from $14 per month

Pros:

  • Microsoft Office-style ribbon (Windows version)
  • Mac & Windows versions
  • Cloud services for sharing & collaboration

Cons:

  • No mobile app
  • Expensive (especially if you want access to all the tools)

Swifdoo

Swifdoo is a basic PDF editor that includes most of the standard, basic PDF editing tools you can expect to find in PDF editors. They also have a few advanced PDF tools (like OCR), for those users that need it.

While Swifdoo doesn't break the mold in terms of design or functionality, they've kept things simple and at an affordable price.

Features

  • Basic PDF editing tools
  • Some advanced editing tools (like OCR)

Pricing

  • Monthly - From $4 a month

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Lightweight program requirements
  • Simple design

Cons:

  • Less advanced PDF editing capabilities than others on this list
  • Licensing issues seem to be a common problem for users
  • No mobile app

Wondershare PDFelement

Wondershare's PDFelement is a PDF editor capable of both basic and advanced editing tasks.

Their design takes a page out of Nitro's book and offers a layout that is similar to Windows programs.

PDFelement is a relatively powerful PDF editor, but this power comes at the detriment of performance. The program is a bit bulky, with a rather high minimum system requirements, so older computers or operating systems may struggle to effectively use PDFelement

Key Features

  • Create PDF
  • Add text
  • Change existing text
  • OCR
  • Batch processing
  • Language translation

Pricing

Yearly subscription - from $79.99 annually

Pros

  • Cloud services
  • Windows-style design layout

Cons

  • Bulky program (heavy minimum system requirements)
  • No monthly subscription plan (only yearly)

Foxit

Foxit PDF editor comes with the usual suspects of basic editing tools (create, edit text, sign, etc.) while also having advanced editing tools for those than need them.

There are two versions to Foxit: Basic and Pro; the Pro version comes with more advanced editing tools.

Foxit's tools get the job done, but you may find that features you're looking for are missing from the basic PDF editor and even their Pro version. For example, if you want to use Foxit's cloud services or mobile app, you'll have to subscribe to them in addition to your subscription of their PDF editor.

This can be confusing for people, and can get expensive as you add on more functionalities

Key Features

  • Basic editing tools
  • Fill and sign forms
  • Security tool
  • Cloud services

Pricing

  • Yearly subscription - from $83 per year

Pros

  • 24/7 live support
  • Mac & Windows version

Cons

  • eSigning costs extra
  • Some features require their own, additional subscription to use (mobile app, signing tool, cloud services)

Sejda PDF

Sejda PDF offers an online and offline (desktop) to their customers. Their focus is editing and signing PDFs, and making it easier to edit and sign documents online.

They have a free version of their online editor, though it comes with a limit of 3 tasks per hour.

Sejda's online editor is a simple browser page with a collection of editing tools to choose from.

It offers a relatively simple design with tools that get the job done. Unfortunately, if you want download and use Sejda PDF on your desktop, you'll need to subscribe to their annual membership (monthly memberships are only available for the online version of their editor).

Sejda's interface is clean and should be pretty friendly to beginners.

Their online version has a specific tool, on a specific page, for a specific function, so you'll need to switch pages to use different tools, which can cost you time if needing to do many different tasks.

Key Features

  • Merge & split PDFs
  • Convert
  • Compress
  • Add, move, edit text in PDF
  • Apply passwords and security restrictions on PDFs

Pricing

  • Web-only: from $7.50 per month
  • Desktop & Web - $63 per year

Pros

  • Has both a desktop (offline) & browser (online) version of their PDF editor

Cons

  • Need an annual subscription to access desktop (offline) version of their editor

Summary

These days it's almost mandatory for students to have a PDF editor.

PDFs have never been used more in academics; from everything from lecture notes and note taking, to collaborating with others and formatting assignments.

A good PDF editor pays for itself in time saved and stress reduced.

But how do you know what PDF editor is best for you? That's exactly why we created this guide.

Ask yourself some important questions to figure out what tasks you'll be doing the most on it, what tools are must-haves, and what you can afford. Fortunately, almost every PDF editor on this list has a free trial, so you can try out the program risk-free.

If you're very cautious, you can even sign up to a few trials and see which one you like best.

This guide is always growing and being updated to remain helpful to students, so check back often!

FAQ

Can students get Adobe Acrobat for free?

No. Adobe Acrobat offers a free trial, but will require a subscription for long-term use.

Is there a 100% free PDF editor?

There are quite a few online PDF editing tools, however they tend to have limitations on usage. If you're looking for a desktop PDF editor, you'll need to purchase or subscribe to one.

Why do I need a PDF editor?

PDF editors can save students time and money.

A good PDF editor makes it easier to work with PDFs, save printing costs, reduce paperwork, improve document organization, collaboration, and more.

How can a student edit a PDF?

You'll need a PDF editor to edit a PDF. There are a number of online tools as well as reputable, affordable desktop PDF editors out there. We've created this list to help choose the best one for students.

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Digital Marketing SpecialistArron Staradub
Arron is a Digital Marketer at PDF Pro, where he writes helpful and engaging articles for those that that use PDFs in their daily life. He has a knack for explaining concepts in an easily understandable way. He also loves reading and drinking too much coffee.

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