PDFs are popular among businesses and individuals attempting to go green and generally save on paper, as PDFs essentially cost nothing to produce and assure that documents will appear the same to anyone, anytime and anywhere. PDFs are also interactive, if desired, and can be partially or completely edited by peers. While often considered a resource hog, the PDF file format is popular because it’s ubiquitous and flexible.
More: These are the best ways to print a PDF in Windows 10, 8, and 7
As more people switch to using PDFs, the desire to edit and create them also grows. Having access to a reliable PDF editor and reader is as crucial as printers used to be, allowing users to edit text, make annotations, add images, and export files with relative ease.
However, like anything available online, the sheer volume of choices is confounding. We’ve taken the time to find the best PDF editors on the internet and locate the best paid — and free — programs. While most of these are compatible with just Windows, we’ll note when the program works with both Windows and MacOS.
The best premium PDF editors
It may seem silly to include premium PDF editors when there’s so much free software available at your fingertips. It’s a valid point, but freemium alternatives don’t boast useful tools like built-in merging, advanced annotation options, and an expanded font selection. The prices may seem steep at first glance, but the robust capability of the software clearly outweighs the cost if you’re an avid PDF user.
JotForm PDF Editor
JotForm PDF Editor automatically turns collected form responses into professional, secure PDF documents that you can share with colleagues and customers. Easily generate custom PDF files online!
Foxit PhantomPDF 8 PDF Editor ($110+, $60 for Education version)
The Windows-only Foxit PhantomPDF 8 PDF Editor is a well-rounded tool combining easy paragraph editing, a built-in spell checker, and the ability to drag and drop photos to create albums all within a basic interface. It’s the most affordable premium offering in our roundup, but it still possess the tools to convert web pages to PDFs, generate PDFs from CAD files, work collaboratively with Foxit’s Connected Review feature, as well as access advanced options for tracking document changes and annotations using different colored text.
Moreover, the program touts the innate ability to merge multiple PDF files into one fluid document. Users can even right-click and create a new document directly from the resulting drop-down menu, rendering the task a breeze no matter your location within the interface. Foxit Phantom PDF Editor is a simple and intuitive standout — and one offering a 14-day free trial for those still hesitant to pull the trigger. PhantomPDF 8 is available in Standard, Business, and Education editions.
Available for: Windows
Nitro Pro 10 ($160)
Whether intended for personal or business use, Nitro Pro 10 offers packages tailored for various workloads. The software’s flexibility is undeniable, allowing users to convert PDF files to Microsoft Word, Excel, or PowerPoint file formats — and vice versa — and providing a suite of editing tools for creating and editing scanned paper documents from your local printer. In addition, users can convert emails and their accompanying attachments directly to PDF, as well as preview and merge PDF documents into a single file.
When a PDF requires a digital signature, the software supplies tools for sharing and editing documents using any Web browser, even if the other party doesn’t possess Nitro Pro 10. The interface is straightforward and easy to navigate, much akin to Microsoft Office, and Nitro offers a two-week free trial for those looking to try out the program. It’s one of the pricier programs on our list at $160, but that’s fitting — it’s also one of the most complete.
Available for: Windows
PDF Architect 4 ($60+)
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 the editing power of the program. 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. PDF Architect 4, the notable follow-up to pdfforge’s flagship product, PDF Creator, is tailored to fit the needs of any consumer, whether you need the power of optical character recognition or simply the ability to convert a PDF to HTML.
Available for: Windows
Nuance Power PDF 2.0 ($90+)
Nuance’s PDF editor is an outlier in many ways, albeit a phenomenal one. Its compatibility is outstanding, with document access available through various Cloud services such as Google Drive and SkyDrive, and the ability to create interactive PDFs in nearly any Windows application. The program also allows for voice-controlled note taking, side-by-side document comparisons, and advanced search functions for locating specified content such as phone numbers and email addresses within a document.
Power PDF 2.0 also offers real-time collaboration using multi-user editing, and users can easily convert PDFs to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or Corel documents to help avoid any re-types. The latest version of Power PDF 2.0 uses a very Microsoft Office-like ribbon interface that is easy to navigate. Nuance also touts the ability to auto fill forms and add password protection to specified files, adding a level of privacy and security anyone can appreciate.
Power PDF comes in two versions, Standard and Advanced, with the latter adding in redaction, Bates stamping, and other features intended primarily for organizations.
Available for: Windows
iSkysoft PDF Editor ($50+)
iSkysoft evens the playing field somewhat by providing a streamlined, feature-laden PDF editor for Mac users as well as Windows users. The standard MacOS version allows for simple conversion of PDF to Word, as well as basic editing tools that allow the user to treat any PDF as if it were, in fact, a word processor file. Users can annotate PDFs quickly, and edit the layout of the document by adding, removing, or flipping pages. Standard users can also fill out PDF forms from their computer, without any printing or scanning.
The real power of iSkysoft comes with the Pro package for MacOS and the Windows version. For a fairly reasonable price tag, users can password-protect PDF files, convert them to a number of different formats, and edit PDFs using 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. Note that the Windows version requires an additional add-on purchase for OCR support.
Available for: MacOS and Windows
Adobe Acrobat Pro DC ($15 per month)
We can’t leave out the company that introduced the PDF more than 20 years ago. Adobe’s Acrobat Pro DC is the industry standard for editing PDF files, effortlessly combining the hallmarks of other programs on our list in one, unified location. It’s also one of the few premium programs available for both Windows and MacOS, along with one of several on the market boasting dedicated mobile functionality and the ability to convert PDF files into multiple HTML pages in addition to the standard Word, Excel, and PowerPoint document.
The software instantly converts and saves scanned documents to PDF, and even possesses the ability to merge multiple documents, spreadsheets, web pages, and the like into a single PDF that’s easily shareable on multiple devices. Adobe additionally offers cloud-based storage and document access through acrobat.com, along with password protection and the ability to redact private information.
Available for: Windows and Mac OS X