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The Top 10 Best PDF Tools & Editors

The Top 10 Best PDF Tools & Editors

Portable Document Format (PDF) files are universally used for sharing documents while preserving formatting across platforms. But working with PDFs isn’t always straightforward. That's where PDF software comes in handy. This comprehensive guide covers the best PDF tools for creating, editing, converting, organising, securing, and signing PDFs.

1. Adobe Acrobat Pro DC – Best Overall

Adobe Acrobat Convert Png To Pdf File

With its robust features and name recognition, Adobe Acrobat Pro DC is our choice for the best overall PDF software.

Key Features

  • Create and export high-quality PDFs from 200+ file formats
  • Edit text and images in PDFs
  • Add or touch up links, bookmarks, headers and footers
  • Permanently delete sensitive information
  • Compare versions of a PDF side-by-side
  • Convert web pages to PDF in a click
  • Touch-up scans and turn them into intelligent, selectable PDFs
  • Automate document workflows
  • Add signatures and review PDFs with others
  • Comment and annotate PDFs for collaboration
  • Protect sensitive documents
  • Track document usage

Acrobat Pro allows extensive editing of text, graphics, and page layouts in PDFs. The OCR feature even lets you edit scanned documents. Collaboration tools like comment threads make it easy to gather feedback. Form creation, automated workflows, and e-signatures take your documents to the next level.

Acrobat Pro handles any PDF task with its functional power and intuitive interface. But all these features come at a cost ─ an annual subscription ranges from $180-$480 per year.

Cost: $14.99-$39.99 per month

2. PDFelement – Best for Affordability

PDFelement matches Acrobat Pro in features while costing a fraction of the price. This makes it our top pick for affordability.

Key Features:

  • Edit, convert, create, secure, sign PDFs
  • OCR for scanned documents
  • Annotate and collaborate
  • Form creation
  • Batch processing
  • PDF optimisation
  • Integrates with Dropbox, Google Drive, Evernote
  • Automate workflows

At $99 for a perpetual license, PDFelement delivers tremendous value. It handles everything from editing text, images, links, and pages to automated form filling and batch processing. Third-party app integrations enhance document workflows.

While the interface isn’t as polished as Acrobat, PDFelement gets the job done at a wallet-friendly price. For individual and small business users, it packs an impressive punch.

Cost: $69 annual plan or $99 perpetual license

3. Nitro Pro – Best Alternative Interface

Nitro Pdf Pro Tool

With its ribbon-style interface, Nitro Pro will feel instantly familiar to Microsoft Office users. This makes it our choice for the best alternative interface.

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Key Features:

  • Create, edit, review, and e-sign PDFs
  • Convert documents to and from PDFs
  • Edit text, images, and links in PDFs
  • Annotate PDFs
  • Compare PDF documents
  • Optical character recognition
  • Automate workflows
  • Integrates with Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive
  • Digital signatures and certificate validation
  • Batch processing

Nitro excels at editing PDF text and images quickly and accurately thanks to its useable UI. It also makes converting Office documents into high-quality, editable PDFs easy. Collaboration features allow you to gather feedback quickly.

While Nitro matches other top-tier PDF apps in functionality, its Office-style interface gives it an edge in usability. At $159 per year, Nitro lands solidly as a mid-priced option for premium PDF editing and conversion.

Cost: $159 annual subscription

4. Foxit PhantomPDF – Best for Lightweight Editing

Foxit PhantomPDF is speedy, lightweight software focused on essential PDF tasks, making it our choice for light PDF editing.

Key Features:

  • Create and export PDFs from files or scanners
  • Edit text, images, pages in PDF documents
  • Annotate and comment on PDFs
  • Redact confidential text
  • Compare PDF documents side-by-side
  • Convert PDFs to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint
  • Optical character recognition
  • Digital signatures
  • Encrypt and protect PDF files

PhantomPDF utilises a ribbon toolbar for quick access to editing tools. It handles all the PDF editing basics capably while using fewer system resources than heavier programs. Simple tools for signing, securing, converting, and commenting on PDFs reveal its features.

While it doesn’t offer as many bells and whistles as other picks, PhantomPDF gets top marks for fast performance with a lightweight footprint. At $99 for a perpetual fall license, it hits the affordability sweet spot for essential PDF modification on desktops.

Cost:  $129 annual subscription or $99 perpetual license

5. PDFBuddy – Best Free PDF Editor

Pdf Buddy Best Pdf Tools

For light PDF editing on a budget, it’s tough to beat PDFBuddy. This free, web-based tool earns our award for best free PDF editor.

Key Features:

  • Edit text and images in PDF files
  • Add or remove PDF pages
  • Fill out interactive PDF forms
  • Sign PDF documents with an e-signature
  • Annotate PDFs
  • Rotate, reorder, delete PDF pages
  • Use OCR on scanned PDFs
  • Password-protect PDF files
  • Convert PDF to Word, Excel, JPG and more

Despite being free, PDFBuddy packs a versatile editing punch for unlocking and modifying PDFs. It runs right in your web browser, and no installation is required. The simple editing tools make changes quickly without a steep learning curve.

PDFBuddy works well for individuals and small teams needing to update and convert essential PDF documents on the fly. Don’t expect advanced features like automation, batch processing, or document comparisons. But if straightforward, no-cost PDF editing suits your needs, PDFBuddy is tough to beat.

Cost: Free

6. Soda PDF – Best Cloud Solution

Soda PDF has an intuitive web interface and deep integration with online storage services. These attributes make Soda PDF our pick for top PDF software for the cloud.

Key Features:

  • Edit, convert, and create PDFs in a web browser
  • Annotate and comment on documents
  • Add or edit links, bookmarks, images, shapes, and text
  • Compare documents side-by-side
  • Optical character recognition (OCR)
  • Fillable forms with calculated fields
  • Sign PDFs electronically
  • Encrypt and password-protect
  • Automate workflows
  • Integrates with Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote, and OneDrive
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Sharing and accessing documents is seamless with Soda PDF’s cloud connectivity. Features like document comparison, annotation, bookmarks, links, and OCR provide versatile PDF editing tools.

While the browser interface limits some advanced functionality, Soda PDF hits the sweet spot for easy PDF editing and collaboration in the cloud. At $6 monthly billed annually, it nets substantial value without breaking your budget.

Cost: $6 per month billed annually

7. PDFpenPro – Best for Mac Users

Pdf Pen Pro Editor

For Mac diehards, we nominate PDFpenPro as the leading PDF tool. Its smooth macOS integration makes it the ideal pick for Apple fans.

Key Features:

  • Create PDFs from any document or scanner on a Mac
  • Edit text, images, and page layouts in PDF documents
  • Annotate and markup PDFs
  • Use OCR on scanned PDFs
  • Compare PDF documents
  • Password-protect and sign PDFs with certificates
  • Automate processes with AppleScript
  • Create fillable forms
  • Work directly with documents stored in iCloud or other cloud platforms

PDFpenPro feels right at home on Mac with seamless system integration and an intuitive interface. It brings expected features like annotation, redaction, e-signatures, links, bookmarks, and smart scans optimised for macOS. Dropbox, iCloud, OneDrive, and Google Drive support the package.

While it lacks some bells and whistles of its Windows counterparts, PDFpenPro leverages Apple’s ecosystem exceptionally well. Devoted Mac users will feel immediately comfortable with its features tailored for macOS. Priced at $75 for a single license, it delivers solid value.

Cost: $75 one-time purchase

8. Scanbot PDF Scanner – Best Mobile Scanning App

Converting paper documents into editable digital files is a pain ─ unless you have Scanbot. This slick mobile app is our favourite PDF scanner tool for iOS and Android.

Key Features:

  • Quickly scan documents with a mobile camera
  • Auto-cropping and page detection
  • Optical character recognition
  • Create editable PDFs and JPGs
  • Annotate scanned pages
  • Encrypt and password-protect
  • Integrates with cloud storage providers
  • Automated document workflows
  • Templates for digitising receipts, notes, contracts, etc.

No matter where you are, Scanbot transforms papers into usable, searchable PDFs or JPEGs with a snap. Its smart cropping and enhancement tools optimise scans on the fly. Cloud services integration and process automation enable unique workflows.

While Scanbot lacks some PDF editing tools of full desktop software, its specialised focus on mobile capture excels. At $7 monthly or $48 yearly, this time-saving automation powerhouse pays dividends for anyone handling documents on mobile devices.

Cost: $6.99 monthly subscription/$47.99 annual subscription

9. Adobe Export PDF – Best Plug-In

Creating PDF files becomes one-click easy by adding the Adobe Export PDF plug-in to Microsoft Office. This handy add-on earns our nomination as the top PDF maker utility.

Key Features:

  • One-click PDF creation from Word, Excel, PowerPoint
  • Select individual worksheets or PPT slides to export
  • Output PDF digitally optimised for small size and web use
  • Apply security permissions to PDF files
  • Retain bookmarks, links, and outline levels in exported PDFs
  • Batch export multiple Office files to PDF

Forget about printing to PDF creators or opening interim applications. Export PDF appears suitable for use in Office apps to convert files instantly. The streamlined utility optimises documents for fast web viewing. Password-protection, permissions, and text compression build in security.

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If your primary PDF needs revolve around turning Office documents into shareable PDFs, a simple plug-in like Export PDF does the trick. And the convenient accessibility from inside your Office apps makes it quick and seamless.

Cost: $149 one-time purchase

10. DocHub – Best PDF Editor for Teams

Dochub Pdf Editor

Collaborating on PDFs requires specialised tools tailored for groups. That’s why cloud-based DocHub secures our vote for the best PDF software for teams.

Key Features:

  • Real-time coauthoring of PDF documents
  • Comment threads and annotations
  • Document version histories
  • User permissions controls
  • Password protection and encryption
  • Integrates with Dropbox, OneDrive, Box, and Google Drive
  • Compare two PDF documents side-by-side
  • Edit PDF text, images, links
  • Dynamic fillable forms and signature requests
  • OCR for scanned PDFs

DocHub centralises PDFs securely in the cloud for smooth team editing, feedback, and approval. Robust controls, permissions, dual authentication, and SSL encryption keep documents safe. Team members coauthor PDFs in real-time with chat, annotations, edit tracking, and version control integrating seamlessly into workflows.

While it lacks some features power users may want, DocHub provides an intuitive collaboration platform tailored for groups to modify, review, and approve PDFs on any device. And at $10 per month per user, it brings serious team functionality at a respectable price.

Cost: $10 per user monthly/$100 per user annual


With the growing prominence of PDFs in business and personal applications, having the right PDF tools makes all the difference in saving time and boosting productivity. The options covered in this guide represent the top PDF software across critical categories to handle any PDF need imaginable.

Whether you crave unlimited power with Adobe Acrobat, slick cloud collaboration through DocHub, effortless Office integration using Adobe Export PDF, or simple free editing via PDFBuddy, this guide lays out the best-of-breed PDF solutions to take your document wrangling to the next level. Employing the right PDF toolkit gives you the power to create, edit, convert, collaborate on, and secure PDFs for any situation.

FAQs About the Best PDF Tools

Ready to select the ideal PDF apps to level up your document game? This set of frequently asked questions offers concise answers on critical considerations for evaluating PDF software picks.

What is the most accessible PDF software to use?

Nitro Pro takes top marks for pure usability with its familiar ribbon interface, similar to Microsoft Office. Adobe Acrobat also offers an exceptionally intuitive experience that feels immediately familiar.

Which PDF editor is best for Windows 10?

Two full-featured titans lead the pack of Windows PDF editors: Adobe Acrobat Pro DC and Nitro Pro. Both enable extensive editing, conversion, collaboration, and security functions with polished interfaces. For more affordability but fewer frills, PDFelement and PhantomPDF also perform capably.

What is the best free PDF editing software?

PDFBuddy takes the crown for fully-featured free PDF editing functionality entirely in your web browser. For desktop clients under $100, Foxit PhantomPDF serves as an excellent lightweight editor.

What is the most secure PDF software?

Which is better – Adobe Acrobat or Nitro Pro?

Adobe Acrobat Pro reigns supreme with more extensive features, smarter OCR, and better accessibility support. However, Nitro Pro offers comparable functionality focused mainly on document conversion and collaboration at a lower price point. Choosing between the two depends on your specific needs and budget.

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Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

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