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Best Adobe Acrobat alternatives of 2022: free and paid options

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REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
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REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
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The best Adobe Acrobat alternatives rival the original PDF editing software for features, tools, pricing, and more. 

That’s not as easy as it seems, considering it was Adobe who originated the format. Back in 1993, they created a filetype that would retain its formatting and appearance across different computers and operating systems. 30 years on, we’re still using the ‘Portable Document Format’. 

Today, the format is no longer the preserve of the flagship Adobe Acrobat DC. There are many top premium and free PDF editors offering similar services. Some pack in more advanced features, more efficient workflows, and better productivity tools. 

Cost is also another area where the best Adobe Acrobat alternatives offer genuine choice. To access the best PDF editor overall, an Adobe Creative Cloud account and subscription are required. 

You may feel this doesn’t offer the value you and your team demand, and prefer to invest in a PDF editor with a perpetual license. You might even need similar tools that better fit your workflow, such as eSign software and OCR software

To help you find the best tools for the job, we’ve tested, reviewed, and rated the top free and premium PDF editors that offer a genuine alternative to Adobe Acrobat’s impressive toolset. We’ve compared where the competition matches, thrashes, and misses Acrobat’s power. 

Do more with your documents - we’ve taken a deep dive into the best PDF merger tools, best PDF compressors, and the best free PDF to Word converters.  


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The best PDF editor overall is Adobe Acrobat DC

Adobe Acrobat DC is our top choice for best PDF editor overall. Earning 5 stars in our review, we said, “the program is the most professional PDF editor out at the moment, and it comes with lots of advanced features fit for everyone’s needs.”

“Sometimes,” we wrote, “the best solution on the market has its reputation for a reason.” 

The best Adobe Acrobat alternatives of 2022 in full:

(Image credit: Foxit)
Best Adobe Acrobat alternative overall

Specifications

Operating system: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android
Pricing: Subscription / Perpetual license

Reasons to buy

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Slick conversion tool
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Excellent redaction tools
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Multi-platform
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Free trial with flexible payment plans

Reasons to avoid

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License restricted to single device

Foxit PDF Editor is a stellar substitute for Adobe Acrobat.  Like Adobe, Foxit has been offering PDF tools for decades, and users can take confidence from the many high-profile endorsements proudly listed on the Foxit site, with the likes of Amazon, Google, Dell, and Intel among them. 

The company's best Adobe Acrobat alternative, Foxit PDF Editor, offers dozens of useful features. This includes watermarking, adding headers and footers, tailoring password permissions, creating templates, and converting other documents to PDFs. One neat feature is being able to drag files of other formats - such as converting Excel to PDF or using the PowerPoint to PDF converter

In our Foxit PDF Editor review, we felt it might not offer enough value to casual users, but the multi-platform PDF editor app was great for businesses who regularly need to manipulate, edit, redact, annotate, and alter PDF documents.

Indeed, the redaction tools were a special highlight for us. We were impressed with how easily they worked, thoroughly scrubbing sensitive data from documents .The feature is a boon for compliant-conscious teams who understand the importance of adhering to global data laws. 

Pricing for Foxit PDF Editor is flexible, with monthly and yearly subscriptions. If on-going payments are one of the reasons you’re looking for the best Adobe Acrobat alternatives, there’s the opportunity to pick up a perpetual license for a one-off purchase.

You’ll also find two upgraded versions of the PDF editing software - Pro and Pro + - which add additional features for power-users.

Read our full Foxit PDF Editor review.

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Website screenshot for PDF24

(Image credit: PDF24)
Best free Adobe Acrobat alternative

Specifications

Operating system: Windows
Pricing: Free

Reasons to buy

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Free and unlimited
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Works well on low-end PCs
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Fast, lightweight app
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Powerful editing tools

Reasons to avoid

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Windows only
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Can be clunky at times

PDF24 Creator isn’t just one of the best Adobe Acrobat alternatives for Windows - it’s also our top pick for best free PDF editor overall. 

Despite the no-cost approach, the tool - a PC-only desktop app that works offline and is ideal for low-spec PCs - is surprisingly feature-rich. 

During our time with the software, we rated it as “one of the best examples of free tools that go above and beyond. It’s packed full of features, and comes with everything you might need to create and edit a PDF document.”

Tools for PDF creation, compressing, merging, and converting are all present and results are grand. Extras like OCR and eSign are well-implemented. The interface is clean and fresh and emphasizes productivity - you can quickly find what you need and what to do. 

We even felt it bested Adobe in one area. Praising Acrobat for its inclusion of tools for almost use-cases, we noted, “the only exception is if you need something more advanced for filling out forms, in which case an editor like PDF24 Creator or PDFZilla could work better, despite looking a bit clunkier.”

PDF24 Creator is available free and unlimited. The experience might not quite match Adobe’s fluid workflow, but it’s a price you can’t beat.

Read our full PDF24 Creator review.

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(Image credit: Nitro PDF)
Best Adobe Acrobat alternative for avoiding subscriptions

Specifications

Operating system: Windows
Pricing: Perpetual license

Reasons to buy

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Seamless integrations
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E-signature workflows
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Great collaboration tools

Reasons to avoid

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Support ticket system restricted to VIP/Premium
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Windows-only

Nitro PDF Pro is probably the best Acrobat alternative for those who absolutely, positively want to avoid subscriptions at all costs. You won’t find any on-going payment plans with this PDF editor. Just a one-off perpetual license. 

When we tried out the product, we found it featured an impressive toolkit that compares favorably with Adobe Acrobat. The interface and experience make using the software incredibly simple and easy - a factor the sometimes overwhelming Acrobat struggles to boast.

Other tools to let you make changes to existing PDF documents, and even create one from scratch. You have a lot of tools at your disposal, including various ways to make annotations, leaving instructions for colleagues to follow. 

Editing the actual content of an already existing PDF isn’t as seamless as we’d like it to be, and that’s probably the weakest tool in Nitro’s arsenal. Everything else is very well implemented, and we especially liked how the ability to convert files to and from PDFs is performed.

Ultimately, we found this Adobe Acrobat alternative “a good PDF editing software package that allows you to make changes to documents, annotate them, and perform numerous alterations on them. It also comes with a good OCR, conversion tools.”

This PDF editing software is capable of running on a PC or a Mac, and costs $180 per license. Volume licensing for businesses is also available.

Read our full Nitro PDF Pro review.

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Website screenshot for EaseUS PDF Editor

(Image credit: EaseUS)
Best Adobe Acrobat alternative for Windows

Specifications

Operating system: Windows
Pricing: Free / Subscription / Perpetual license

Reasons to buy

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Impressively sized toolkit
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PDF converter tools
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Online collaboration features
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Free but very limited version available

Reasons to avoid

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PC only

EaseUS PDF Editor is the ideal choice if you’re on a PC - it’s one of the best alternatives to Adobe Acrobat for Windows. 

Unlike many of the best Acrobat alternatives, EaseUS has a free, but limited version available alongside the Pro version. This works great in a pinch, but it restricted in many ways - not least adding a watermark to your documents. The Pro version opens up the software, however. 

In our review, we described EaseUS’ offering as “a powerful, PC-only PDF editing software tool that allows you to manipulate and alter documents with relative ease. It also comes with more standard features, such as a converter, and has good OCR capabilities.” Elsewhere, you’ll find outstanding PDF converter tools and eSignature tools. 

The program is impressively kitted out for PDF editing, splitting pages into boxes that can be moved and resized. Content can also be changed, such as altering the font, color, and the text itself. 

And it’s all housed within a refreshingly clean user interface. This makes navigating the tool an absolute breeze - not dissimilar to the excellent user experience offered in Adobe Acrobat, with its focus on maximizing productivity. 

Costs for EaseUS PDF editor vary, with monthly and annual subscriptions and a one-time-buy ‘lifetime upgrade’ option. It’s ‘one license for one computer’. Bundles are available.

Read our full EaseUS PDF Editor review.

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(Image credit: Readdle)
Best Acrobat alternative for Mac, iPad, and iPhone

Specifications

Operating system: Mac, iPad, iPhone
Pricing: Annual subscription / Perpetual license

Reasons to buy

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Draw directly onto PDFs
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iPhone and iPad versions
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Free trial included

Reasons to avoid

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Apple-only

If you’re looking for the best Adobe Acrobat alternative for Mac, iPad, and iPhone, look no further than Readdle PDF Expert. 

While modern Apple machines come preinstalled with the excellent Apple Preview - a tool we felt “should be able to cater to all but the most demanding PDF road warriors” - it’s more of a PDF reader and manipulator, rather than a full PDF editor, like Acrobat. 

PDF Expert is much more fully featured, making it a much better alternative to Acrobat. Alongside image and text editing, Readdle’s product also comes kitted out with converter tools for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, OCR and eSign tools. 

When we tested out the software, we were impressed to find it “has lots of useful features for people who use PDF files on a regular basis. It has a very clean UI design and everything is neatly organized so you don’t need a lot of help in understanding how the software works when you use it for the first time.” We also loved how well PDF Expert synced documents on all Apple devices. 

A wide range of editing tools include the ability to highlight parts of the PDF and add notes, redact sensitive information, extract or rearrange pages, and merge documents. Being able to draw directly onto the PDF is also useful for those who are using the software on iPad and have an Apple Pencil.

The sleek interface and a well-organized toolbar make it simple and intuitive for new users to accomplish everyday PDF editing tasks. In short, PDF Expert makes you feel like a PDF expert. 

Pricing is via an annual subscription or a perpetual license - however, only the yearly fee offers use across iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

Read our full Readdle PDF Expert review.

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(Image credit: PDFforege)
Best Acrobat alternative for low-end PCs

Specifications

Operating system: Windows
Pricing: Free / Annual subscription

Reasons to buy

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Great value for money
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OCR scanning 

Reasons to avoid

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No editing on free version
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Requires 'modules' to add certain features

PDF Architect, from pdfforge, offers a range of PDF packages that rival Adobe Acrobat. The free plan includes basic PDF creation for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint docs, and the ability to merge, move, and delete pages and files. 

More advanced features rest in the Standard, Professional, and Pro + OCR plans. These open up necessary editing, converting, collaboration tools, and more. When we took a look at PDF Architect, we awarded it 4 stars, calling it “a great choice for those who need a reliable, advanced PDF editor with lots of extra features and a stable, reliable interface.”

We appreciated the excellent interface, which will be familiar to anyone used to Microsoft Office software, and the extensive toolkit - praising the developers for “researching the market and identifying underserved niches.” Best of all, with minimal system requirements, PDF Architect is one of the best alternatives to Adobe Acrobat for low-end, low-spec computers. 

However, there are limitations, even beyond the free version. eSignatures, for example, require a separate module in the PDF editor. For that reason, we recommend a free trial to get a feel for what you can and can’t do, to see if it fits your current workflow.

Read our full pdfforge PDF Architect review.

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(Image credit: Sejda)
Best free Adobe Acrobat alternative online

Specifications

Operating system: Web, Windows, Mac, Linux
Pricing: Free / Subscription

Reasons to buy

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Free to use
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Manipulate PDFs in your browser
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Multi-platform desktop app

Reasons to avoid

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Editing function is limited
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Restrictions on free version

For those with a need to edit PDFs online and on a budget, Sejda offers a tool that might just be the best free Acrobat alternative online. 

It’s available as a desktop version that saves files locally to your computer or an online version that uses cloud storage. But watch out for restrictions in the free version. You can only perform three tasks per day, you can only work on one document at a time, and file sizes cannot exceed 200 pages or 50MB. 

One of Sejda’s real highlights is its security process. All files uploaded to the server are automatically deleted after two hours. Ideal, then, for businesses with a focus on data protection and compliance.  

The tool isn’t without its faults, though. We found in-document text editing to be fairly basic, meaning you might encounter some issues replicating a typeface if the original PDF features a unique or unusual font. But as a useful Adobe Acrobat alternative for infrequent PDF editing, Sejda offers an excellent no-cost or low-cost option.

As we noted when we reviewed the software, it’s “a convincingly powerful PDF editor, but you'll need to pay if you need to use it a lot.” 

Pricing comes in the form of a weekly and monthly subscriptions for the web app, or an annual desktop and web app subscription. Team and volume licensing is available.

Read our full Sejda review.


What is Adobe Acrobat?

Adobe Acrobat is a market leading PDF editor created by the company that first developed the PDF file format back in 1992. PDF (Portable Document Format) files are compatible with a wide range of devices and operating systems. They lock in the document's layout and functionality to ensure it appears and behaves consistently.

Editing PDFs requires the use of specific software. Adobe Acrobat is one of the best know PDF editors, but it comes with a monthly subscription fee which some users may not be able to justify. In such cases, people often consider using one of the best Adobe Acrobat alternatives instead.

Read our full Adobe Acrobat review.

How to choose the best Adobe Acrobat alternative for you

When deciding which Adobe Acrobat alternative is best for you, you first need to consider how you will be working with PDF files. 

Modern operating systems and browsers can open PDFs without additional software, meaning this is all you need if you only want to view the files.

You can make basic edits using a PDF reader, many of which are available as free versions. 

If you need to make more in-depth edits, batch process files, or convert between file types, then a fully-fledged PDF editor is the best choice for you.

The best Adobe Acrobat alternatives: How we test

To test the best Adobe Acrobat alternatives, we downloaded and installed each piece of software to give you a first-hand opinion. 

Our research looked at operating system compatibility, system requirements, and real-world performance when working with large files.

We explored each program's features, noting any significant additions and omissions compared to Adobe Acrobat. 

We also investigated the price, payment models, and free versions (where available) for each Adobe Acrobat alternative. Finally, we looked at the support services and documentation offered by each developer as we feel it's a key part of the overall user experience.

Read how we test, rate, and review products on TechRadar.

Looking for cost-effective alternatives? We've rounded up the best free office software

Alexis is a freelance writer and journalist from the north east of England. His love for creative technology stems from the day he was gifted his first ever digital voice recorder (a beloved Olympus WS 110), which brought with it the wonderful realisation that he'd never again have to rely on his iffy shorthand…

With contributions from