Having invented the Portable Document Format (PDF) back in 1993, Adobe remains the undisputed market leader when it comes to apps for reading, reviewing, printing, and editing this file format.
However, the PDF was standardized in 2008, and since then many other companies have emerged to offer rival services for users looking to work with PDF files. Adobe Acrobat is Adobe’s flagship product, but despite its renown, users would be wise to consider Acrobat alternatives depending on their PDF requirements.
In this list, we’ve put together five Adobe competitors (including free software) and outlined their advantages, drawbacks, and prices. Although there are many PDF readers that allow users to review and make notes on the documents, we’ve made sure to feature only PDF editors in this list. This means that only software that can rival Adobe Acrobat’s functions for editing and modifying text and images within the PDF—without needing to convert it into a different format—has been included.
- We’ve featured the best free PDF editor
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 top product is PhantomPDF, which not only edits PDFs but offers dozens of useful features besides. 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 Excel spreadsheets or PowerPoint slideshows—over the PhantomPDF icon to immediately convert them into PDFs.
Users can enjoy a free trial by simply downloading PhantomPDF from the Foxit website. Its Standard 10 version is tailored to Windows devices, with its Mac 4 version designed for Apple. Both are available for a one-off payment of $166.47, an annual payment of $118.56, or a monthly subscription of $17.95.
According to Nitro's statistics, 51% of all document printing is done just to enable users to sign a document. And so, in addition to sophisticated tools that allow users to create, convert, annotate, edit, and combine PDFs, Nitro's impressive Pro PDF software also comes with e-signature functionality. Users can implement signing workflows that can be engaged with on any device.
What's more, Nitro Pro can be integrated with leading workspace tools, from top cloud storage options including Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, and Box, to a Microsoft Office plugin that gives users the ability to use Nitro Pro directly within any Word, Excel, or PowerPoint document. Users can get their hands on the software for a one-time cost of $159, or try the free trial, with no credit card required on sign-up.
For those with a need to edit PDFs but without the desire or budget to pay for the privilege, the good news is that Sejda offers a free version that might just do the trick.
Available as a desktop version that saves files locally to your computer or an online version that uses cloud storage, the no-cost offering does, however, come with some restrictions. You'll be restricted to three tasks per day, you can only work on one document at a time, and file sizes cannot exceed 200 pages or 50MB.
To remove these restrictions, you can either opt to pay a monthly recurring fee of $7.50, or go for the one-time week pass payment of just $5.
Note, though, that Sedja’s in-document text editing can 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 option for infrequent PDF editing, Sejda offers an excellent no-cost or low-cost alternative.
- Read the full review: Sejda
Available for Apple users only, with a Mac version and another for use with iPhone and iPad, PDF Expert offers users a no-obligation seven-day free trial. This should provide a more than sufficient chance to try its wide range of editing tools.
This includes 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.
One license will set you back a one-off payment of $79.99, and the bonus is that this can be used across three devices. Educational discounts are also available for students and academics.
Users will discover that there are four different versions of PDF Architect, from pdfforge. This includes a free plan, which offers some basic features, including creating PDFs from Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, and rotating, merging, and deleting pages.
For editing content, you'll be required to purchase the standard version for a yearly fee of $69. This version will also enable you to convert your PDFs into other formats, including the aforementioned Word and Excel, but also text files (.txt), images, and HTML for viewing in a web browser.
- Also check out our roundup of the best free office software