Best PDF readers for Mac 2022: Free and paid

Apple devices being used at a desk
(Image credit: Marta Filipczyk/Unsplash)

The best PDF readers for Mac let you read, manipulate, annotate, and convert PDF files hassle-free on your Apple devices. 

All PDF readers - even the best free PDF readers - are ideal when you just need to view a document or make minimal changes to existing content.

And since PDF documents are standardized, they’re a good way to ensure everyone is on the same page, whatever device or operating system they’re on. 

Some tools, like Adobe Acrobat - our choice for best PDF editor - even pack in extra useful tools such as eSign software and OCR software to make workflows more efficient. 

To help you find the right program for you, we’ve tested, reviewed, and rated the best PDF readers for Mac, comparing interfaces, user-experience, additional features, tools, and value-for-money.

If you’re looking for fully featured PDF editing software, we’ve tested the best Adobe Acrobat alternatives across Mac and Windows.  

For different operating systems, we’ve also explored the best PDF readers for Windows and the best PDF readers for Android, so you can find the tool that best fits your workflow.  

The best PDF reader for Mac of 2022 in full

(Image credit: Adobe)
Best PDF reader for Mac overall

Reasons to buy

+
Many powerful features
+
Convert to Microsoft Office file formats
+
Track changes to a PDF

Reasons to avoid

-
Subscription-only pricing

Adobe not only invented the trusty PDF document in the first place, but the company has also created some top-notch apps to manage them. Adobe Acrobat Pro DC is a great example, and it supports both Windows and Mac devices. The software allows you to create, edit and convert PDF files with ease.

Whether you happen to be using a desktop PC, laptop or tablet, Acrobat lets you turn any paper document into a PDF file. You just have to snap a photo of the piece of paper and upload it to Adobe’s platform, then you can subsequently edit it. Acrobat also lets you convert PDFs into any Microsoft Office file format, preserving all fonts and formatting.

Thanks to integration with Excel, you can even edit data in scanned tables, making it easier to edit and analyze financial data. Collaboration is also built in, so you can keep track of the changes you and your colleagues make to PDF documents.

Acrobat is capable of detecting the differences between two versions of the same PDF, too. As usual with Adobe, though, pricing is relatively expensive for what you actually get.

Read our full Adobe Acrobat DC review.

(Image credit: Apple)
Best free PDF reader for Mac by Apple

Reasons to buy

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Free and built by Apple
+
Preinstalled on Macs
+
Annotate, manipulate, and sign documents
+
Limited but powerful editing tools

Reasons to avoid

-
No OCR
-
Not a full editor

Apple Preview is Apple’s PDF reader and editor built into every modern Mac. And that’s just one of the reasons why it’s one of the best free PDF readers for Mac. 

When we reviewed the PDF viewer, we were delighted to find a pre-installed tool that had enough features to fulfill the needs of all but the most demanding PDF users. 

Apple Preview is, we felt, “a remarkably powerful tool, offering you the basics, while also allowing you to perform what could be considered pretty powerful editing and note taking functions. You'll even find a PDF merging tool and a seamless way to combine PDFs.” 

The software’s limited, but powerful PDF editing tools manifest in the form of reordering, rotating, and removing pages from documents. There’s no option to edit the text of a PDF here. 

But, then, Preview is first and foremost a free PDF reader for Mac. A way to instantly open documents. No fuss. No browsers. No third-party PDF reader apps. You can also eSign documents anywhere on the page, and add text and comments to documents - ideal when remotely collaborating with other Mac users. 

On that score, Apple’s Acrobat Reader alternative is a stellar option. It’s able to easily compete with Adobe’s software at almost every level. Best of all, there’s no ads.

Read our full Apple Preview review. 

(Image credit: Kdan)

3. Kdan PDF Reader

Best PDF reader for file management

Reasons to buy

+
User-friendly interface 
+
Extensive editing options
+
Cloud integration

Reasons to avoid

-
Not quite as powerful as Adobe

Available to download directly from the Mac App Store, the Kdan PDF Reader is one of the most powerful and popular PDF readers for Mac. It functions as a file manager, file converter and page editor.

With the software, you can easily edit PDF files by adding freehand writing, text boxes, sticky notes, hyperlinks and annotations. And to ensure that important documents don’t get mixed up, you’re able to label them by adding tags and color-coding. What’s more, to keep track of all your saved files, you can make use of an import history feature.

The app works with iCloud, too, meaning you can back up and access saved documents on an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. There’s even compatibility with Dropbox, so you can easily import documents from devices that run on other operating systems.

Overall, you should find the app smooth and quick to use. It’s powered by a proprietary rendering engine, which aims to ensure that large files are processed and loaded without any lag. There is a free version that you can try before you purchase.

(Image credit: Readdle)
Best PDF reader for iPad Pro and Apple Pencil users

Reasons to buy

+
Easy-to-use dashboard
+
Fast search function
+
Works with iPad Pro and Apple Pencil

Reasons to avoid

-
Free version might not be enough

Readdle PDF Expert is a robust and easy-to-use solution for managing business documents. And with a four-and-a-half star rating in the Mac App Store, it seems to be one of the best PDF readers for Mac users. The software gives you the ability to read, edit and annotate PDF documents from a central dashboard.

One of the great things about PDF Expert is that it’s fast and slick to use. Thanks to smooth scrolling and a fast search function, you can quickly find what you’re looking for across multiple PDF files.

This app lets you edit images, text and links, plus the software can automatically detect fonts, size and opacity of writing. Plus, if you happen to own an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, you can add annotations and notes to documents on-the-go. Like most PDF apps out there, PDF Expert comes with a free download option, but the paid version provides a license for up to three macs.

Read our full Readdle PDF Expert review.

(Image credit: Foxit)
Best PDF reader and editor for Mac with perpetual license

Reasons to buy

+
Cloud tools included as standard
+
Useful collaborative features
+
Not as expensive as some competitors

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacking some key features

Foxit has developed a sophisticated PDF management app, with the Foxit PDF Editor being pushed as a tool that goes well beyond PDF viewing, providing a comprehensive range of tools for manipulating and editing PDF files. And it's available on Mac, iOS, Windows, and Android. 

Features include OCR and eSign software, the ability to add and remove watermarks from PDFs, online collaboration tools, and strong PDF converter tools. It also integrates with iManage WorkSite and SharePoint.

For compliant-conscious businesses, the incredibly powerful redaction tools - letting you completely erase sensitive data from a document - will be especially welcomed. 

When we reviewed the software for PDF editing, reading, and everything in between, we were impressed by how simple Foxit PDF Editor was to use. "Almost as easy as using a regular word processor," is how we described it. 

Pricing varies, depending on whether you opt for the basic PDF editor, or upgrade to the more advanced Pro and Pro+ software. 

A free trial is also available, and volume licensing is an option for those who need it. It's certainly worth considering if you're looking for a budget-friendly PDF reader for Mac.

Read our full Foxit PDF Editor review.

(Image credit: Wondershare)
Best Mac PDF reader with document management suite

Reasons to buy

+
Multiple editing options
+
Collaboration features
+
Extensive library of fonts

Reasons to avoid

-
Pay extra for all features

Wondershare has developed a Mac version of the popular PDFelement app, which is positioned as an easy way to edit PDF documents. It gives you the tools to add text, images, links, backgrounds, watermarks, headers and footers to PDF documents.

The software provides an extensive selection of PDF editing options. Not only can you add text to documents, but you can also tweak the font type, size and style. There’s the ability to rotate, extract, replace and crop images too.

PDFelement is a great option for teams in particular, with powerful collaborative capabilities, letting you add sticky notes, comments, text boxes and more. And you can use the tool to fill out business documents such as contracts and tax forms. PDFelement offers a standard package, but for all features you will need there is a professional package.

Read our full PDFelement review.

PDF readers for Mac buying advice

How to choose the best PDF reader for Mac

Why you can trust TechRadar Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

The best PDF reader for your Mac depends entirely on what you need to do with your PDF files. If you're only opening the occasional PDF file, a basic PDF reader or even your existing browser could offer all of the functionality you'll ever need.

We recommend choosing a more advanced reader if you need to fill in forms, digitally sign, or make small changes to your PDF files. This is also a good option if you frequently view large PDF files or have a few open at once. If you plan to make substantial changes to a PDF file, consider a fully-fledged PDF editor instead.

How we test the best PDF readers for Mac

We downloaded, installed, and used all of the programs in our best PDF readers for Mac guide to make a comparison based on first-hand experience. We carried out a range of everyday PDF tasks to assess ease of use and pushed each reader with multiple large files to gauge performance.

Great software stands on the shoulders of a solid support network, so we took a look at the documentation and other types of assistance offered by each developer. We also explored each product's pricing and subscription models and investigated free and trial versions where available.

We've been testing out the best PDF merger tools.

Brian has over 30 years publishing experience as a writer and editor across a range of computing, technology, and marketing titles. He has been interviewed multiple times for the BBC and been a speaker at international conferences. His specialty on techradar is Software as a Service (SaaS) applications, covering everything from office suites to IT service tools. He is also a science fiction and fantasy author, published as Brian G Turner.

With contributions from