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Best PDF reader for Mac in 2021: Free and paid

Best PDF reader for Mac
(Image credit: Kaspersky)

The best PDF readers for Mac can allow you to not just read, but also edit, annotate, convert, and more on your iMac or Macbook.

The best PDF reader for the Mac

This is especially important as sharing PDF files has become a normal online activity, with a huge number of PDF documents available on the internet for a wide range of purposes, for the simple reason that it can be read by users with different operating systems.

And while there are general all-purpose free PDF readers and free PDF editors, there are ones specifically for different operating systems, such as PDF readers for Windows, PDF readers for Android - and, of course, PDF readers specifically for the Mac and Macbook.

While Apple Books includes a feature for reading and organizing PDF files, it does have some limitations. For example, it won't work with DRM protected files, plus it only allows for the reading of PDF files while other software can allow for the editing, annotating, and even e-signing of PDF documents. There are also document scanning apps available for working with PDF files.

Therefore if you want to do more with PDF files on your Mac or Macbook, you'll need a more dedicated solution. Luckily there are a number of strong contenders out there.

So here we'll feature the best in PDF Readers for Mac and iMac users - and if you're spreading the net wider, be sure to check out the best PDF to Excel converter here as well as the best free PDF to Word converter lists.


The best PDF editor right now is: Adobe Acrobat Pro DC
Need to edit a PDF, not just view it? It's not free, but for professional results, Adobe Acrobat Pro DC is the tool for you. It gives you total freedom to create PDFs from scratch and edit existing documents without fuss, on desktop or mobile.

(Image credit: Adobe)

1. Adobe Acrobat

Adobe dedicated PDF software platform

Reasons to buy
+Many powerful features+Convert to Microsoft Office file formats+Track changes to a PDF
Reasons to avoid
-Pricing can be expensive

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.


(Image credit: Kdan)

2. Kdan PDF Reader

An easy-to-use PDF management tool

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 management tools for Apple computers. 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)

3. Readdle PDF Expert

A popular PDF editing suite

Reasons to buy
+Easy-to-use dashboard+Fast search function+Works with iPad Pro and Apple Pencil
Reasons to avoid
-Free version might 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 most popular options out there 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.


(Image credit: PDFelement)

4. PDFelement

A comprehensive 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.


(Image credit: Foxit)

5. Foxit PDF Editor

An affordable PDF editing app

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 PDF files.

Features include the ability not just to read but also edit PDF files, along with the option to add headers, footers, and watermarks. PDF files can also be optimized, organized, and esigned, with other features including annotation and protection.

Foxit PDF Editor also integrates with iManage WorkSite and SharePoint.

Pricing is relatively inexpensive, with a one-time license fee for Mac which makes it cheaper than the subscription model used by Adobe in the long-term.

A free trial is also available, and volume licensing is an option for those who need it.

Brian Turner

Brian has over 30 years publishing experience as a writer and editor across a range of computing and technology titles, and has been interviewed multiple times for BBC News and BBC Radio. 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, writing as Brian G Turner.