Want to jump straight to the answer? The best PDF editor for most people is Adobe Acrobat Pro DC.
When you run a business, you need a reliable PDF editor to make changes to important documents. Whether you’re signing, making notes, or collaborating with others, the right PDF editing software should let you do it all.
Getting the right PDF editor makes your paperwork processes more efficient so that your business runs smoothly.
The Top 6 Best PDF Editors
- Adobe Acrobat Pro DC—Best Overall
- PDF Candy—Best Free PDF Editor with OCR for Scanned Documents
- PDF Expert—Best for Editing Short Documents Using Clean Tools
- PDFelement Pro—Best for Editing Large Documents
- Foxit Phantom PDF—Best for Mobile PDF Editing
- Nitro PDF Pro—Best for Collaborating on PDFs
Adobe Acrobat Pro DC—Best Overall
Adobe Acrobat Pro DC is the most comprehensive PDF editor you can get. It has excellent onboarding tools that guide you through the software’s features and show you how to get the most out of it. The onboarding process helps you make editing easier and faster even before you start using Adobe on your own.
It’s no surprise that the company that created the PDF ranks at the top of the software for editing them. Adobe Acrobat Pro DC uses three parts to give you the most well-rounded experience with PDF editing, sharing, and collaboration:
- Acrobat DC
- Adobe Document Cloud
- Acrobat Reader DC
With these components, you can edit, create, export, send, sign and get signatures, read, and print PDFS. It lets you quickly access your files through the ‘Home’ tab, where you can see recommended tools for the actions you need to complete.
The efficient editing process prompts you through the completion of your task. Plus, with so many editing options, you can add comments, compress, combine and split PDFs, and recognize scanned text with optical character recognition (OCR). It also has features outside of PDF editing, so you can create accessible documents, apply custom actions, and comply with official regulations, including ISO.
As the industry standard, you know you’ll have everything you need to edit PDFs anywhere with Adobe. It even gives you options for how you want to send your documents to others, whether through a link or attachment.
You can get Adobe Acrobat Pro DC for 19.99 per month when billed yearly. That comes out to $239.88 each year. The price increases to $29.99 per month if you choose monthly billing.
If you want to try the software first, Adobe offers a 14-day free trial to help you decide if it’s right for you.
PDF Candy—Best Free PDF Editor with OCR for Scanned Documents
PDF Candy made it onto our list because it has features that other free PDF editors don’t. For example, you’re unlikely to find another with OCR, scanning, and a wide selection of file conversion options.
PDF Candy has 47 tools you can use to edit your PDFs with actions including:
- Image extraction
- Splitting, rearranging, and adding pages
- Crop and resize
- File conversion
The software is set up similar to a phone app. You can easily add files with its drag-and-drop system or use the typical browse feature. For a free PDF editor, it’s fast and functions well.
The only problem with the free version is that it limits you to one task per hour. As a result, completing your work can take a while if you have multiple things to do in one document.
If you need more capability in a shorter time, opt for PDF Candy’s affordable paid plan. It only costs $6 per month, which comes to $72 per year. You can also buy the desktop and web editor for a one-time $99 payment.
To get started using PDF Candy, simply choose the tool you want to use, upload your PDF, complete your task, and download the PDF again. It keeps your document’s formatting, so you don’t have to do extra work like with many other free editors.
The software’s OCR makes it stand out by recognizing text in scans, which you almost always need to pay for with other solutions. If you edit a lot of scanned documents, this tool can save you a lot of money with PDF Candy.
PDF Expert—Best for Editing Short Documents Using Clean Tools
PDF Expert offers a clean platform with tools that only show up when you need them. When you don’t, you can hide them and focus fully on the task at hand.
When you open the software, choose either Annotate or Edit. Then, you can edit text and images with just one click. PDF Expert even has Day, Sepia, and Night themes so you can edit your PDFs and go easy on your eyes.
You can highlight and add stamps, including custom ones to your documents, as well as redact confidential information by blocking or erasing it. PDF Expert comes with OCR and goes a step further with the option to enhance your scans for better readability.
The downside is that the software is Mac only and it’s not as good with large files (we’re talking hundreds of pages).
You can get a free download with limited features or choose from two packages:
- Yearly: $6.67/mo billed yearly
- Lifetime: $139.99 one-time payment
Yearly gives you use across iPhone, iPad, and Mac, which the Lifetime package doesn’t. Lifetime also limits future updates, whereas the Yearly plan gives you all of them. Otherwise, the two packages have the same general features with annotation, editing, converting, OCR, signing, and priority support.
PDFelement Pro—Best for Editing Large Documents
PDFelement Pro lets you create and edit PDFs, as well as convert them to other formats. It also keeps your images the same quality as when you edited them.
You can create forms, reorder and organize pages, annotate, sign, and even save signatures for when you need them again. The software has OCR available, and you can protect your confidential information using password encryption, permissions, and redaction.
PDFelement is great for editing large files with a lot of images, text, and pages. It’s easy to edit your documents with simple but effective tools. Plus, OCR helps with data extraction, so you can extract only what you need.
The software’s Batch feature makes extraction and other actions more efficient, especially when transferring information to Excel. You can also extract images, create excerpts, and build a portfolio with this feature.
This software has two versions—PDFelement and PDFelement Pro. You can use it with both Windows and Mac, but a few features are only available with Windows, like data extraction.
The regular PDFelement version costs $79 per year and allows you to view, create, and edit PDFs. You can also fill out forms, sign, convert and export, and protect your documents with passwords and permissions.
PDFelement Pro adds OCR, Batches, redacting, and data extraction for Windows. It allows you to create fillable forms, save digital signatures, and redact sensitive information. Overall, if you frequently edit PDFs, the Pro version will serve you better.
Foxit Phantom PDF—Best for Mobile PDF Editing
Foxit Phantom PDF makes it easy to edit your PDFs no matter where you go. It works for Windows and Mac, as well as iOS and Android with its mobile app.
Foxit is the most adaptable PDF editor on our list. It has most of the same functions whether you use it on desktop or the app. Its comprehensive editing tools come in all versions.
The solution lets you do all the basics with text editing, but you also get more advanced editing features with some packages. It uses spell check, and you can edit complex layouts, links, and text blocks.
With review, manage, share, and password protection, you can be sure that only authorized users can access your documents. You can collaborate, annotate, merge, convert, and create forms with this one platform.
Some packages let you integrate with your CMS, SharePoint, and cloud storage. With the cloud editor, everything is easy to access and store, so everyone can find it when they need it.
For individuals Foxit Phantom PDF has three packages:
- PDF Editor: $109.99 per year
- PDF Editor Pro: $139.99 per year
- PDF Editor Cloud: $59 per year
The PDF Editor package comes with a 14-day free trial and all the basic editing and PDF creation features you’d expect. You can share and protect your documents, too.
The Pro package upgrades you to advanced editing, collaboration, and security features. With Pro, you can e-sign documents, which means if you need this feature, you’ll pay a lot more than you might with cheaper plans from other solutions.
Pro also gives you a PDF editor for cloud and mobile. Unfortunately, you do need the most expensive package to get a mobile PDF editor, but its mobile functionality makes it worth it.
Nitro PDF Pro—Best for Collaborating on PDFs
Nitro PDF Pro works well for users already familiar with Microsoft products. It has a similar setup, and it integrates with the Nitro Productivity Suite to make collaboration even easier.
You don’t need to work with the desktop version when you can edit online, include all relevant people, and reduce the work it takes to share and edit. The platform is similar to Adobe Acrobat Pro DC in terms of capabilities and interface.
It supports more than 300 file formats you can use to convert. It also uses cloud signing, which accelerates the process of signing and getting signatures. Now, you don’t need to send attachments—you can just upload them to the cloud where authorized users can access them. Using the cloud, you can do everything you would in the desktop app.
Nitro works continuously to improve PDF editing and workflow. Some actions, like signatures, require only one or two clicks with designated buttons. It doesn’t require others to make an account before they sign, and you can drag and drop a saved signature into the appropriate fields.
Nitro PDF Pro only comes in one package for a $143.99 one-time payment per user for up to 20 licenses. Since it bills by the user, this makes it more expensive than some other PDF editors.
Nitro works for both Windows and Mac, and it has onboarding videos and community forums to help you learn the platform. After that, you can create, edit, convert, share, and protect your PDFs. Its Batch OCR and editing with OCR help with more comprehensive scan editing, too.
Since the platform supports so many files, you can convert them to everything from Excel to PowerPoint to PDF/A. It also gives you access to permissions and the ability to create portfolios.
How to Find the Best PDF Editor for You
Formatting and Compatibility
File format compatibility is one of the first hurdles to clear when it comes to using PDF editing software. If your software only supports a few of the most popular file types when you have several more you need to convert, you won’t be able to make full use of your solution.
We looked at what file types our chosen PDF editors supported before adding them to our list. At minimum, a solution should support:
Many PDF editors go far beyond these, like Adobe’s, so that you have complete capability for converting your files. Remember that if you plan to scan files or edit scanned documents, this becomes even more important.
You also want to make sure that your editor retains your document’s original formatting. Among our list, PDFelement Pro sometimes has issues with this, but otherwise works well.
You don’t want a cluttered platform, but you do want to have all the editing tools you need to do the job. This looks different for everyone, so while some users prefer a simpler interface, like PDF Expert or PDF Candy, others will need the more well-rounded tools that come with Adobe, Nitro, and even Foxit.
We chose a mix of more advanced software with a steeper learning curve and less complex interfaces to suit businesses of many different types. You may want the additional tools for your business, but there’s no overall right or wrong when it comes to your chosen editing options.
Cost always impacts decisions when it comes to choosing business software. Many people want to use free solutions, if possible, but many necessary features come with paid plans.
We selected several options, including high-quality, pricier options and the most comprehensive free PDF editing software we could find. If you don’t edit many PDFs and only occasionally sign documents, a free solution like PDF Candy may work for you.
If you know you’ll need more than what any free program has to offer, a subscription or lifetime license will offer you more tools and greater capabilities. You can also try many paid solutions before you buy them.
Cost varies widely between PDF editors, but you typically won’t pay more than $250 per year, even for the best software, like Adobe and Nitro. Some cheaper options come with similar tools, so you can still get excellent PDF editing solutions for less.
Often, with PDF editing, you need collaborative features like annotation, reviewing, and signing. The best PDF editors have multiple collaboration tools, from commenting on documents to highlighting, and even drawing and stamping.
We chose PDF editors that make it as easy as possible for you to collaborate with others. Nitro, especially, makes features like these available through its cloud. Online PDF editing gives you a new way to get work done.
Having collaborative features improves communication and helps get work done on time. For this list, we prioritized platforms that support these needs.
When you have confidential documents, you need a PDF editor that protects your information. We looked at solutions that came with tools for redacting information, password protection, permissions, and encryption so that only authorized people can see your documents.
Many PDF editors have several ways to secure your PDFs. Some offer more with pricier plans, but each one on our list has at least two ways to protect your work.
At some point, every business owner or manager will handle a confidential PDF, so we consider this feature one of the most important. Even if you don’t usually work with sensitive information, it’s a good idea to have this security.
Not all businesses need a mobile app with their PDF editing software, but it helps if you’re often away from the office or need to make a few quick changes. With a mobile app, you can do that conveniently wherever you are.
Most of the platforms we chose have a mobile app, but the best by far is Foxit. However, keep in mind that even well-known, high-quality solutions don’t always have mobile optimization. Nitro doesn’t work on mobile at all, so even though it’s a great program, it may not be for you if you need a portable program.
The Top PDF Editors in Summary
If you’re looking for a free program, PDF Candy has many features you won’t find in other free PDF editors. Users who prioritize mobile editing will want to check out Foxit with its full mobile-optimized PDF editing.