A PDF editor is used for many things. Most computer users use it to fill and sign forms, read PDFs, and perform a few other simple tasks. However, a solid PDF editor can do a lot more to enhance your productivity and efficiency than many people realize. Even free PDF editors give you access to a vast array of functions to help manage document workloads on a daily basis. And since much of the world's business, creative, commercial, legal, educational, and professional work is still done on desktops, it makes sense to look at the top 10 free PDF editors for Mac and Windows. So here goes…
UPDF is a true PDF text editor, which means that the text and other content elements in a PDF can be modified, deleted, replaced, repositioned, etc. In short, full control over all PDF content.
It is also an easy PDF editor to use, offering a friction-free interface that is easily navigable and highly intuitive. An array of features makes UPDF an even more compelling choice.
- Full-fledged PDF editor that allows you to edit the text and images in PDF document.
- View and read PDFs in four modes.
- Markup, comment, highlight, and annotate in many different ways.
- Organize PDF files and pages - split and merge files, reorder pages, crop, replace, resize, etc.
- 100% Free - "The World's First Free Premium PDF Editor".
- The intuitive interface saves time and the UI is really delightful.
- Extensive PDF tools cover the majority of workplace scenarios for document management.
Apart from full PDF editing capabilities, UPDF will release more advanced features: convert to and from PDF, protect files, perform text recognition or OCR, add digital and handwritten signatures, create interactive PDF forms, and much more.
Anybody who's ever worked in any office environment is bound to be familiar with Acrobat Pro DC or one of its predecessors. As the most ubiquitous PDF editor on the market, it lives up to its reputation by providing users with the most advanced and highly complex PDF tools they will ever need.
Whether you need to quickly edit a PDF or perform accurate bulk file conversions, Acrobat makes it possible. However, it doesn't necessarily keep it simple. Users regularly complain about how difficult a particular process is or how hard it is to find a certain feature. Moreover, purchasing a subscription can add up to a lot of expenditure over time, and the perpetual license is not exactly cheap, either. That's also why there are so many Adobe Acrobat Pro DC alternatives, including UPDF.
- Mature and stable product with a native Windows experience
- A diverse array of PDF tools for everything from basic PDF reading to advanced OCR and form handling
- Relatively simpler interface compared to earlier iterations of the Acrobat desktop PDF editor
- Expensive for individual use
- UI is not always intuitive
- Complex settings - not ideal for new users
The Nitro PDF editor's Pro version equally matches the capabilities of Acrobat and UPDF, but with some important differences. It doesn't offer a native Mac app but the company did purchase PDFpen, which it is selling under its own name but included in the main Nitro banner.
Nitro offers a very Windows-native interface, powerful functionality, and all the editing, conversion, security, OCR, batch processing, organizing, and document management tools required in a professional work environment.
- Windows-friendly UI
- Cloud-capable (Nitro Productivity Suite)
- Exhaustive collection of premium PDF tools
- Provides online options for some tasks
- Expensive for individuals
- Too many heavy features for basic PDF users
- No in-house Mac version (sold as PDFpen)
Another Windows app with the familiar ribbon interface is the desktop version of Soda PDF. You may already be familiar with the online version of Soda PDF, which compensates for the lack of a Mac version.
However, it was primarily designed for Windows and performs very well with large PC workloads requiring multiple PDF tools such as a PDF editor, file converter, OCR engine, organizer, form creator, electronic signature generator, and more. The online version complements the Windows version on other OS platforms such as macOS and Linux but doesn't offer the same kind of rich features that the desktop edition boasts of.
- User-friendly interface
- Accurate OCR
- Supports conversion to popular file types such as Word and Excel
- Sometimes freezes when processing very large files
- Native app required for conversions - e.g. MS Word for DOC and DOCX
Users who are familiar with the Nuance brand now know it as the Kofax Power PDF. It packs a punch in terms of being feature-rich and has won several accolades from consumer-centric brands such as TrustRadius. Key features of the rebranded Kofax Power PDF include PDF form conversion, content embedding (videos, etc.), document collaboration, eSigning, and more.
Kofax Power PDF is available in Standard and Advanced editions, the latter bringing deep PDF functionality in the form of graphics and text redaction, Bates Numbers, OCR to create searchable text, etc. However, even the standard version is a robust PDF editor in its own right, giving users all the essentials such as PDF creation, file conversion, PDF protection, file management, page manipulation, and more.
- Similar interface to Office desktop software
- Fast conversion of non-interactive PDFs to interactive PDF forms
- Advanced feature set
- Toolbar layout is confusing at first
- Limited file conversion options
Foxit PhantomPDF is a truly global PDF editor, supporting over 40 languages so the product can be localized to any geography. The feature set covers most day-to-day PDF tasks and offers several advanced capabilities such as scan and OCR, advanced text and object editing, conversion from PDF to other formats, PDF creation, document management, etc.
PhantomPDF also allows businesses to integrate the product into existing ECM or Enterprise Content Management systems. This desktop PDF editor is ideally suited to PDF workflows and other document-based processes, while the integrations allow network-wide access to a robust set of PDF tools in one package.
- Convenient enterprise-wide deployment
- Advanced conversion and OCR tools
- MS Office-like UI - ribbon toolbar, etc.
- No extensive conversion support for file types
- Slightly cluttered UI can confuse first-time users
This PDF editor for Windows desktops offers a very similar UI to that of Adobe's PDF products, which makes it easy to switch from one platform to the other. Features-wise, PDF Complete provides users with easy-to-use tools for PDF creation and editing, PDF security, eSigning, OCR to searchable PDF, PDF form filling, annotations, and file conversion.
It is a comprehensive tool that offers a viable and affordable alternative to other premium PDF editors. PDF Complete is a Windows-only application, which is a major downside, but the Windows version checks all the boxes for a professional and productivity-enhancing PDF editor.
- Adobe-like layout for easy transitioning
- Basic and advanced tools
- Easy PDF creation from other applications
- No Mac version
- No OCR to editable PDF text
PDF Reader Pro is a cross-platform solution that supports desktop and mobile operating systems. Although it is essentially a PDF viewing and markup tool, it does allow some forms of PDF editing such as watermark addition, pagination, image insertion, annotations, etc.
It offers extensive PDF reading tools and features that cover PDF creation, file conversion, filling and signing forms, page organizing, compression/flattening, etc. One of the stand-out features in this PDF editor is the ability to have the PDF text read out loud, and it supports several languages. There's no OCR support but you can convert image formats into PDF images.
- Extensive annotation and PDF reading tools and features
- Highly usable PDF editor software
- Multi-platform support
- No advanced tools like OCR
- No batch processes
You may be surprised to see MS Word featured in a list of PDF editors, but it's actually quite simple to work with PDF documents. Opening a PDF in Word will automatically convert it into an editable DOCX file, after which you can edit the content, organize pages, and do a lot of actions similar to PDF management.
MS Word can also export your PDFs to other formats after first converting them into Word documents. If you need to manipulate a PDF file and get the output back as PDF, this might be the best free PDF editor for Windows!
- Familiar feature set
- Supports a variety of PDF versions
- Easy and native document editing experience
- Hard to use with complex PDFs containing visual and graphic elements
- No advanced PDF features to match a proper PDF editor
PDF Studio is available in Standard and Pro editions. The problem with the Standard edition is that you cannot edit content - that feature is reserved for the Pro edition, which costs more.
However, the basic version supports annotations, PDF creation, scan to PDF, form-filling and signing, PDF security, measurement tools, and even OCR and cloud integration. The Pro version of PDF Studio extends this functionality into form designing, file size optimization, digital signatures, content redaction, batch processing, and, of course, full-fledged PDF editing.
- Extensive PDF management tools
- Affordable alternative to other premium PDF editors
- Powerful tools in the Pro version
- UI can be confusing and the knowledgebase is not very easy to search
- Some users complain of high CPU and RAM usage
Now that we've seen the very best of PDF editors for desktop computers, how do we pick the best one? A comparative feature vs. cost analysis points to one product - UPDF. Why? Because it's absolutely free to use despite offering Windows and Mac users a full palette of basic and advanced PDF tools that they would normally have to pay hundreds of dollars for. It also offers a fast and accurate experience when annotating PDFs, or editing PDFs.
Moreover, the user interface is very intuitive for first-time users, which makes it easy to switch from any other PDF editor freely and easily. The other PDF editors showcased in this article are certainly very capable tools that offer matching features, but usually at a pretty high price point. With UPDF, that's no longer a problem - everything PDF and nothing to pay.
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