Acrobat Alternative: The 2018 Best Mac PDF Editor Replacement

Business • Updated on June 4, 2018

Today, editing a PDF becomes a routine when you are desk-bound to work on files.

That’s the reason why PDF Editor is always a hit in the app field. Even for Mac users, there are a wide range of options to edit PDF.

Adobe Acrobat Pro DC?

There is no doubt that Adobe Acrobat Pro DC the is first and most powerful Mac PDF Editor. Almost anything that can be done to a PDF can be done by Acrobat and you’ll pay for the privilege.

But here I am willing to talk about why this powerful PDF editor doesn’t turn to be the best pick for a great part of PDF users.

First the price: it is quite expensive. An annual subscription costs $179.88 (us $14.99/month), and is also available as a stand-alone product for $449.

Second the usability: In our opinion, Adobe Acrobat Pro DC is not as easy to use, and most of those features has never or rarely put into use for most people. Still, it can work on only one PDF at one time, while we often need to batch process files at the same time.

So, what’s the best PDF editor alternative to Acrobat?

You may once flock to free web PDF editors like many of us, or turn to Mac Preview, but only to realize that, both web editors and Preview either fall short of our editing expectations or sheerly can not reach our requirements.

To edit a PDF on mac smartly and feel right at home during the PDF work, here we pick the 2018 best PDF Editor for your Mac after slogging through dozens of PDF editors.

Criteria of Evaluation

To be measured up to our top options, we refer to following evaluation criteria to pinpoint the best PDF Editor for Mac 2018:

User Interface – As the program is designed to deal with PDF files, which itself is a relatively tricky subject to be processed, we will need a quite clean yet beautiful user interface to be easily understood, so we can direct our attentions and efforts straight forward. A cluttered and poor interface will, not only distract us, but also quickly hit our patience limit to work intensively on PDF editing.

Reading Experience – A fast reading experience will allow users to open and view a multiple-pages PDF file efficiently. The program should process the file importing sharply, and respond quickly when any action is taken. Besides, PDF format is designed for different platforms and devices, it becomes very critical if it can resize or fit in to look perfectly on different devices.

Mark-up and Annotation – PDF offers a abundant of interactive elements to facilitate seamless group collaboration, while mark-up and annotation tools are the key behind this.

Editing Capability – Editing is the main task of a PDF editor, it should allow users to edit anything on the PDF page, no matter it is the PDF text, image or media elements. A satisfying PDF editor should be as powerful as possible to edit every single composition of the file.

OCR(Optical Character Recognition) – The movement of “Go Paperless” not only builds us environment-friendly office, but also tucks more and more scanned image and PDF into our digital devices. To work on scanned files, OCR feature is necessary and will become indispensable when choosing a PDF editor.

Storing – A great part of PDF users prefer to store their large-size files in the Cloud, for the purpose to save space on devices, also for the purpose to edit and manage PDF files at anytime, anywhere. Allowing users to interact with Cloud service and store files in the Cloud will offer profound convenience for PDF users.

Additional features -To suit all the needs to edit a PDF, additional features is absolutely the killer. To redact sensitive information, to fill out forms, to reorder/delete pages, to export PDF to editable Word format, to digitally sign…We all know, we are always asking more.

PDFpen for Mac is the Superior Acrobat Alternative Solution

To be frank, we’ve never thought that the final pick would go to PDFpen in the first place, but as we tested on different PDF files and read feedbacks from other PDF users online, we came to know PDFpen how beat its rivals.

What is PDFpen?

PDFpen from Smile Software has everything you need to power your productivity with seamless PDF editing.

Smile sells single-user licenses for $75 and $125 for the regular and Pro versions. PDFpenPro is as full featured as Acrobat in nearly every respect and PDFpen just a little less so, while Smile offers each at a standalone price that’s reasonable.

PDFpen does 99% of what Acrobat boasts in a much easier, intuitive and quicker way. Let’s have a look!

Reading Experience

PDFpen offers a blazing fast PDF reading experience. PDFpen opened the document in 1.5 seconds. Meanwhile, it took almost 10 seconds to load it with Acrobat.

As you select between PDF pages, all the pages are well displayed with fast speed, even, there is no stop when I switch between different pages.

As PDFpen also offers iOS version, I uploaded a file into its iOS version, and the file fit in the device well, I got the same good reading experience as than on my Mac.

Yet, there is a one thing PDFpen upsets me in PDF reading, it doesn’t allow users to open different PDFs at the same time, you are stuck to only one PDF file at one time.

Mark-up and Annotate Important Parts

Remember the first time you wanted to find out how to change the annotation color in Acrobat — I bet you had a hard time.

But let’s take a look at PDFpen. You can see the differences at first glance. The design is clean and intuitive.

The lastest version 9 makes it possible to select multiple annotations at once, copy the text, delete them, and show highlights in the Annotations sidebar view.

You can also choose to print just annotations, making it easier to review comments separately from the document as another PDF or in print form. As you know, not each PDF editor enables users to print out PDFs with notes and comments added.

Besides, for those who require a table of contents (TOC) or need to work with one created elsewhere, PDFpenPro allows substantially more advanced TOC options for more sophisticated and less clunky interaction.

Manage and Reorder Pages

Microsoft Office Word is always deemed as the best tool to mange file pages. However, in terms of managing pages, PDFpen won’t lose in the game. Like in Microsoft Office, PDFpen allows users to add page numbers, specify positioning and format. Besides these, users can move up and down pages to reorder the file, select pages to delete, insert extra pages into the existing easily. No matter how many pages in your PDF file, it will be well organized in PDFpen.


This really helps when you need to edit several individual and random PDF files at the same time. You just need to open one file, then insert other files. After selecting pages to move up or down for reordering, you will be able to edit the file and save it in desired sequence.

Work on PDF Text

Text is always the dominant part of a file, so when we talk about editing a PDF, we mainly refer to editing PDF text. PDFpen helps users to work on PDF text in 3 flavors:

Copy and paste text: you can copy and paste text with original fonts and formatting retained. In case you want to extract some well-formatting text resources to another file, such a feature just cut your time on re-formatting greatly.

Correct Text: in case there is mistaken PDF text, you can select the text you want to correct, then click “Correct Text” button, an editable text blocks will appear.

Add Text: this is quite similar to the case when you want to correct PDF text. You can select the area where you want to add PDF text, then input the texts as needed.

Scan & OCR

Aside from performing OCR on scanned PDFs or image captures saved on your devices, the PDFpen is also able to scan papers from scanner then do the OCR to make the files as computer-readable documents.


The scanning feature is only activated when your device is bundled with a image capturer or connected to a TWAIN scanner.

I scanned a paper document by taking captures from Mac camera, the scanning process is fast. Under OCR process, you are allowed to adjust resolution, color depth, contract, skew and image size, with the aim to enhance OCR accuracy and precision. The Pro version lets you correct the text, too.

Though I got to adjust formatting of several parts and re-typed several words, the OCR results from PDFpen proved to be brilliant.

Fill and sign PDF Forms

Digital signature has used to replace physical signature for a long time, more and more PDF files are authenticated via digital signatures. PDFpen offers AATL or self-signed certificate to sign a documents. It also save your signatures in the library for further use.

Though you can only fill in the fields of PDF forms created from other software, PDFpen offers a Pro version for users to create and customize their own PDF forms.

Sync and Share

PDFpen is both available on MacOS and iOS, which means users can sync the PDF files across all manner of Apple devices. It just becomes much easier if you are seeking a way to seamlessly work on different devices under different situations.

By the way, as the best PDF Editor for Mac, PDFpen also collaborates well with Evernote, users can save PDFs directly to Evernote.

Either for the intention to save disk space or for the intention to work on the go, we upload PDF files to Cloud for storage. PDFpen also takes this into consideration, it allows users to store PDF files in iCloud and Dropbox, which makes PDF editing never stop.

Additional Editing Features

Still, there are 3 editing features from PDFpen that users should never miss out:

Redact personal or sensitive information: no matter it is native PDF text or OCR text, PDFpen is capable of redacting or erase sensitive texts easily

Record and playback audio annotations: it is an amazing way to add entertaining and innovative elements to your PDF files.

Convert PDF to Word: if you want to convert PDF to editable Word to unlock more editing features, PDFpen allows to.

Multiple Versions

In addition to multiple versions on different operating system (MacOS and iOS), there is PDFpen Pro version offered to suit users’ higher needs on PDF editing on mac. Compared to PDFpen, it adds the features to convert websites to PDF, create and edit forms, export to Excel/PowerPoint/ and PDF/A, etc.

Pricing

Now, that we’ve got the features covered, let’s talk money. Acrobat DC currently costs $14.99 per month for a subscription or $449 for the full desktop software. While Smile only asks PDFpen single-user licenses for $75 and $125 for the regular and Pro versions out of your pocket and it’s jam-packed with all of the necessities.

Other Acrobat Alternative We Considered

PDF Expert

Awarded as “App of the Year” 2015 in the Mac App Store, PDF Expert($59.99) continues to outperform others today. As it claims, it is a robust and beautiful PDF editor, helping users to edit, annotate PDF and manage PDF pages on mac, with a Share Sheet build in.

I have to say, its neat and elegant interface just make users extremely comfortable to edit PDF within this program. You don’t have to explore the jumble of icons cluttered on the interface, everything you are looking for to edit your PDF, you are going to be navigated to.

Speaking of its powerful features, PDF Expert offers extensive tools to edit and annotate your files. You are given the power to edit PDF text, image, link or other objects, also you can harness its power to highlight, annotate, fill form, sign, etc.

Yet, the major disadvantage of PDF Expert lies in its absence of OCR feature. With a growing need to work on scanned PDF files, OCR functionality will be a must adds-on. Personally, I am quite looking forward to getting this OCR feature packed in PDF Expert in its following update.

iSkysoft PDF Editor Professional for Mac

With a cost of $99.95, iSkysoft PDF Editor provides users all-round solutions to work on PDF files. Admittedly, it is a powerful PDF pack to manage PDF files, but the main problem is, it fails to offer a friendly user experience to its users.

Foxit PhantomPDF

Foxit Software started out as one of the earliest competitors for Adobe Acrobat XI. Foxit introduced the PhantomPDF($129.00) line of PDF applications to compete with premium versions of Adobe Acrobat. But it, too much features embedded in the software, causing a much higher learing curves.

ABBYY FineReader

ABBYY FineReader($199.99) gets the same capabilities from an Adobe Acrobat, and shares many features with PDFpen. But it, too, comes with a higher price tag.

The Bottom Line

PDFpen, according to my repeated tests and collected feedbacks from other users, it is faster than Preview and nearly as feature-packed as Adobe Acrobat DC, PDFpen is proof the sequel can be superior to the original in every way.

If you are looking for a solution that provides similar capabilities as Adobe Acrobat but for a price that you can afford, then it is the time to evaluate PDFpen as your Adobe Acrobat alternative.

By | 2018-10-11T08:22:21+00:00 June 4th, 2018|Business|