Acrobat Alternative: The Best Mac PDF Editor Replacement of 2019
Business • Updated on May 31, 2019
Editor’s note (May.31, 2019): Recently PDFpenPro turns 11. The big upgrade we have tested, and we are confident it’s still our upgrade pick since the core functionality hasn’t changed, and add more features and improvements than ever!
PDF is a necessity in macOS. Without PDF, you can’t easily create & share portable documents. In fact, almost every native macOS application lets you export content into PDF.
Unfortunately, dealing with PDFs can be a pain at times, especially if you need to sign them, merge them or anything else.
That is why a fully-fledged PDF editor for Mac is a necessity indeed! Unlike the common thought, there is an impressive variety of PDF editing programs to choose from.
And, Adobe Acrobat Pro is most people’s go-to option.
We know Adobe Acrobat Pro DC is great, but…
Adobe Acrobat Pro DC has been the standard for PDF editing for quite a long time. Considering that Adobe built the format, it’s quite common too. Anyway, that’s not really a great reason to keep using Adobe Acrobat Pro DC as the macOS PDF editor.
The Good: Acrobat Pro DC is undoubtedly one of the powerful PDF solutions out there. You are linked to the Adobe ecosystem as well. If you are someone who uses Adobe Reader for opening PDF format, you can have the benefits of a uniform UI as well.
The Bad: Even then, Acrobat Pro DC does not offer the best User Interface in town. Sure, it gets the job done, but that’s not enough. We would not recommend Acrobat Pro DC when you want to edit multiple documents and manage everything with ease.
The Ugly: Acrobat Pro DC is damn expensive. It comes with a monthly subscription charge of $14.99. Adobe Pro 2017, an older, standalone version, is available for a hefty price-tag of $449. These rates are way beyond what a normal user can afford.
We believe these reasons are enough for anyone to look for an Adobe Acrobat alternative — or one better PDF editor for Mac.
A word on online PDF editors
Online PDF editors are the next best choice that people make when they can’t afford Acrobat Pro DC. It’s an awesome option too — until you lose the internet connection. The problem with online editors is that you’d need a constant Internet connection.
There are also some security concerns. You basically have to upload the PDF document to a third-party server for editing it. It’s not the ideal option when you are dealing with confidential files either. Also, not all online PDF editors are offering satisfactory features.
Personally speaking, I think online PDF editors are just good for page management of PDF documents. If you need deeper editing or bulk editing, you can’t count on them. More importantly, most people like to edit their files in a native environment.
So, it makes sense to check out some of the actual native macOS PDF editors out there. If you’re a Windows user, check the best PDF editor for Windows 10 review here.
TL;DR – These are the Best Mac PDF Editors available for desktop right now:
Choosing the best PDF Editor for Mac – Acrobat Pro DC alternative requirements
As we said, there is a huge number of PDF editors for macOS. As always, we wanted to picks the best ones. As we do every single time, we had a proper criteria as well.
- The PDF Editor must have a simple User Interface. It should be non-distracting as well as focused. We always recommend a UI that works well with single-document and multi-document management.
- Easy Editing: The PDF editing process should be as smooth as it gets. Automated selection recognition is one of the features we love. It’s not just about the text. The program should be powerful enough to edit other components like images, boxes, shapes and signatures.
- Integration: the PDF editor must integrate well with your macOS system. Everything can be buttery-smooth that way. You may also consider using this PDF editor as the default PDF viewer.
- An built-in PDF Viewer is one of the coolest features you have. This way, you don’t have to check out other software for reading PDF documents. It can save you a lot of money and resources too.
- Markup and Annotation features are also required in the package. It must be easy to add comments and other elements to the PDF document using the tool, you know.
- Feature-rich: Yes, the PDF editor must have enough features as well. This includes basic options for editing and advanced features like Optical Character Recognition. You may, however, prefer an editor with minimal features.
- Cloud Storage: It’s great to have a cloud storage feature in the optimal PDF editor. This way, you can save your documents to services like iCloud and keep everything in sync.
So, we have chosen the best Mac PDF editors based on this criteria.
The pick: PDF Expert (fastest & easiest to dive in)
As the developers say, PDF Expert is a fast, robust and beautiful PDF editor. We tested on different PDF files and read feedbacks from other PDF users online, we came to know how PDFpen beats its rivals.
Without further ado, let’s share our experience with PDF Expert.
The user interface
As you can see, PDF Expert offers a clean and intuitive User Interface. You can simply drag-and-drop a file to get started. Once added to the interface, you can decide what type of editing you want — Annotations and Editing.
On the left, top side of the screen, you have viewing mode controls. For instance, you can enable the sidebar for accessing features like Bookmarks, Thumbnails, Annotations and Outline. This sidebar is a great feature when it comes to navigating within the PDF document.
PDF Expert offers different Viewing Modes as well.
1. You can display one or two pages in the same-screen. This is great when you want to compare pages and make the edits.
2. PDF Expert has a Split View option as well. In this view, you can view/edit two PDF documents at the same time. You can arrange the documents side by side either horizontally or vertically.
This is a helpful feature when it comes to document management.
PDF Expert has a dedicated option for changing the page order of the PDF document. We’ll discuss that later.
In short, we are really impressed by the intuitive UI of PDF Expert.
PDF Expert offers a blazing fast PDF reading experience. The app 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 PDF Expert 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.
Editing PDF files
There are actually four main options in the toolbar — Text, Image, Link and Redact.
One thing we love about PDF Expert is that it automatically detects the type of content you’ve selected. If you’ve selected an image, for instance, you will see options to rotate, replace, export and crop the photograph.
Like the same way, you can add/manage links within the PDF document. You can set up links to the web and other pages in the document. If you ask us, PDF Expert has kept this section as minimal as possible. Even when the PDF file is complex, you won’t have trouble in making edits.
The Redact feature is also quite helpful. In a single click, you can white out sensitive content in the PDF file. I’ve found this feature really useful while sharing confidential data with friends.
Annotating PDF files
Annotating PDFs is probably the second most popular thing you do with PDFs after viewing and reading. Whether you’re a student annotating a book or an architect, marking up a blueprint, you can highlight, underline, strikethrough, add shapes, lines or your own stamps, and export all your annotations with ease. Once again, you can count on the toolbar to access a top-class collection of tools.
It’s very easy to add signatures to PDF Expert. You can do it using text, trackpad or even upload an image of the actual signature. Either way, you get awesome results. Other annotation features also work great in this PDF editing suite.
Managing pages in PDF
As we mentioned earlier, PDF Expert has a dedicated viewing option for managing pages. When you want to take care of a big PDF document, this is a great feature.
This section offers a bunch of options such as Add Page, Append File, Copy, Paste, Rotate, Delete and Share. You can easily arrange multiple pages by dragging and dropping them. You can also extract individual pages from a complete PDF document.
Last but not least, PDF Expert offers an option to add page numbers on the header and footer areas as well.
PDF Expert is available for both macOS and iOS. It also enables content-sync between the devices, you know.
If you want to access documents that you created using PDF Expert for macOS, you can easily do it from an iPhone or iPad. The app can be downloaded from App Store and everything is kept in sync. It’s a great way to access cloud storage: everything is done via iCloud.
It’s as seamless as it gets.
Additional features in PDF Expert
There are a few advanced features that we should talk about.
PDF Expert has an in-built method for password-protecting PDF files as well. This is a great way to secure your PDF file without further complication. It’s so simple that you can go to File Set Password, and pick the password of your choice.
PDF Expert also has an option to reduce file size of a PDF file. While doing so, you can adjust the image quality as well. When we checked, PDF Expert was able to reduce the file size by 75%, which is quite a great deal.
Last but not least, PDF Expert comes with Touchbar support as well. So, if you have a compatible MacBook, you’ll love it.
What could be better
There are a few things that we didn’t like in PDF Expert. We understand that PDF Expert is a minimalistic PDF editor but it has left out some basic features as well.
- You cannot create PDF documents using PDF Expert. You can technically add a new page in the PDF file and add text, but that’s something inefficient. We’d have really loved to see some additional set of PDF creation features in the program.
- PDF Expert could have included a basic version of Optical Character Recognition. It’s disappointing that the program does not even support plug-ins, which can bring in the feature. It lacks other types of plug-ins as well.
- There are only four editing options in PDF Expert. At times, these may not be enough for most people. We’d have loved to see some extra toolbars in there.
- It’d also be better if PDF Expert had better options for bulk actions. As of now, that’s NIL.
Also, PDF Expert lacks options for customization and control. Everything is basic – too basic, at times.
Availability & pricing
PDF Expert is available for macOS and iOS. You can download the Mac version from the official website and the iOS version from App Store.
PDF Expert for macOS is priced at $79.99 while the iOS version can be bought for $9.99. If you ask us, both apps have been priced quite reasonably. The PDF Expert license actually lets you run the app on 3 Macs.
PDF Expert, according to my repeated tests and collected feedbacks from other users, it is faster than Preview. It allows you to edit & manage PDF documents with ease, never compromising the performance as well. It’s true that it lacks advanced tech like OCR but that’s something you should be convinced about. Overall, for the price you’re paying, PDF Expert is worth it.
Upgrade pick: PDFpenPro (most powerful)
There are times when you need more than a basic PDF editor. PDFpenPro is the best choice for that occasion. It comes with a great set of features inside, including the option to create awesome PDF files. If you can spend more for a comprehensive PDF suite, PDFpenPro could be a potential option.
Now, let’s have a look at what this PDF suite has to offer.
PDFpenPro has been designed to create PDF files with precision. The UI has been optimized for professionals. When you open the program, you can see the blank screen where you can insert content like text, images, shapes and others. Like we saw in PDF Expert, PDFpenPro too offers different viewing options. It has a multi-tabbed UI for managing multiple files as well.
The latest version 11 offers the possibility to see different parts of a document simultaneously with split view. Just as you can in, for instance, Microsoft Word, you can have two views on the same document. Either alongside or below your main view, you get this second window pane on the document.
We should admit that’s useful because it means you can be making some fine edits to page 9 of a PDF while referring to page 99 at the same time.
Editing & annotation
PDFpenPro checks all the boxes when it comes to editing PDF files. You can take care of a wide variety of content like text, images and others. All the editing options are included in the same toolbar. It’s also easy to navigate between multiple pages of the document.
The new Font Bar extends PDFpen’s Editing Bar downward, which provides the same kind of text formatting you’d get in a word processor. Select text and then you can change the font, size, justification and so on.
We also loved the Precision Edit tool in PDFpen, which recognizes the parts of the page and removes them intelligently.
There are also a few features that you can’t find in the standard version. For instance, you can use PDFpenPro to turn websites into PDF in a single click. Thanks to the wider compatibility, it lets you export PDF files to Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint formats as well.
Scanning & OCR
Optical Character Recognition is perhaps the best feature inside PDFpen. It has been designed to extract an impressive variety of data from sources like a scanned image. To use this feature, you can open the image in the software and click an Perform OCR button and you’re off the races. In a few minutes, PDFpenPro will help you convert the content into editable text. You can go about your business, including editing other PDF files, or create interactive forms that you can send to recipients, and PDFPenPro will continue to perform OCR on your files in the background.
It’s quite a time-saver and PDFpenPro happens to have great speeds too. PDFpenPro offers much control over the batch OCR process. The app was able to recognize text in hundreds of pages of documents in a few short moments, making them searchable, editable, and correctable. And you can decide the quality and resolution with ease.
Furthermore, the developer Smile has added both medical and legal terms to the English OCR dictionary in the latest PDFpen 11, making the apps even more attractive to professionals in those fields.
Some other features
PDFPenPro has a few features that have been around for awhile that are worth a mention here. For instance, you can use it to sign digital documents. As we did see in the case of PDF Expert, you can easily add and manage different signs and images. It basically goes like clockwork.
A Form field recognition tool scans your PDFs to see if there are any spaces on a page that are meant for users to add information to. When found, PDFPenPro adds a form field to that location where a user can click and enter text.
It also has support for audio annotations and redaction of PDF document. While the first one allows you to include worthwhile comments, the second feature will allow you to prevent sensitive data from exposure. It can come in handy at many times.
Last but not least, PDFpenPro offers multi-device syncing. Because both macOS and iOS versions are available, you can easily manage documents across platforms. All these features work hand in hand to make PDFpenPro one of the most professional-friendly PDF editing suites out there.
What could be better?
The only thing we think of is this: the UI.
It’s a powerful software, we do understand. It’s made for professionals, we understand that too. However, a slight change in the UI can make it all the more intuitive. This would make it easier for people to not just understand the software but also make awesome PDF documents in no time.
We think that’s something to be done soon.
Availability & pricing
PDFpenPro is available for both macOS and iOS.
PDFpenPro costs $124.95. Still, it’s a single license that can power only one Mac.
You can actually find its standard version, PDFpen, on Setapp.
PDFpenPro is made for professionals, and there’s a steep learning curve. Even then, PDFpenPro offers solid OCR, a powerful new Precision Edit tool, and many features that give you better control everything in a PDF file. It is just that you should be ready to pay something extra.
Other apps we considered
Here are some of the top apps we considered as the best Mac PDF editor. They did not, however, make it to the top list.
Wondershare PDFelement Pro for Mac
Wondershare PDFelement Pro for Mac is one of the most well-priced PDF editing suites out there. It has made some compromises in performance and features, though. The best part is that the app comes with full support for OCR and PDF conversion. These two features are great when you consider the overall price tag of the app.
If you ask us what matters the most here, it’s Batch Processing. Wondershare PDFelement Pro for Mac is one of the very few editors that allow complete support for batch processing. You can convert and deal with a lot of PDF files at once. The User Interface actually imitates that of PDF Expert, but we wish it had an enhanced level of performance.
Wondershare PDFelement Pro is available for macOS and Windows, priced at $99.
ABBYY FineReader Pro for Mac
Are you looking for a fully-fledged suite for OCR? Then, ABBYY FineReader Pro for Mac is a great choice for. The problem is that you cannot expect standard features here. The whole program has been made for OCR needs, an area in which you can expect the best results. In just a few seconds, the program would convert a scanned image to editable text.
As far as OCR technology is concerned, ABBYY FineReader Pro for Mac works just great. It was able to do the OCR for even some of the low-quality images we’d tried. But, of course, if you have a better-quality image, the results would be better. We would not recommend the program for standard editing needs, though. The price tag is relatively higher too.
ABBYY FineReader Pro for Mac is available for $119.00.
Foxit PhantomPDF is one of the smoothest PDF editors we’ve seen so far. It packs so many features into a smaller-looking tool. Nevertheless, compared to other PDF editors we’ve covered, Foxit PhantomPDF comes with a larger footprint. Multitasking is not easy when you have Foxit PhantomPDF running in background. It also checks the boxes of OCR and automated recognition.
It’s comparatively easier to do PDF editing in Foxit PhantomPDF. We think, however, that the AI could be an impressive one. As of now, the User Interface looks so rudimentary and you will need some time to get used to the deal. Keep that aside, Foxit PhantomPDF is a great PDF editor for teams as well. It has options for real-time collaboration features.
Foxit PhantomPDF is available for Windows and macOS. It has a hefty price tag of $99.95 for Mac.
Preview is the pre-built PDF and image viewer in macOS. It’s something that you can securely use for viewing and annotating PDF documents. The best part? It’s quite integrated to the system that you get the maximum level of performance. The main limitation here is that Preview does not actually let you edit the PDF files. It has a bunch of effective options for annotation.
You can do a few things like adding text and shapes to the document. Once done, Preview can neatly export the files to PDF as well. Considering that you are not paying anything to get this program, we’d love to keep it aside. So, if you just want to bring some annotations and text boxes to a PDF document — without affecting the existing text, Preview would be fine.
Preview is free and is built into macOS.
The bottom line
So, these are the best Mac PDF editors you can find today. We have tried to suggest PDF editors that work well for particular needs. We hope it helps you choose the right one. If you are still confused and want a PDF editor for Mac that’s easy and effective, you can go with our pick, PDF Expert. If you are looking for a powerful solution that provides similar capabilities as Adobe Acrobat, then it is the time to evaluate the upgrade pick – PDFpenPro – as your Adobe Acrobat alternative.