Editor’s note: We’ve looked over this guide and stand by our picks. We also added a little information and updated the structure.
Don’t you just hate it when you publish a PDF file, only to later realize that you made a mistake that’s now unfixable? That’s the bad thing about PDFs. But it doesn’t have to be!
PDF editors can help you edit PDF files, add signatures to them, convert them to other formats, compress them, and more! Why don’t you check out our top picks? Let us get right to it!
If you’re a Mac user, check out our guide for PDF editors for Mac and PDF converters for Mac .
What is a PDF editor?
As the name suggests, PDF editors are tools that you can use to edit PDF files that are otherwise non-modifiable.
That’s the thing with PDF files. In a way, they are like pictures. You can’t just re-open a published PDF file and edit, remove, or add content unless you have a proper editor.
The good thing is that there are plenty of good PDF editors to choose from. The bad thing is that finding the best can be quite a chore.
It’s a good thing we did the research for you, though. So, here are our top 3 picks!
Things to consider before buying
Before buying a PDF editor, consider the below:
- Pricing and value: Sure, you can spend a ton of money and get Adobe’s offerings. But do you really need all these features that you are probably not going to use? Don’t just go for the most expensive or cheapest pick. As with most things in life, the ideal balance is somewhere in the middle.
- UI and ease of use: Cause nobody likes having to struggle just to get some basic things done.
- Features: Basic editing tools and digital signatures are a must for almost everyone.
- OCR (Optical Character Recognition): Some PDF files are fully untouchable without this tool that can recognize text and graphics. This is no doubt the most essential of features to look out for.
Our favorite top 3 PDF editors for Windows
Wondershare PDFelement is the most popular PDF editor that you can grab – and maybe that’s for a good reason. Or several good reasons, actually.
First things first, this is the best balance that you can get in terms of pricing, features, and ease of use. I mean, sure, Adobe’s offerings are more feature-rich. But they are also going to cost you a lot of money and a lot of time to master them.
If you are looking for something that’s easy to use while still offering all the features you’ll need at an affordable price-range, we can hardly think of anything better than PDFelement!
It comes with a great UI that’s easy to use, all of the basic editing tools along with OCR, and plenty of other, extra tools that can come in handy. If you wanna learn more about it, keep on reading!
The most basic thing you want to take advantage of with PDFelement is OCR (Optical Character Recognition).
This is a basic feature that you can use to turn PDF documents into editable files by scanning the document so that PDFelement can tell when it’s dealing with graphics, images, and text.
Just keep in mind that scanning a PDF document with OCR can take some time depending on how big the document is and also how fast your PC can be. Thankfully, you can use this feature even with the trial version of the program, so that you’ll be able to see for yourself just how effective it can be.
After that, there is anything you’ll need at your disposal to edit the documents, add digital signatures, convert PDF files into other formats that work for you, or even compress them to reduce the overall size. Not to mention you can also use the power of the cloud, so that you won’t have to bother transferring files from one device to another.
So, overall, you have everything you could ask for from a PDF editor. Unless you are a pro editor, in which case, maybe check out Adobe’s offerings down below. They may be much pricier, but Adobe is the one that created PDF – which is one of the main reasons why they’ve got everything that pros need. But, for the rest of us, PDFelement seems like a more reasonable choice.
Last, but not least, the UI is pretty straightforward and easy to use. You’ll find that in many ways, it’s very similar to Microsoft’s software suite. Pretty much all your options and everything you’ll ever need can be found at the top of the program or the home-screen. So, it really doesn’t get any easier than that.
For a deep look, read our full PDFelement review here.
PDFelement costs $79 per year for an individual licence. But do keep in mind that there is also the option of buying a perpetual license for $129, so that you won’t have to pay for a subscription ever again.
And if that’s too pricey for you, there’s also the option of buying the Standard version for $69 per year.
But the truth is that a standard license doesn’t make a lot of sense. For $10 less, you are losing OCR, PDF scanning, batch process, digital signatures, and a few other minor features that can be useful.
So, we’d say that a Pro license makes much more sense.
- Great value
- Comes with all the features that you’ll need as a beginner to intermediate editor
- Cloud functionality is a welcome addition
- The build-in compressor and convertor are awesome
- Very easy to use
- Not as “powerful” as the pricier Adobe’s offerings
If you are looking for something that offers basic editing features for as cheap as possible, you can hardly go wrong with PDFChef! At 22.95 euros or roughly 28.22 USD, this program offers the best value we’ve seen so far – which is one of the main reasons why we picked it as one of the best PDF editors in 2021!
Admittedly, compared to the likes of PDFelement and Adobe Acrobat DC, PDFChef doesn’t have much to offer. You can use it for all the basic stuff, such as:
- Merging documents
- Converting PDF files
- Add and edit images
- And you can also add and edit text
So, there’s not too much to talk about here – which is to be expected at this price point. But that’s also precisely why this is the easiest and most affordable PDF editor that we can recommend. You just need to pay a small sum and it’s enough to get the job done.
With all that said, it’s worth keeping in mind that there is no mention of OCR anywhere – which is a bit worrying, to say the least.
Thankfully, editing PDF files is working just fine for the most part. Maybe PDFChef still has some kind of text recognition software. But it’s definitely not as seamless as PDFelement. For some reason, PDFChef keeps on replacing edited text with bolder letters – and that can obviously become very annoying and tiresome.
And that’s about it as far as downsides are concerned.
PDFChef may be the least feature-rich app out of our top picks. But it’s also the cheapest! At less than $30 for an individual license, we hardly doubt that you’ll find anything cheaper that’s worth buying.
- Cheapest pick out of the bunch
- Superb value
- Very easy to use
- Editing text can sometimes be a little rough (Possibly due to lack of OCR. Further info is required)
- Missing a lot of features compared to the pricier picks – which is to be expected at this price point
Adobe is the one that officially created the PDF format. So, it’s no surprise that their offerings are also the most powerful and feature-rich. However, you should keep in mind that this is also by far the most expensive pick here.
Even the cheapest version will probably give you more than our two other top picks combined. But keep in mind that even the cheapest one also costs more than the rest of the picks combined.
If you are willing to spend even more for Acrobat DC Pro, you get more features and functionality than you’ll ever need. After all, as you can see in the screenshot above, even the cheapest version offers most of the stuff that you’ll need. Basic PDF editing with OCR, form creation, digital signatures, a measure, PDF combining, and more.
So, to summarize, Adobe Acrobat DC and DC Pro are the number one choice for those who want everything and are willing to put their hands deep into their pockets for it. And that’s usually pros.
Mentioning everything that you can get out of Adobe’s offerings is frankly way too much information to include in reviews such as these. Let us just say that the base version of Adobe Reader DC includes everything that our aforementioned picks include and more.
The Pro version, on the other hand, goes far and beyond by adding things that we’ve never seen before in PDF editors. You can use things such as:
- Adding playable videos
- Encrypt your documents
- Automate lots of processes
- Make your documents more accessible to impaired people
- And more
So, really, Adobe’s offerings may be the most expensive out of the bunch. But they are also no doubt the most feature-rich.
This is where we imagine that many people are going to steer away from Adobe Acrobat DC. 16.11 euros is the cheapest license that you can get for Adobe Standard DC with a yearly-renewed license.
That comes down to 193.32 euros per year, or roughly 236 USD! This is more than 3 times the price of PDFelement. And if you want the Pro version that’s going to cost you even more.
The good news is that most people are going to be just fine with PDFelement while those who are less demanding can even get away with PDFChef. The bad news is that pros who need all the features have little to no alternatives.
- Full of features
- Nice UI
- Integrates well with plenty of other platforms
- Most expensive pick on this list
- All of the features and options can get a bit overwhelming at first
- Standard version is only available for Windows
Also worth checking out
These were our top picks – but that doesn’t mean that other programs are not worthy of consideration. In fact, there are plenty of great PDF editors that you may prefer over our top picks.
Here are some of the best that are worth checking out!
If you find that your documents don’t usually work well with OCR, maybe check out ABBYY FineReader. It’s known as one of the best in terms of OCR scanning.
RELATED: Best OCR Apps for Mac and Windows
It includes all of the basic features that you can expect from PDF editors like text editing, a file convertor, and everything else like that.
However, one of its biggest downsides and one of the main reasons that we didn’t include it on our top picks is its price. At $199.99 for a personal license, you are probably better off just spending a bit more and going for Adobe’s offerings that are know to be the best in the market.
PDF Architect Pro is a capable and convenient PDF creation and editing program that includes just about all of the features you’d hope to find.
One of the biggest cons you’ll find right out the bat is that only the most expensive version comes with advanced OCR. But, thankfully, there is also a free license for at least opening PDFs and editing Word, Excel, or PowerPoint documents.
Last, but not least, bundle purchasing will give you bonus discounts. So, that’s definitely a welcome addition.
6. PDF Reader Pro (Great one-time purchase)
With a one-time purchase of 59.99 USD, PDF Reader Pro may be one of the cheap options out there for those of you who don’t wish to pay a sum every year.
Just like with most PDF editors out there, you’ll notice that UI of PDF Reader Pro looks strikingly familiar to Microsoft Office apps. So, anyone who uses Word, Excel, or anything like that should feel right at home. It also provides you with a full suite of PDF viewing, annotating, converting and editing features, designed to make working with PDFs as convenient as possible.
That said, it’s worth keeping in mind that those of you who are looking for an easy solution will have to pay extra for the subscription license that comes in at only 59.99 dollars.
Able2Extrac Pro is one of the best pieces of software we’ve seen as far as conversion is concerned. Be it to MS Word, Excel, AutoCAD, HTML, or any other format.
Once more, its biggest downside is pricing. The lifetime license comes in at $149.95 – which is not that bad. But the monthly subscription asks for $34.95 and that makes Able2Extrac Pro one of the most expensive PDF editors to use on a long-term basis.
Not to mention that its OCR scanner isn’t as reliable as some of our premium picks; and that includes both PDFelement and Adobe’s offerings as well. If you feel like giving it a try, use our link at the heading above!
Nitro PDF Pro is one of the advanced PDF editors to use out there. Despite coming with multiple features to choose from, you’ll notice that it’s a program with plenty of icons and a UI that really makes Microsoft users feel at home.
The only downside is that it costs $159 – which is quite expensive. But it also gives you plenty of features, such as compatibility with Revit, AutoCAD, and Microstation, that are normally found in pricier programs like Adobe Acrobat DC Pro.
This is also a good pick for those of you who like relying on the cloud as it’s compatible with Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, and Box as well!
Kofax Power PDF is a good pick for small business owners. But it’s worth keeping in mind that you are gonna have to pay $179.99 after the free trial ends.
This is no doubt a big downside – but one that may be worth it considering how many features this PDF editor brings to the table.
With it, you can expect to find all the basic editing features along with a few more advanced ones – such as the option of scanning documents for sensitive information and automatically removing it.
One of its biggest cons, though, is the fact that the UI isn’t that beginner-friendly.
10. Microsoft Word (for MS office subscribers)
If you are already a MS Office subscriber, you should definitely consider trying out Microsoft Word first before buying another PDF editor.
Obviously, Word is actually a word-processing program. It was never meant to be a PDF editor – the truth is that it can actually edit PDFs up to a certain degree.
Sometimes, it doesn’t handle PDFs with graphics all that well. But that’s to be expected since, again, it’s not made with that functionality in mind.
These are our top picks and pretty much everything you should know about buying PDF editors. Overall, we’d say that PDFelement is hard to beat as it gives you the ideal balance between features, simplicity, and pricing. PDFChef is also a great alternative if you only need the basics and don’t want to pay a lot – while Adobe Acrobat DC is at the other extreme as it gives you everything you’ll ever need but with a premium price tag to much.
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