Welcome to this detailed beginner’s guide on the 7 best PDF editor apps you can use in 2023!
PDFs are great for sharing documents, but what if you need to edit a PDF file? That’s where PDF editor apps come in handy. With the right app, you can add text, insert images, draw, fill out forms, sign documents, and more.
In this post, I’ll compare the top 7 PDF editors for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android. I’ll cover both free and paid options so you can find the perfect editor app for your needs and budget.
Let’s get started!
An Overview of PDF Editor Apps
Before we dive into the top 7 PDF editor recommendations, let’s briefly go over what PDF editors are and what features to look for.
A PDF editor app allows you to modify and manipulate PDF files. Unlike with other document formats like Word or Google Docs, you can’t just open up a PDF file and start editing.
PDFs are meant to maintain the original formatting and layout of a document. Without a PDF editor, they can be difficult to modify.
Here are some of the most common PDF editing features:
- Add or edit text – Insert new text or alter existing text in a PDF file.
- Insert images – Add photos, illustrations, diagrams, etc.
- Draw/markup tools – Annotate PDFs with shapes, comments, highlights, and more.
- Form field editing – Fill out, create, or edit interactive form fields.
- Sign documents – Add an electronic signature to fill out forms or approve documents.
- Page editing – Add, delete, rearrange, rotate, crop, or extract PDF pages.
- Security features – Password protection or apply permissions to a PDF.
- Optical character recognition (OCR) – Convert scans or images in a PDF back into text.
- Collaboration tools – Review, comment on, and approve PDFs together.
The best PDF editors provide a user-friendly interface and a wide range of useful tools for full PDF manipulation. Now let’s look at the top options across platforms and devices!
1. Adobe Acrobat Pro DC – Best Overall PDF Editor
My top pick for the best PDF editor is Adobe Acrobat Pro DC. As the industry standard software for PDF creation and editing, Acrobat Pro delivers powerful features plus seamless ecosystem integration.
Here are some of the highlights of Acrobat Pro DC:
- Robust editing tools – Easily add or modify text, images, links, form fields, and more. Complex layouts and tables are handled with precision.
- Industry-leading OCR – The built-in OCR instantly converts scans or images into selectable, editable text.
- Smooth collaboration – Integrates directly with Adobe Document Cloud for sharing, commenting, and e-signing.
- Advanced security – Apply password protection and permissions down to granular levels.
- Mobile apps – Sync and edit PDFs on iOS and Android devices with the Acrobat Reader mobile app.
- Integration with Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace – Open and edit PDFs directly from Office or G Suite apps.
- Forms creation and preparation – Design professional forms and easily pre-fill, distribute, and analyze responses.
- Accessibility features – Tools to remediate PDFs for compliance with ADA and WCAG accessibility standards.
Acrobat Pro requires a paid subscription but is worth it for power users or those working with sensitive documents. Businesses can purchase company plans to equip teams. Individual plans start around $15 per month.
If you want comprehensive PDF editing capabilities from the industry leader, Acrobat Pro is the best choice.
2. PDFelement – Top PDF Editor for Windows and Mac
For an affordable yet full-featured PDF editor for Windows and Mac, PDFelement is my top pick. It offers an excellent balance of professional tools and an easy-to-use interface.
Let’s look at some of the capabilities of PDFelement:
- Robust editing – Edit text seamlessly, even in complex documents. Insert and resize images and other objects with precision.
- OCR – Built-in OCR makes scanned documents editable.
- Create and edit forms – Build forms from scratch or modify existing ones.
- Annotations and markup – Add highlights, notes, shapes, and freehand drawings.
- Security features – Apply password protection, permissions, encryption, and more.
- Cloud storage integration – Open and save PDFs directly from cloud accounts like Dropbox.
- Affordable pricing – One-time purchases start at $99 with affordable upgrade pricing.
- Mobile apps – iOS and Android apps allow editing on mobile devices.
PDFelement offers all the core PDF editing tools the average user needs at a lower price point than Acrobat Pro. For personal use or small business teams, it’s a great choice.
The user-friendly interface also makes it accessible for beginners who would be overwhelmed by Acrobat Pro. Overall, PDFelement hits the sweet spot of power and ease-of-use.
3. PDF Expert – Excellent PDF Editor for Mac and iOS
For Apple users, PDF Expert is my recommendation for the best PDF editor across Mac and iOS devices. While it’s only available on macOS and iOS, it provides a seamless editing experience across those platforms.
Standout features of PDF Expert include:
- Smooth Mac/iOS sync – Edits and annotations automatically sync between desktop and mobile apps.
- Apple Pencil support – Take full advantage of the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil for annotations.
- iCloud integration – Open and save PDFs directly from iCloud Drive.
- Create and edit forms – Build interactive forms with text fields, checkboxes, signature fields, and more.
- OCR – Convert scans into editable text.
- Password protection – Encrypt PDFs and control permissions.
- View and edit large files – Speedy performance even with huge PDF documents.
- Affordable one-time pricing – $79.99 on Mac with iOS app included free.
While it’s only designed for Apple ecosystems, PDF Expert delivers a best-in-class PDF editor for Mac and iOS users. Seamless cloud syncing and Apple Pencil support make it incredibly versatile for individuals and teams.
4. Adobe Acrobat Reader – Best Free PDF Editor
If you’re looking for desktop PDF editing capabilities for free, Adobe Acrobat Reader DC has you covered. As Adobe’s free PDF reader, it contains many of the core features people need for occasional PDF edits and annotations.
Here are some of the free highlights of Adobe Acrobat Reader DC:
- Add comments and markup – Annotate with sticky notes, highlights, stamps, shapes, and drawing tools.
- Fill and sign forms – Complete PDF forms and add e-signatures.
- View and search – Advanced capabilities for navigating and finding text in PDFs.
- Edit text and images – Make minor edits to text and update images and objects.
- Accessibility support – Tools to remediate PDFs for accessibility.
- Mobile app – Free separate apps for iOS and Android.
- No subscription is required – Totally free for both commercial and personal use.
While Acrobat Reader doesn’t allow major edits like page manipulation or changes to PDF structure, it’s suitable for light tasks like annotations and form filling. Simple editing is also feasible.
For basic PDF needs, Acrobat Reader provides respectable capabilities without spending a dime. It’s available for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android.
5. PDFescape – Best Online PDF Editor
For basic PDF editing right within your web browser, PDFescape is my pick for the best online PDF editor. As a free online tool, PDFescape allows you to view, annotate, fill forms and make minor tweaks to PDFs from any web-connected device.
Here are some of the useful editing features PDFescape offers:
- Add text – Insert and edit text boxes throughout a PDF.
- Annotate – Use shapes, lines, arrows, and text boxes to markup PDFs.
- Edit images – Resize, replace, and modify images.
- Forms – Fill out interactive PDF forms and save your responses.
- Drawing – Add freehand drawings with customizable pen settings.
- Password protection – Add passwords and permissions to restrict access.
While PDFescape isn’t robust enough for major document editing, it’s handy for quick edits and annotations directly in the browser. It can also save and convert PDFs to other formats like Excel, Word, and PowerPoint.
For casual PDF tasks without installing any software, PDFescape is a handy free solution.
6. Foxit PDF Editor – Lightweight PDF Editor for Windows
Foxit PDF Editor provides a quality lightweight PDF editor for Windows users. It delivers solid PDF capabilities in a smaller package than heavyweights like Adobe Acrobat.
Let’s look at some of the key highlights of Foxit PDF Editor:
- Compact size – Smaller install size around 100MB compared to over 1GB for Acrobat.
- Smooth performance – Responsive even when working with large, complex PDF documents.
- Intuitive ribbon interface – Makes tools easy to find and use.
- Integrated OCR – Convert scans to selectable text.
- Add comments – Annotate PDFs with highlights, shapes, text, and drawings.
- Forms – Fill out, save, and reset interactive PDF forms.
- Security – Password protect and encrypt sensitive PDFs.
- Affordable – Around $100 for a lifetime license with discounts available.
While it lacks some of Acrobat’s advanced features, Foxit provides an easy-to-use and budget-friendly PDF editing solution for Windows. PDF power users may want more capabilities, but Foxit hits a sweet spot if you don’t need the full Acrobat toolbox.
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7. Kdan PDF Reader – Top PDF Editor for Mobile
When it comes to PDF editing on mobile devices, Kdan PDF Reader is my top pick. It provides robust PDF annotation and markup tools tuned for smaller touchscreens.
Some of the useful features Kdan PDF Reader offers:
- Broad device support – Optimized for both tablets and phones on iOS and Android.
- Annotation tools – Add highlights, shapes, stamps, drawings, and text boxes.
- Editing – Insert and edit text in paragraphs and text boxes.
- Forms – Fill out and sign interactive PDF forms.
- PDF reflow – Dynamically adjusts text to fit screen sizes.
- Document scanner – Take photos and convert them to PDFs within the app.
- Cloud storage support – Open and save PDFs from common cloud services.
- Free and paid versions – Core features are free with advanced capabilities through one-time in-app purchases.
For accessing, marking up, and signing PDFs on the go, Kdan PDF Reader provides excellent capabilities tuned for mobile productivity. Tablet support and PDF reflow make it easy to get work done from anywhere.
Recommendations Based on Your Needs
Hopefully, this guide has given you a great overview of the PDF editor landscape and the capabilities of the top apps!
Here’s a quick summary of my recommendations based on common PDF editing needs:
- For comprehensive professional use – Adobe Acrobat Pro DC
- For desktop power at an affordable price – PDFelement
- For seamless Apple ecosystem use – PDF Expert
- For basic free editing – Adobe Acrobat Reader
- For quick edits in the browser – PDFescape
- For a lightweight Windows editor – Foxit PDF Editor
- For robust mobile editing – Kdan PDF Reader
Take some time to evaluate your specific editing requirements. Download some free trials and test out the apps mentioned here. That will help you find the right match at the right price point for your needs.
With the surge of digital documents, PDFs will only become more common in both business and personal contexts. Investing in the right PDF editor app will give you the power to easily modify and manipulate PDFs when you need to.
Thanks for reading and please let me know in the comments if you have any questions!
7 Best PDF Editor Apps – Conclusion
Now you are equipped with the right knowledge to choose the perfect PDF editor for any situation! With options for desktop, mobile, and online use, you can find an editor that fits your budget, platform, and feature needs.
The key is matching your requirements to tools. For intense editing and OCR needs, Acrobat Pro or PDFelement are great choices. More basic annotation and form capabilities are free with Acrobat Reader. Foxit, PDF Expert, and Kdan PDF Reader fill specific niches across operating systems and devices.
No matter which PDF editor you choose, you’ll be able to easily edit and modify PDF files right within reach. With the exponential growth of digital documents, that flexibility is critical for both work and personal applications.
Hopefully, this beginner’s guide to the top 7 PDF editors has been helpful! Let me know in the comments if you have any other questions. And happy editing with whatever PDF app you decide on.