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Best PDF editors in 2022

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The best PDF editors allow you to do more with PDF files. But which PDF editor is most suitable for your workflow and needs?

Portable Document Format files, despite their appearance, are not made of stone. You can open almost any PDF file with the best PDF editors. This allows you to edit, modify, annotate and sign it.

Adobe co-founder Dr. John Warnock first created PDF in the early days desktop publishing (the early 1990s). He wanted to digitally capture high-quality layouts and design of printed pages such as those found in magazines and newspapers.

Even though PDF files are often presented as completed documents, they can be modified and altered with the correct software. The best PDF editors are able to recognize text in scanned documents and allow you to edit text as well as images. You can also make annotations so that another person can update the original file.

Are you a PDF file user? This list includes the top PDF editors that can alter text, change images, and annotations in portable documents. We have tested over a dozen different options. You can use PDF editors on Mac and Windows, and there are both paid and free versions.

Which PDF editors are the best?

SmileOnMyMac’s best PDF editor for Mac is PDFpenPro 11. It has a long list of features, and exceptional capabilities in optical character recognition (OCR).

You can also create PDFs, forms, and tables of contents using the app if you require additional creation tools beyond editing and annotation.

This is great if your Mac has it, but what if you don’t have one? Windows users, or Mac users who are looking for an alternative, should consider Adobe Acrobat Pro DC. It also offers a great tool set. We love Acrobat Pro’s OCR capabilities. It is also easy to edit scanned text.

PDF Candy is a great choice for those who like free software. Although it has limited text editing tools, this PDF editor excels in creating and converting files. PDF Candy was also ranked #1 on our list top free PDF editors.

Apple’s Preview app is an integrated part of macOS and can be used to simply add annotations to documents. Preview is easy to use, and it’s completely free.

PDFescape is also available for files up to 100 pages. This browser-based tool can be used with all browsers, including Chrome and Firefox. It’s free to use on all devices.

We also tested PDF Expert Pro, PDFelement Pro, and Sejda PDF Desktop Pro. Although each app has its strengths, there are just too many quirks to place them on our top list of PDF editors.

The best PDF editors available today

1. PDFpenPro 11

Best PDF editor


Cost: $130/year

SmileOnMyMac Developer

Compatibility with macOS

Category: PDF editor

Today’s Top Deals

Visit Smile Software

There are many reasons to buy

+Excellent OCR+Extensive collection of editing and annotating tools

Avoidable reasons

Editing OCR-encoded text is not always easy

PDFpenPro, a macOS-only PDF Editor, has been around for many years. You can also get it in a cheaper version that offers fewer editing options. This version, PDFpen is also available for Macs and iOS.

PDFpenPro is a top-rated Mac application thanks to its strong features. Not the least, it has an excellent OCR engine. Full PDF-document editing allows you to make text changes and replace images within PDF documents. You can also create and edit PDF documents, as well as create or modify forms.

OCR tools in the application are solid. PDFpenPro automatically detects if the PDF you are working with is a scan or contains text. The application will ask you if it wants to recognize the text in the page if it is the latter.

PDFpenPro recognized text in large documents exceeding 400 pages and made it searchable and editable in minutes. Editing recognized text is more difficult than editing text in a nonscanned document.

2. Acrobat Pro DC

Best PDF editor for Windows


Cost: $180/year

Developer: Adobe

Compatibility: macOS and Windows

Category: PDF editor

+Full-featured PDF editing & annotation tool+Excellent optical character recognition

Avoidable reasons

UI feels unfinished and amateurish because it is cluttered.

Adobe Acrobat Pro DC is a great product. It comes from Adobe, which is the originator of the portable document format. This full-service PDF-editing software meets this expectation to a certain extent.

Acrobat DC Pro DC provides a comprehensive set of PDF-editing tools. It even allows you to edit scanned documents. Acrobat DC’s OCR engine converts scanned documents into text that you can search and modify.

Acrobat won’t convert an entire document as soon as you open it. Instead, Acrobat waits to let you use the Pro DC’s editing tools. The app recognizes and converts pages as you choose them for editing. The process of changing text in an OCR-encoded document was easy and the results were great.

You can also edit text and images in documents that have not been scanned. Everything was easy to modify.

The interface is what I don’t love about Acrobat DC. It’s a demo version of the full potential of the app. The UI is disorganized and offers few customization options.

Acrobat DC is designed to be compatible with both Macs and Windows. It doesn’t mean that this program isn’t capable of doing what it was designed to do, but it does make you feel like you are working on an OS other than your own.

3. PDF Candy

Free PDF Editor


Cost: No Charge

Developer: Icecream Apps

Compatibility: Chrome Firefox, Edge, Opera and Safari

Category: File conversion, OCR, PDF editing

Today’s Top Deals

View at PDF Candy

There are many reasons to buy

+OCR capabilities+Extensive features for converting, creating files+Solid layout tools for PDFs

Avoidable reasons

-Limited text editing capabilities

Our new choice for the best-free PDF editor has been named PDF Candy. It offers an OCR feature that scans text. This web-based PDF editor doesn’t allow you to edit OCR text, but it allows you to upload PDF files, extract text, and create text documents, RTF files, and Word documents in both.docx and.docx formats.

There are 44 options available to convert or create PDF files. You can also rearrange pages in a document, add watermarks to protect PDF files with passcodes and edit metadata within a pdf file. The actual text editing capabilities are limited. However, you can enjoy a very feature-rich PDF editor.

After you have made your changes in PDF Candy you can either download the edited document or upload another document. PDF Candy stores all your documents in a list so that you can quickly download them all after you have finished making any changes.

4. PDFescape

Best PDF-annotation tool


Premium accounts cost $36/year; Free of charge

Red Software for Developers

Compatibility: Chrome Firefox, Edge, Opera and Safari

Category: PDF annotation

Today’s Top Deals

View at PDFescape

There are many reasons to buy

+Web-based annotators are simple to use and understand

Avoidable reasons

When you add text, there are very few font options

PDFescape is a web-based PDF-editing/-annotation program that you can use to create PDF documents smaller than 10MB or 100 pages. The original limit of PDFescape was 50 pages. This is now a welcomed change. You can upgrade to a premium account to edit larger files for $36 per year. You can also purchase the “ultimate” plan at $72 per annum.

PDFescape is accessible through any modern web browser. It does not offer OCR capabilities as PDF Candy. PDFescape’s annotation tools are simple to use. There are a number of standard tools that allow you to add, highlight, strike through and insert notes to your PDF files. You can also mark up pages with other annotation tools. You can add images to a document, add text and white-out text and create form fields and web links using the web app’s Insert tools.

PDFescape has some limitations when it comes to adding new text. You can’t edit existing text because there is no OCR capability. Instead, you can only add new text to an existing PDFescape document. The app doesn’t use any fonts on your computer and has very limited font options. You can only use Arial, Courier New and Times New Roman fonts.

5. Preview

MacOS built-in PDF annotation


MacOS: No cost

Apple Developer

Compatibility with macOS

Category: PDF annotation

Today’s Top Deals

View at Apple

There are many reasons to buy

+Excellent annotation tools+Easy to use signature capture+Markup capabilities are often available in other applications

Avoidable reasons

-Locating annotation tools not obvious

Apple’s Preview app, which is integrated into macOS, offers a minimal but useful set of tools to mark up PDF files. This app doesn’t offer full-featured PDF editing. You won’t need more tools than what you already have on your Mac if you only need to highlight or redact text, make notes or add comments to documents.

Preview’s markup toolbars are hidden when you open a PDF file for the first time. You will need to find the pencil icon near the Spotlight search box at the top right of your PDF document’s toolbar. This will open a small list of tools that you can use to select and add text, objects, or notes to your document.

One of the most notable features is the signature tool. This allows you to save a signature that you created using your trackpad, or scan with your Mac’s iSight cam. Click Preview’s Signature tool to add your signature to a document. It is simple and straightforward to use, and Preview’s signature tool will prove its value every time you need your John Hancock.

Preview can be used to access all the editing tools, provided you are running macOS 10.14 Mojave. QuickLook can be used to view PDFs, and then you can use the Markup button to edit them.

6. PDF Expert

The easiest interface for PDF editors


One-time License Purchase: $80

Developer: Read the Readdle

Compatibility with macOS

Category: PDF editor

+A simple, clean interface+Editing tools are available when you need them.

Avoidable reasons

-Cannot handle large files-Mac only

Readdle’s macOS-only PDF Expert allows you to edit text in PDF documents. This includes removing and replacing images and updating text. You can also add text to your document. PDF Expert does not have OCR capabilities so you will need to use another program if you wish to edit text in scanned documents.

PDF Expert had the best interface of all the apps that I tried and was also the most user-friendly. The screen has two tabs at the top: Edit and Annotate. You can click on one of these tabs to access the appropriate tools for either editing or annotation tasks.

The PDF Expert editing tools are perfect. You can click text to edit in PDF Expert. Tools for editing text will appear so that you can make changes. Tools for changing an image will appear when you select an image. You can move text to any place on the page or delete it completely.

PDF Expert has a problem with large documents. Otherwise, I would have chosen this as my top choice for Windows and macOS. However, every time I tried to open the nearly 450-page PDF Expert test file, it refused to allow me to. If you are averse to working with large documents, it is worth looking elsewhere until this program becomes more reliable.

7. PDFelement Pro

A PDF editor with some quirks


Cost: $130/year

Developer: Wondershare

Compatibility: macOS and Windows

Category: PDF editor

+Opened and recognised text in every document

Avoidable reasons

-Bizarre text-editing behavior

Wondershare’s PDFelement Pro offers a complete-featured PDF editor that includes an OCR engine to recognize scanned text as well as a standard set tools. These tools allow you to fill out forms, edit documents, add signatures and create annotations.

PDFelement opened all types of files, large and small, without any problems. PDFelement Pro is easy to use once documents have been opened. It has a simple interface with a few tools that can be found on the left-hand side of each document. Simply select the tool you want to use and you can start making changes to your file.

While editing images, adding signatures, and using annotations all went as expected, I experienced some strange behavior when I was adding or editing text with PDFelement Pro. The application made the text bold when I was editing text within a document. It wouldn’t allow me to change it back to regular text. My own text was not displayed normally when I added text boxes. The program added a space after every apostrophe. The program also played my Mac’s sound system as I typed. It’s annoying, but not optimal.

8. Sejda PDF Desktop Pro

Too many restrictions


Cost: $63/year

Developer: Sejda

Compatibility: macOS and Windows

Category: PDF annotation

Today’s Top Deals

View at Sejda (opens in new tab)

There are many reasons to buy

+Can edit text but only on a limited basis+Can annotate documents with images and annotations

Avoidable reasons

-Very limited features -Paragraphs can only be edited or removed from existing images

Sejda, a web-based PDF editor, works on any OS with a modern web browser. The desktop version converts the web interface to something that can be run on your computer.

Although you can still use the free Sejda version, it restricts the daily tasks you can do and the document size you can access.

An annual license can be purchased for $63, which includes both the desktop and web versions. The perpetual license for the desktop edition costs $126 but you won’t have access to any future updates. If you have a project that requires Sejda, you can purchase a weekly pass for both the desktop and web versions for $8.

Sejda does not have an OCR engine. This means that you cannot use the app to edit PDF files made from scanned documents. Only PDF files with selectable text can be edited.

You can edit your PDF file by uploading it to the Sejda site. Next, use the toolbar at top of the page for your tools. There are tools to edit text, add links, create form fields, and annotate your document. Sejda’s tools can be used to edit text, add links, create form fields and images, or sign or annotate your document.

You can’t edit whole paragraphs of text because the app splits every line of text into one text entry. You may find that remnants of previous text are often left behind when you edit existing text. Sejda allows you to add new images to your document. However, you cannot use the app to modify or delete existing images.

Sejda is not a great app but it can be useful when you are in a hurry to make changes to an existing PDF document without having other options.

How to select the right PDF editor

When choosing a PDF editor, the first thing you need to ask is what you intend to do with it. You might prefer PDF annotation software if you are only looking to add digital signatures and mark up documents.

You can save money by downloading many high-quality PDF annotation software for free. Mac users, for example, can save even more time, since the Preview app comes with Apple’s computers and includes signature tools and markup.

A PDF can be created at no cost. You can create a PDF using a Word document.

If you are looking for a PDF editor that allows you to manipulate text and create documents, you should consider the features you will need. While OCR-capable applications will cost more, those that don’t require OCR may be able use a free PDF editor.

Although PDF editors can be used to make changes and notes to documents, they are not required if you just want to view and print a PDF. Check out this list of the top PDF readers that you can download.

How to test PDF editors

We will be looking at both PDF-annotation apps and PDF editors. All PDF editors can annotate PDF documents. However, dedicated PDF-annotation tools cannot be used to make changes to the original context of a PDF document.

I tested each application using a variety of document types, including large text-heavy files, documents with formatted images and text, and simple documents that have text and images inserted in a linear manner. I tried features such as text recognition, which was available when it was possible, and made changes to the text, adding and replacing images, and making annotations.


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