Business • Updated on Nov.17, 2020 App to clean up mac computer.
Editor’s note: After another round of testing, we stand by our picks. We also added a little information about our thoughts on online PDF editors.
How To Choose The Best PDF Editor For Mac. Today, there are dozens of applications that can read, modify, and edit PDFs. All are different: free PDF editors, PDF modifiers, costly Mac PDF editors, and even a default PDF reader for Mac that comes with your operating system. PDF editing is a very needed feature but not every app out there provides that functionality. Not only that, the ones that enable PDF editing are very costly. For instance, take the case of PDFPen – that costs you $74.95 for the full version. Adobe’s propriety can cause a massive dent in your pocket: about $200 for the editors.
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.
Preview in Mac is a great PDF viewer and annotator, but it’s not enough for editing. Normally, people got to convert the PDF file to something else and do the editing after. That isn’t the most convenient option either.
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.
Disclosure: We sometimes use affiliate links which means that, at zero cost to you, we may earn a commission if you buy something through our links.
Why Adobe Acrobat Pro DC isn’t enough?
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 not surprising. Anyway, it’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 can get the best of the Adobe ecosystem as well. If you use Adobe Reader to view PDF documents, you can have the benefits of a familiar 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 cannot 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.
How to choose the alternative to Acrobat Pro DC
As we said, there are a huge number of PDF editors for macOS. As always, we wanted to pick the best ones. To navigate through the immense collection of options, we had a proper criteria as well.
- The PDF Editor must have a Simple User Interface. It must be non-distracting as well as focused. We always recommend a UI that works well with single-document and multi-document management.
- Easy & Advanced PDF Editing is a must-have option in a PDF tool. Automated selection recognition is great since it enables easy editing of other components like images, boxes, shapes and signatures.
- Security of the PDF documents is also an important concern. The PDF editor should have an option to enable the basic security features. For instance, there must be a way to password-protect PDF.
- Feature-rich: The ideal PDF editor shouldhave additional features as well. On top of the list are Optical Character Recognition and Digital Signing. You may, indeed, go for a minimal editor, though.
- Price: Not everyone wants to or cannot spend around $100 on a PDF editor. So, we have included a variety of PDF editors that come with varying price tags.
So, we have chosen the best Mac PDF editors based on this criteria.
The pick: PDF Expert (the fastest, easiest & made-for-all)
PDF Expert is a fast, robust and beautiful PDF editor. If you are looking for a feature-rich PDF editor that is available on multiple platforms, PDF Expert could be the right candidate. We chose PDF Expert as the best pick after testing it for more than a few weeks.
After the testing period, this tool has become our go-to option for editing PDF documents with ease. The package has some downsides and room for improvement, of course. Even then, we believe PDF Expert must be your first choice if seamless editing is your priority.
PDF Expert comes from Readdle Inc, a developer who makes wonderful apps for Apple devices. Many of the products, including the Spark email app, are popular on iOS and macOS. So, in terms of security and privacy, you don’t have to worry at all.
Here are a few reasons why we think PDF Expert is your best choice at PDF editing on Mac.
Intuitive 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. From the top-left side of the window, you can open options like Bookmarks, Thumbnails, Outline, and Annotation. Unlike the other PDF editors, we have tried, this one doesn’t scare us with the big number of toolbars.
Instead, everything is organized very efficiently. So, whenever you want a particular feature, you can access that single module. Altogether, we love this UI so much.
Easy PDF Editing
PDF Expert lets you edit PDF documents without any fail. There are actually four main options in the toolbar — Text, Image, Link and Redact. Making things easier than ever, PDF Expert 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 edit other parts of the PDF document. The Redact feature is also quite helpful, which works in a single click. I’ve found this feature really useful while sharing confidential data with friends.
Smart Annotation & Page Management
You get some smart Annotation features in this package. You can fill out content, provide signatures digitally and export all your annotations with ease. You can add signatures using text, trackpad or by even uploading an image of the signature. Either way, you get awesome results. PDF Expert has a page manager, with 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. Altogether, it checks all the important boxes.
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. You can download the apps from the 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. I always love a software product when it can offer the same amazing UX on iPhone and Mac. PDF Expert does exactly that.
Enhanced Security & Utilities
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. You can also use it to reduce the file size of a PDF file.
When we checked, PDF Expert was able to reduce the file size by 75%, which is quite a great deal. Because you get Touch Bar support, accessing these options is easy as a piece of cake.
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 would 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. The features are basic — very 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.
Best Photo Editing Apps Mac
- Simple design and UI
- Smart editing options
- Multiplatform Support
- Lacks advanced features
- Cannot create PDF Files
If you are looking for a simple yet effective PDF editor for Mac, PDF Expert is the best option. It brings all the necessary editing features, never compromising the performance as well. It isn’t for you if you want technical features like OCR, though. Overall, for the price you’re paying, PDF Expert is worth it.
Upgrade pick: PDFpenPro (the 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.
Unlike the top pick we suggested for most people, PDFpenPro is made for advanced users, it is an upgraded version of the PDFpen software. You get a lot more options than simply changing the text or adding some comments. We think it’s suitable for you if you have to handle too many PDF documents.
[ Further reading: Case Study: Tim Ferriss & PDFpen ]
Precise Control UI
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.
Nevertheless, we should admit that the UI isn’t that intuitive. We needed time to figure out how the tools work. It also lacks automated recognition options.
Advanced Editing Options
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. We also loved the Precision Edit tool in PDFpen, which lets us select even the minute elements in a document and remove them easily.
When it comes to annotations, there are five different ways you can annotate documents using PDFpenPro. From simple drawing and scrabbling over the document, to adding your notes, comment boxes, links, bookmarks, or attachments. There is even an option to add an audio annotation, which is adding audio comments to the document. We also loved how you can use your iPad to bring richer content.
PDFpenPro allows you to turn websites into PDF in a single click. Thanks to the wider compatibility, you can export PDF files to Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint as well.
PDFpenPro is your upgrade pick if you have to deal with PDF signing a lot. Apart from the native option to put and manage signatures, the latest version now offers DocuSign integration. It means you can now make use of this signature-management system to request digital signs from others. Because DocuSign comes with full legal compatibility, you don’t have to worry at all.
On any day, this powerful integration can help you save a few hours. Personally speaking, this is one of the best signing options I have seen in a PDF editor.
Efficient Scanning & OCR
Optical Character Recognition is perhaps themost important advanced 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 begin the OCR option. In a few minutes, PDFpenPro will help you convert the content into editable text.
It’s quite a time-saver and PDFpenPro offers great speeds too. PDFpenPro offers much control over the OCR process. You can decide the quality and resolution with ease.
[ Further reading:Best OCR Apps for Mac and Windows ]
Availability & Pricing
PDFpenPro is available for both macOS and iOS.
PDFpenPro costs $124.95. Still, you can download a free trial from Smilesoftware and get a single license that can register only on one Mac.
You can actually find its standard version, PDFpen, on Setapp.
- Advanced PDF Editing
- OCR and DocuSign support
- Versatile Editing Control
- UI could be better
- An expensive package
PDFpenPro is made for professionals, and there’s a steep learning curve. Even then, PDFpenPro offers many features you can’t find in other tools. The best example would be OCR, which works great in this program. It is just that you should be ready to pay something extra.
Other apps we considered
Free Pdf Editing Software Mac
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.
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.
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.
Wondershare PDFelement Pro for Mac
Wondershare PDFelement Pro for Mac is one of the most well-priced PDF editing suites out there. It makes some compromises in performance and features, though. However, the best part of 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 UI is also quite similar to that of PDF Expert, but we wish it had an enhanced level of performance.
Priced at $99, Wondershare PDFelement Pro is available for macOS and Windows.
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.
Kdan PDF Reader Pro
Kdan PDF Reader is another app which makes it to our list of PDF editors for Mac. It is quite popular with over 44,000 App Store ratings. It provides a wide range of document functions for business and daily life. It has both desktop and mobile apps, so you can work anytime, anywhere. It provides you with the feature to create and edit PDFs with features such as handwritten comments, highlighting, striking through, underlining texts, and more.
The highlight of this app is the Robust Reading Engine which provides you with a comfortable reading experience with features such as smooth page scrolling and the option to change the theme and page background so that your eyes don’t strain up.
Best Mac App For Editing Pdfs
Kdan PDF Reader’s individual plan can be purchased at $59.99 for a year.
What about 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 fast, reliable Internet connection at all times.
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. Besides, not all online PDF editors are offering satisfactory features. A lot of them ask for paid subscriptions as well.
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, which isn’t the case with most online PDF editors.
So, it makes sense to check out some of the actual native macOS PDF editors out there.
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 that’s easy and effective, you can go with our pick, PDF Expert. As far as you don’t need anything fancy out there, that choice won’t go wrong. However, if you think you need more features and a better UI to manage documents, we recommend PDFpenPro, which packs some powerful features too.
We’ve also got you covered when you’re Windows. Check out our guides for PDF editors for Windows.