Acrobat isn’t the only game in town for PDF

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All of our lives have been made a lot easier by PDF. We take for granted the ability to share compact documents, fill out forms, comment, or edit. And all with type, design and images intact.

“PDF” stands for Portable Document Format, it is an Adobe file format that combines all the elements of a document into an optimised compact format that retains the original design, including fonts and linked graphics or images. In many cases, the original versions of these documents and all their associated files and fonts would be unmanageably large, and hard to distribute. But by using the right settings when you create a PDF, you can create a perfect, printable version of that file, at a fraction of the original file size. And pretty much any device anywhere is going to be able to open it.

Because of this, many of us are Acrobat Pro users. It’s the premium fully featured app for viewing, printing and editing PDFs, but for some use cases it can be overkill. Many of us only need to add comments, move or delete pages, or fill in forms. And to do all of that, you don’t necessarily need Acrobat Pro.

If you are a user of Adobe Creative Cloud, this doesn’t matter, because you have the use of Acrobat Pro as part of that bundle. But for users who are only licensing Acrobat Pro, it may not be a great deal. Acrobat Pro as a single license will set you back $29.00 per month ($348 for 12 months).

So perhaps it’s a good time to consider what you are using Acrobat Pro for, and whether you could achieve the same result with other cheaper, or free, PDF editors.


If your needs are basic, the Preview app that you already have for free as part of macOS might be all you need for handling PDFs. We looked at this in a previous Mac Aid Newsletter article:

Using Preview, you can delete or reorder pages, crop, fill in (some) forms, add your signature, add comments and edit text.

Adobe Acrobat Reader

If you mostly use Acrobat for viewing, printing and commenting on PDFs and filling in forms, Adobe Acrobat Reader might be all that you need. And it’s free. Some secure forms are only compatible with an official Adobe Acrobat app, so Acrobat Reader is a great way to handle those. If you choose to move to an Acrobat alternative for your general PDF handling, you should also keep Adobe Acrobat Reader installed for those times you need to deal with secure forms.

PDF Expert

PDF Expert is a great, full featured alternative PDF editor for macOS and iOS, and we use it at Mac Aid. It’s a sleek, modern, lightweight app that will even play well on older Macs. PDF Expert is easy to use, with an elegant, intuitive “Mac like” interface. It’s arguably a better Mac app than Acrobat Pro is itself. And PDF Expert is under active development, so new features are continually being added, like the recent AI summary, keywords and hashtag and OCR tools.

PDF Expert is a great deal at A$10.00 per month (billed yearly at A$119.99), a third of the price of Acrobat Pro!


PDFElement is a great choice if you need to deploy to macOS, Windows and iOS. It’s not quite as elegant as PDFExpert, but still a serviceable, capable PDF editor for most use cases.

macOS (or Windows) and iOS $129.00 yearly subscription.

Affinity Designer

If you want complete editing control of PDFs, you’ll need a graphics app. A common choice would be Adobe Illustrator, but as that’s more expensive than Acrobat Pro, you won’t be any better off if you have no other use for it. But like Acrobat Pro, there are alternatives to Adobe Illustrator, that are cheaper and arguably better.

One of our favourites is Affinity Designer. Affinity makes a great suite of macOS, iPadOS and Windows apps that are capable, modern replacements for the main Adobe design suite. They don’t have a product that is a PDF editor specifically, but Affinity Designer is a sophisticated all round graphic design app, that can open PDFs, edit them freely and then export out to PDF format again.

AU$119.99 one off payment, perpetual license for V2.

The cases when you really do need Acrobat Pro

For some situations, you really do need Acrobat Pro, and in those cases, it isn’t a bad deal because you will be using it to its full potential. If you are dealing with highly secured or custom forms, authoring interactive PDFs, or in a design or pre-press workflow, Acrobat Pro is probably still your best choice.

Talk to Mac Aid about alternative PDF apps

If you want to work out whether an alternative PDF app might work for your particular use case, give Mac Aid a call.