Portable document file. How many of us have never heard what PDF stands for, let alone taken the time to consider how they work? Many of us work through word processors like Word, or write directly into Google Docs. But when it comes time to do business, suddenly we see “.PDF” in our folders.
Why is that? For starters, portable document files are static, meaning that in many cases, they’re only there to view. If someone has sent over a contract for you to sign, they might use software that lets you add a signature, but doesn’t let you edit the PDF. This is important if you want to make sure you’re signing the same document.
Even so, there will be times when you need to edit your PDFs. If you’re using a Mac, it can seem difficult. There are all sorts of options out there. Which one is the easiest to use? The most cost-effective? We’ve decided to help clear things up by creating a list of the best PDF editors for Mac. We’ll also explain a little bit about how they work, what features they offer—and why you might want to consider one over the other.
The List of Best Free PDF Editors for Mac
What if you don’t have a lot of contracts to sign? If you have a young, budding business and every dollar is tight, you may have to find free PDF editors for Mac rather than signing up for more sophisticated contract management software.
Is going “free” worth the cost of the features you’ll lose? Is it better and simpler to just go for a paid version right away and get rid of all your PDF problems? Let’s look through some of the top PDF editors for Mac to find out.
Have you ever noticed that Mac comes packed with its Preview program, which lets you view PDFs and other files? It’s a nice way to ensure that you can turn on a Mac from the time you first open it and get to work reading PDFs.
Unfortunately, Mac’s Preview is not exactly robust. That’s why Skim software for Mac aims to expand your capacity a bit. According to the Skim website, “It is designed to help you read and annotate scientific papers in PDF, but is also great for viewing any PDF file.” In other words, if you need to view PDF files or add your notes to one as part of a group collaboration, Skim is a nice, free PDF viewer that will help you out.
The problem? Since you’re not paying for it, there are one or two drawbacks. For Skim users, the chief drawback is that the interface isn’t too user-friendly, so you might find yourself staring at it for a while before you find out how to move forward. That said, there’s a lot to like here, including:
- Viewing PDF files for easy reading
- Highlighting key phrases of text within the PDF for later reviewing
- Magnifying / zooming in
- Cropping tools for selecting certain pieces within the PDF or cutting other pieces out
#2: Acrobat Reader
Acrobat is so ubiquitous that many people associate PDFs with Acrobat, or even believe that the two are somehow one and the same. That’s not exactly true, but given how prevalent Acrobat can be, it’s worth checking out if you need a free PDF reader and editor that can give you some basic functionality.
Keep in mind that we’re talking about Acrobat Reader DC, a stripped down version of its paid tool, which offers all of the PDF features that you might expect. With Acrobat Reader’s free version, however, there’s still plenty to accomplish.
For starters, opening Acrobat Reader DC on Mac will mean you can view, print, and comment on all of the PDF documents coming your way. That alone gives you a lot to work with, especially if you’re using PDF tools in collaboration with other people to comment on an existing document.
Acrobat Reader is also robust in handling different types of PDF content. Let’s be honest: many PDFs aren’t single files, but part of different types of multimedia presentations. If you’re going to handle everything thrown your way, you’re going to need a robust piece of software that can handle it all.
These days, Adobe Document Cloud is also more of a “suite,” which can mean that as soon as you download Acrobat Reader DC on one device, you should be able to use it across multiple devices with the same program. You’ll simply use your Adobe Cloud login information to access the same files. If you’re using a Mac, you can work on a file until it’s time to move over to the iPad, and vice versa.
LibreOffice is a suite of programs based on OpenOffice software. You can download it for Mac, which gives you the flexibility to use it for PDFs and a whole range of other file types. The key here is that you can not only edit PDFs, but export them easily for other people to download. If you’ve ever received a PDF and need a way to punch it up and send a new version to someone else, LibreOffice for Mac might be one of your best options—assuming that you don’t have any other pressing needs.
What are some of the popular features here?
- LibreOffice includes the “Draw” tool, where you can go right in and make changes to PDFs in an intuitive way
- You can create documents that easily export to PDF, making it possible to generate your own contracts using LibreOffice as well
- If you have multiple people using other file formats, you can just as easily export to those file formats from LibreOffice without having to do complicated maneuvering
The Best Premium PDF Editors for Mac
Free is good. No one can argue with free. But when you have a business to run, you sometimes can’t get by with “free” alone. You may have more robust needs for contract management, PDF editing, and PDF sharing in your business. And when you finish editing the PDF, you may need more features, like sharing those PDFs with colleagues, storing the PDFs on the cloud, and more. The question is, which ones provide the the most bang for the buck?? Here are some of our favorites:
#1: Nitro PDF Pro for Mac PDFpen by Nitro
Nitro PDF Pro for Mac is Nitro’s offering for editing PDFs directly on a Mac. What does that mean? It means that with Nitro, you’ll have an entire suite of features for managing documents and all other PDF files. With Nitro Sign, for example, you would be able to create a PDF directly, add the boxes for other people to sign it, and send it out to colleagues who don’t have to use the software—it’s completely web-based.
But let’s focus on Nitro PDF Pro for Mac. This application does a lot, including:
- Proofreading OCR results. Ever wonder why it’s so difficult to translate regular PDFs into fixable text? Nitro PDF Pro for Mac uses Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to turn pictures of even scanned text into words you can use. This is an automatic process that will cut your time editing PDFs drastically. And it means that you can even upload and scan old documents and turn them into PDF files you can edit.
- Exporting in Word format. If you create a PDF, you can also export in .docx file format, which means that you can open Word and edit the document as if you’d created it in Word from the beginning. This is an especially important feature for people who have to do a lot of back and forth when editing a contract or other important business document.
- Use PDF “Text Corrector.” With a PDF open in Nitro PDF Pro for Mac, you can simply click “Correct Text” to start editing the PDF within the document itself. This one button can completely change the way you think about PDFs—and make the entire process far less annoying.
- Sign PDFs. Sometimes you don’t need to edit PDFs except to add a signature. Nitro PDF Pro for Mac includes features for that, or even within something like an iPad. You can even scribble in your signature with a mouse or a trackpad—whatever you need to use.
- PDF storage. One thing that many people overlook is just how cumbersome PDF files can get to deal with. One version is in your downloads folder. The other’s on your desktop. It all becomes too much to manage. With Nitro PDF Pro for Mac, you can work through cloud storage to keep your PDFs in one secure place. And since they’re on the cloud, you can also access these files on multiple Apple devices.
#2: Adobe Acrobat for Mac
A familiar face for anyone who’s used PDFs before. We mentioned that there is a free version of Adobe that you can use to read and modify PDFs. But if you want a fuller suite of features, the paid version of Adobe Acrobat for Mac will give you far more.
In fact, many people consider Adobe the go-to PDF editor for Macs. That may be because Adobe Acrobat has plenty to offer, from converting web pages and image files into PDFs to editing PDFs and filling out forms with ease. It also includes options for sharing and signing PDFs, which is vital for anyone who wants to use Adobe Acrobat and PDF editing for business.
Like Nitro PDF Pro for Mac , Adobe Acrobat also has some nice security features. You can add password protection to PDF files to ensure that only the people you want to read your files end up reading them.
#3: Foxit PDF Editor
To be fair, we could have also included Foxit PDF Editor on the other list due to its free version, but there’s enough to like in its suite of features in the premium version that it warrants mentioning here. Like the other options on our list, it lets you create, edit, and fill out PDFs. You can also create “fillable forms” that you use time and again in your business; for example, when having someone respond to a hiring offer.
A neat feature of Foxit PDF Editor is that you can notify readers when a document has been updated. While sharing PDFs can sometimes feel like herding cats, this feature makes it possible to keep everyone in the loop as soon as a PDF has been altered. This can be a nice feature for anyone who’s ever struggled with having several different versions of a PDF in a single folder, never knowing which version to work from to stay up to date with their colleagues.
#4: Sejda PDF Desktop Pro
Like many others on this list, there are both free and paid versions of Sejda PDF Desktop, but the Pro version earns a spot on this list thanks to its merging and splitting PDF features. This isn’t revolutionary—Nitro PDF Pro for Mac, for example, makes it possible to split and merge PDFs—but it’s a nice way to look at how Sejda PDF Desktop Pro can help your business in managing its PDFs. Not only can you shuffle around pages within the PDF, but you can also use watermarks to make sure that people are using it securely and that people know where the documents came from.
A neat little feature here? Converting PDF text to grayscale, which can help you with formatting and getting a PDF to look consistent with other PDFs.
Getting the Most Out of Your Mac’s PDF Editor
PDF editing isn’t always intuitive. It always seems to have an extra layer of difficulty, whether that means saving a file before you edit, or downloading a new program. But the list here should help you stay in the loop, because it shows you software that makes taking PDFs apart and putting them together again as easily as possible. While there are many free versions available, it’s the premium software that really steps up to the plate.
Of course, you can have both with a free trial—premium features without having to pay up front. We recommend that if you want to get better at managing all of your PDF documents, you sign up for a free trial of Nitro PDF Pro for Mac today.