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Adobe Acrobat Pro Review 2024

PDF is the dominant digital file format. It’s the only format that allows you to exchange structured documents with anybody, anywhere, and on any operating system. Adobe created the portable document format in 1993, and in its many editions, Adobe Acrobat is the one app that towers over all others that view and manage PDFs, even if other apps are better in some aspects. This review concentrates on Acrobat Pro, the most advanced of Acrobat’s many editions, although even the most basic free version, Adobe Acrobat Reader, is useful if you don’t want or require the full versions.

What is the pricing for Adobe Acrobat Pro?

Acrobat isn’t inexpensive. Acrobat Pro costs $19.99 per month with a one-year commitment, or $239.88 per year when paid in full. If you pay month to month with no commitment, it costs $29.99 per month. Pro is compatible with both Windows and macOS.

A lower-featured Acrobat Standard for Windows only costs $12.99 a month with a one-year commitment, or $155.88 if you pay for the entire year in advance. It costs $22.99 per month if you pay monthly with no commitment. If you select Standard, you will not receive document comparison, redaction, or built-in OCR, which turns scanned PDFs into editable documents. 

As a software reviewer, I receive numerous free review versions of various applications, but Acrobat Pro is one of the few that I gladly pay for each year. If you don’t like subscriptions, older, less-featured permanent-license (one-time payment) versions are available. Acrobat Pro 2020 costs $538.80, while Acrobat Standard 2020 costs $358.80. 

Adobe Acrobat Reader is free and available for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. It allows you to add comments to PDFs, just like the full-priced versions do. You can utilize two desktop or laptop copies of Acrobat with your account, regardless of whether they are running the same operating system or separate ones. If you start Acrobat on a third machine, you’ll be prompted to log out of one of the two machines you’re already using; you can always return to the logged-out machine and log in again.

Adobe Acrobat Pro Review 2024

What are the reasons to invest in Adobe Acrobat?

Why would you pay for a PDF application? After all, current operating systems include built-in PDF viewing and marking software, allowing you to draw arrows and circles and add text-only notes to existing PDFs. Microsoft Edge accomplishes this on Windows, and Preview does the same on Mac. 

A commercial app such as Acrobat Pro includes optical character recognition (OCR) to transform scanned documents into searchable PDFs. It also has redaction features, editing features for correcting typos and replacing graphics, file-comparison features for identifying variations between versions, and PDF-signing features that allow you to produce and process documents for other people to sign. Adobe separates out from the competition with its secure Document Cloud service, which allows you to easily share PDFs via the cloud and conduct advanced signing and editing capabilities on Adobe’s mobile PDF apps.

Commencing Your Journey with Adobe Acrobat Pro

A subscription-based copy of Acrobat updates itself every two or three months, with the most recent upgrade changing the app’s name from Acrobat Pro DC to Acrobat Pro. If you’ve been using Document Cloud for a long time and have no idea what DC stands for, you’re in good company. 

Other recent updates include onboarding tutorials that appear when you initially launch the app or any of its functions that you have not previously used. In the unlikely event that you own a Meta Quest or Meta Quest Pro virtual-reality headset and want to manage PDFs in the metaverse rather than on your desktop or laptop, you can now, as of October 2022, install a Meta version of Acrobat on your headset and activate it with an existing Acrobat account or create a new account. I don’t see this as part of my future, but it might be something you’d like to try. Anything is conceivable.

Adobe Acrobat Pro Review 2024

Acrobat takes some getting used to because its UI is unlike anything other. Other PDF apps offer ribbon-style interfaces, similar to Microsoft 365 apps. Acrobat takes its own approach, with an interface that includes a typical top-line menu for opening and managing files, as well as one or more toolbars for altering PDF information. 

When you’re simply viewing a PDF, Acrobat displays a normal toolbar with icons for viewing, sharing, and choosing content. You can customize this toolbar with a set of quick tools drawn from any of the app’s many features. A right-hand pane of the main window, which may be opened or hidden, displays a customisable list of various sets of tools for adding comments, editing, redacting text or photos, scanning or OCR features, form creation and filling, and much more. When you select one of these tool sets, a secondary toolbar displays beneath the usual one. The commenting toolbar, for example, allows you to add text boxes, lines, arrows, circles, ellipses, and much more.

Viewing and Editing

When viewing a PDF, Acrobat allows you to split the window horizontally, displaying one section of the file in the top pane and another in the bottom pane. Unlike other PDF tools I’ve seen, Adobe features a Spreadsheet Split function that works similarly to the freeze feature in spreadsheet apps, keeping the top row and left column visible while you browse through the rest. This function is especially useful for viewing PDFs created from spreadsheets, but it can also be used to keep a map legend displayed while exploring the remainder of the map.

Adobe Acrobat Pro Review 2024

Acrobat also has a Reading view that hides the majority of the interface, but it lacks a view that shows only the unformatted content of a PDF, which I’ve only encountered in Foxit PDF Editor Pro. As with other PDF programs, you can reorder pages by dragging and dropping them, as well as import pages from other files and formats. For example, if you drag a Word document onto the thumbnail images of an existing PDF, Acrobat will convert it to PDF format and insert it into the PDF pages.

If you dig deep into Acrobat’s interface, you’ll discover an incredible number of features. The Comments toolset lets you write or draw nearly anything on a file, and you can omit the comments when you export the file. The Forms tools allow you to construct a fillable PDF form by editing an existing Word document or PDF, or by starting from scratch and adding text and fill-in fields from a toolbar. Advanced users and IT departments can utilize JavaScript actions on form fields. The Forms tool set also allows you to mail out the form and collect responses via email, as well as build up a tracking system that sends out numerous PDF versions while collecting comments and markup for your original copy. 

Its interface contains some anomalies due to Acrobat’s massive growth throughout the years. For example, when you first use the Forms tool set, you can construct a form from scratch; however, when you access the same feature from the topline menu, the option to create a form from scratch is grayed out. Nobody appears to know why. 

Adobe Acrobat Pro Review

Acrobat also lets you construct a web-based form on Adobe’s server, which includes a link to add the form as a live page to your own website. You begin the form-creation process in Acrobat, but you complete the form via a web browser using an Acrobat-like interface to upload an existing PDF or Microsoft 365 file. Then you add form fields and configure ways for sharing or tracking the form. Acrobat, like all other modern PDF programs, has comprehensive management tools for creating and managing digital signatures. 

Adobe Acrobat Pro Review 2024

Graphic designers appear to prefer Acrobat over all other PDF tools due to its uniquely powerful Preflight features, which prepare files for quality printing and web presentation. Acrobat includes a vast range of prebuilt procedures for changing fonts and colors for certain print jobs, as well as a troubleshooter that examines a PDF and recommends adjustments. I’m not a graphic designer, but I’ve utilized Acrobat’s Preflight tools to fine-tune scanned PDFs to minimize file size while maintaining visual detail.

Scan and Dispatch

One key feature of commercial PDF programs is the ability to use OCR to convert a scanned PDF into a searchable PDF and export it to a standard editable format such as Microsoft Word or Excel. If you require this capability, you should try out the free trials of all major PDF programs because there is no way to forecast which one would perform best with the kind of documents you use. Over the years, I’ve constantly found that Editors’ Choice winner ABBYY FineReader Pro delivers the greatest results, because to its amazingly sophisticated and efficient OCR editor, which allows you to rectify OCR issues quickly. 

Acrobat’s OCR engine is quite good, but it falls short of FineReader’s in terms of accuracy and efficiency, and its proofreading menu requires far too many clicks to be useful with a big document. Foxit PDF Editor Pro makes use of a licensed version of the technology included in an older version of FineReader, which has a less user-friendly interface than the current version. 

Another high-end PDF tool, Kofax Power PDF Advanced, employs a licensed version of OmniPage’s OCR engine, which is less accurate than Acrobat or FineReader’s and has a confusing UI. Another PDF tool, Nitro Pro, incorporates I.R.I.S. technology and, in my tests, ranks lower in power and convenience than FineReader, Acrobat, and OmniPage.

For exporting a scanned PDF into an editable format, FineReader stands out as the optimal choice due to its extensive export options with varying formatting levels. This ensures a cleaner document, free from random marks often found in scanned images. If dealing with a non-scanned PDF created directly from a word processor or spreadsheet, most PDF applications can adequately export to an Office format. However, it’s advisable to experiment with your typical documents. Notably, both Kofax Power PDF 5 Advanced and FineReader Pro offer a Watched Folder feature, automatically converting documents placed in that folder to PDFs.

Adobe Acrobat Pro Review 2024

Despite its abundance of functionality, Acrobat occasionally surprises me by lacking a feature that one or more other programs provide. For example, Acrobat does not include a whiteout tool for deleting text or stray marks. Foxit PDF Editor Pro and Nitro PDF Pro each have one. The strong redaction function in Acrobat and any other advanced PDF app may be used to delete text or graphics, but it takes more steps than appears to be required to merely remove text. When you scan a book, the scanned images may have two facing pages. ABBYY FineReader automatically divides the photos into two, one for each page. Unfortunately, Acrobat does not, though some users have reported success with a Page Splitter add-in from KHKonsulting, which I have not tested.

More Affordable Options Instead of Adobe Acrobat Pro

Acrobat is not inexpensive, and you should examine alternatives before committing to it.

Foxit PDF Editor

The most amazing option I’ve seen is Foxit PDF Editor Pro, which costs $149 per year for a license that works on both Windows and macOS. A Foxit license is valid for only one computer, not two, as with Acrobat. The Foxit app works with Microsoft’s Azure Information Protection system, as well as the iManage and eDocs digital management platforms. It also includes a text-only view option, which I have not seen anywhere. For me, the worst aspect of Foxit’s app is its fuchsia-purple UI, which cannot be adjusted to a less irritating hue. 

Kofax Power PDF

Kofax Power PDF 5 Advanced is reasonably priced at $179 for a permanent license, with no subscription required. It contains a Watched Folder feature, and many law offices that still use WordPerfect will appreciate the ability to export to WordPerfect. It, like Acrobat, allows you to apply page numbering to thumbnail images, ensuring that the numbers on the actual pages match the thumbnail numbers. Kofax’s advanced version is exclusively available for Windows, however there is a less expensive Mac version called Power PDF 4.2 Standard for Mac ($129).

Nitro PDF

Nitro PDF Pro is also a one-time purchase ($179.99 for Windows or Mac), which must be purchased separately. It is slightly less feature-rich than other programs, with less powerful OCR, but it has an easy-to-use Office-style interface. Because PDF is an open format, there are many different apps available at a variety of prices that may be worth considering.

Paparazzi!

I stated in the outset that it is difficult to locate an app that can generate a PDF from a web page without inserting page breaks. In reality, I only discovered one, and it is only available on the Mac. It’s called Paparazzi! (with the exclamation mark), and it’s freeware with contribution options. If you know of a Windows counterpart, please let me know.

How about free online PDF editing? There are many of free cloud-based PDF providers available, but I am hesitant to trust them with my data. I utilize Adobe’s online services since the company is well-established and has enough high-profile clients to trust its security. But I don’t want to start sending my files to an online site called FlyByNightPDF when I don’t know if it’s based in a dictatorship where the government copies every file I send and I have no confidence that the PDF I upload won’t return to me with hidden malware or spyware. When a website provides free PDF processing, it’s worth considering what the site may be obtaining in return.

Continues to be the Premier PDF Application

Adobe Acrobat Pro is our Editors’ Choice for PDF software because to its immense capability and extensive feature set, despite the lack of a few convenience features such as page-splitting and whiteout. If you already own ABBYY FineReader Pro, our Editors’ Choice winner in the OCR program category, it can also function as a PDF app, but without the complete feature set of Acrobat. Otherwise, you cannot go wrong with Adobe Acrobat Pro.

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