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An Adobe Acrobat Pro alternative is something nearly every Adobe user searches for at some point. Frustrated with the complex UI, too-rich features, and frequent issues with Adobe's start PDF product, many PDF professionals are now turning toward alternatives, especially for the Mac environment.
So, why specifically Mac? The problem with most Adobe Acrobat Pro alternative applications is that they are largely targeted at Windows users. That's understandable because Windows has a massive 29% of the market share of all operating systems, while macOS has a mere 6%. If you look purely at the desktop scenario, those figures jump to a whopping 75% and 14%! It's easy to see why software development companies would focus on the Windows space rather than Mac. Nevertheless, there are several Mac-centric PDF tools that you can consider as an Adobe Acrobat Pro alternative for your Mac systems, and that's what this article is all about. Here, we showcase 5 of the best macOS alternatives for the almighty Acrobat Pro DC.
Let's go about this in a systematic manner. For those of you who are in a hurry or just want the gist of this article, the table below offers a snapshot of the five different products, what their key features are, how easy they are to use, what they cost, any notable awards or accolades they've received over the years, and their overall score with regard to being the best Adobe Acrobat Pro alternative. This is simply to show you what we've done our homework and have hands-on experience with these products. That's why we also offer a detailed view of each product and its capabilities.
The video below gives you the top 3 PDF editors out there. Check out the video to learn more.
Wondershare PDFelement - PDF Editor has an extremely user-friendly and macOS-friendly user interface, which is obviously the first thing you'll notice once you launch the application. But even before that, you'll see how smoothly the installation goes and how fast and responsive the app is when you launch it. Once you're on it, you'll see the intuitive way in which the layout has been designed: the neat File menu at the top, the left sidebar panel for various quick-views, the dynamic secondary toolbars that are customized for each functionality, and so on.
UI Designed for Mac
This clean layout makes PDFelement for Mac the best Adobe Acrobat Pro alternative for Mac users right away. As you're already aware, Adobe has a tendency to bundle its features into a single Tools section, which is very obvious on the Windows version but also in the Mac version. In stark contrast, PDFelement for Mac welcomes you with a clean homepage containing shortcuts to the most frequently used features.
PDFelement is also available for Windows, iOS (iPadOS), and Android, as well as on the cloud, through its sister product, Wondershare Document Cloud, which is integrated with PDFelement for Mac and Windows for easy file storage, retrieval, and electronic signature sending.
Awards & Certificates
Over the years, PDFelement has won several accolades from the likes of G2 Crowd, Capterra, TrustRadius, and other third-party entities based on professional and user reviews. The list is too numerous for this article, but suffice it to say that it is well-respected and frequently-awarded application for PDF workflows and document management in general.
Some of these features include full-fledged PDF editing, file conversion to and from PDF, PDF security tools (lock, redact, watermark), form creation, conversion, filling, and signing, document organizing, file merging/splitting, OCR, batch processing, data extraction, and more.
PDFelement for Mac is an all-in-one PDF solution that rivals Adobe Acrobat Pro DC in terms of pricing, UI, and feature rollouts.
You'll need little else to deal with large PDF workflows once you have PDFelement deployed across your company's Mac systems.
The free version applies a watermark
A few very advanced or nuanced features are also not available, but new versions of the software are likely to have them added to the growing feature set.
Plans & Pricing
Overall Rating: 4.7 out of 5
PDF Expert is a Mac-exclusive platform. Although it's not strictly an Adobe Acrobat Pro alternative, it does offer a macOS-friendly user experience, convenient features, and robust performance.
UI and UX
PDF Expert is a simple but powerful tool with a slick layout that works well in Mac environments and iOS devices. The download process is efficient and can be done quickly, while the user experience is designed to give its customers a very native Mac experience like they're working on Preview or a similar Mac app.
System Support: macOS and iOS (iPadOS) only - no Windows or Android versions available at this time or planned for release.
Awards and Endorsements
Mac App Store 2015 App of the Year Runner-Up
TechRadar: "Readdle's PDF Expert is a PDF editor that has lots of useful features for people who use PDF files on a regular basis. It has a very clean UI design and everything is neatly organized so you don't need a lot of help in understanding how the software works when you use it for the first time. The software is only available on macOS, iPadOS and iOS and makes it really easy to synchronize your documents on all of your Apple devices."
Native Mac experience with smooth operation, fast and responsive, excellent solution for iPad users.
Limited feature set that doesn't adequately match the needs of power users who are used to Adobe Acrobat Pro capabilities.
Overall Rating: 4.2 out of 5
Preview is a native Mac app that supports images as well as PDF files. It's not a very advanced PDF utility but has some basic functionality that will get you through lighter workloads. The best part, of course, is that it is macOS-native and free to use!
Preview being a native Mac app, the UI will be familiar even to users who've never tried it before. It is usually the default app for images and PDFs if you don't have any other software installed on your Mac. Usage is fairly simple because the features themselves are limited. In truth, this is more of a PDF reader with some additional functionality rather than a proper Adobe Acrobat Pro alternative.
System Support: macOS only
PC World: "Apple Preview's PDF capabilities are strong and should be all you need for common editing tasks. The rub, of course, is you have to be a Mac user to take advantage of them."
Free to use, native Mac experience, responsive, and keeps getting upgrade with each new macOS version
Limited PDF functionality, not great with large documents, and isn't a suitable replacement for a proper PDF editor
Plans & Pricing: Free - Stock application on any Mac computer
Overall Rating: 4.0 out of 5
FineReader from ABBYY is a powerful tool with an excellent conversion engine and other premium features. In fact the conversion engine powers a lot of other popular PDF editors on the market. The OCR also deserves special mention as one of the most accurate options available today. It would easily be the best Adobe Acrobat Pro alternative but for some missing features, the most important of which is the lack of PDF editing capabilities in the Mac version - that feature can only be found in the Windows version, sadly. Nevertheless, it is a feature-rich PDF utility with an excellent reputation that's definitely worth your consideration.
The latest version is the one you should get because FineReader recently had a major UI/UX overhaul to bring it more in line with native Mac applications. The latest version is very user-friendly and specifically designed for large corporate and professional workflows. One simple example is the Dark Mode support, which you won't find in may professional PDF editors at the application level.
System Support: Mac, Windows, and iOS
Ranked #2 by G2 Crowd in the Top 50 Office Products in 2022
Strong feature-set, highly accurate, works with very large documents, smooth UI/UX, and highly reputed brand
No editing in Mac version, several other key features are missing as well, such as form creation, document comparison, etc.
Plans & Pricing:
$69 for a 1-year license (only one option available)
Overall score: 4.5 out of 5
PDFpen, now owned by the makers of Nitro PDF, is available in Standard and Pro versions under the Nitro umbrella. It's a very old brand that dates back to 2003! Although the company was bought out a few years ago, it's taken a while for Nitro to rebrand, presumably because PDFpen and PDFpen Pro already had a loyal user base that might have objected to a rapid rebranding effort. Regardless, the underlying products are essentially the same, making PDFpen a capable Adobe Acrobat Pro alternative, especially the PDFpen Pro version, now called Nitro PDF Pro like its Windows step-cousin.
Since these utilities were designed exclusively for the Mac and iOS interface, they offer a highly native experience for users. The menu is reminiscent of most Mac apps, with a clean row of menu tabs at the top and a thumbnail pane on the left sidebar. The features are easy to find so you won't have a problem picking the right tool for your job. Overall, a very pleasant user experience.
System Support: macOS, iOS, iPadOS
Awards and Endorsements: Editors' Choice Award from Macworld and The Mac Observer for PDFpen (pre-2012)
Designed for Mac users, native UX, simple UI, adequate tools for basic PDF workflows and some advanced tasks
No advanced features like extensive PDF creation and PDF conversion options, data extraction, cloud integration (only in the iOS app), and so on
Overall score: 4.3 out of 5
For Multi-taskers and Heavy Users: PDFelement is the obvious Adobe Acrobat Pro alternative for power users who need the entire gamut of features ranging from PDF creation to editing/annotations to conversion, security, forms, organizing, OCR conversion, batch processing, and everything else. The reason this comes highly recommended is not just the rich features but also the ability to upload to the cloud and then work on a totally different device with a different operating system in a seamless manner. Besides, it's also the most affordable one by comparison to any other similar PDF product.
For the Price-conscious: If you're not keen on rich features but do need some key ones at an affordable price, then PDF Expert or PDFpen would be good options. Of course, there's also Preview, which doesn't require any sort of payment but does limit what you can do.
For Conversion Accuracy: Of course, Adobe Acrobat Pro DC and PDFelement Pro for Mac would be the best options here, but if your focus is on accurate file conversions and OCR, then ABBYY FineReader would be your best choice. It's not an ideal PDF editor (as we saw, that capability is only available in the Windows version currently), but as a conversion tool it has no equals.
Depending on what you need, you have a full range of Adobe Acrobat Pro alternatives from PDFelement all the way down to Mac Preview. So, which one will you choose?