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5 cheaper alternatives to Acrobat for PDF editing

Christopher Null | Feb. 14, 2014
Sure, you can edit that PDF--for $299, if you pay Adobe for Acrobat's Standard edition. I don't think so. And the Pro edition costs $449.

Qoppa PDF Studio Pro is largely on a par with NitroPDF, giving you in-depth control over presentation and markup of existing documents. Its OCR function, while somewhat slow, was easily the best at preserving documents in their original format while converting characters to searchable (though not editable) text. The toolbar icons are not entirely intuitive — I found the software much easier to use by delving into the standard menus. The software also features helpful hooks to various cloud-based storage systems.

The bottom line: Qoppa PDF Studio is an excellent tool for OCR-based conversions, page manipulation, and markup, but it isn't as great for editing documents or working with other file types, which you'd expect at this price level. A new version (a free upgrade is included) with more advanced redaction and form creation options is now in beta.

PDF-Xchange Editor 3.0 ($44)

PDF-Xchange Editor handles the basics with aplomb, but that's where its feature set stops. While it's a good-looking app with a ribbon-inspired interface similar to NitroPDF's, it's not quite as intuitive as that app, nor does it pack in as many options.

The focus here is on a robust markup system, with innumerable options available for commenting on existing documents. Options are more limited when it comes to creating PDFs from scratch. PDF-Xchange Editor can only import image files (and can't export to any other format), although it does offer a built-in OCR tool that was just as effective as Nitro's, though slower.

It's not quite as intuitive or as full-featured as other tools, but the addition of capable OCR and solid commenting options largely make it worth its mere $44 price tag.

CutePDF Professional 3.7 ($50)
A long-running alternative PDF editor, CutePDF is another very basic option, best suited for users who need markup tools and little more. It's easy to get around — the icon+text toolbar design is more usable than most — but in part that's because there's just not that much you can do overall.

There's no OCR feature to convert scanned files to searchable text, and working with its basic markup options isn't always intuitive. There's no way to import from or export to other file types, either. Otherwise, CutePDF covers most of the other basic features common to this category, including a range of merge/split functions, but some cheaper options are equally capable.

PDFescape (Free)
Don't want to pay anything or install anything on your PC either? You're in luck: There's one serious cloud-based contender you can turn to: PDFescape. This service's free offering lets you upload up to 10 files, each of which must be less than 10MB in size and fewer than 100 pages long. Work fast: Files are deleted after 7 days of inactivity.


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