Recommended PDF Editors

What is/are your preferred PDF reader(s)/editor(s)?

I currently use Preview because it’s the Mac default and Adobe because some documents, like IRBs, require it.

I’m hoping for an app that makes adding text to documents less annoying.

If you have OmniGraffle, you can use File>Open to edit a PDF. If you don’t want to edit the file, but want to use it as an image, use File>Place Image into your OmniGraffle document. If you’d like to try it, you can get a free trial at here. Since editing PDFs is more of an extra capability and not the primary use of OmniGraffle, it may or may not suit your needs for that purpose. If you already have it for diagramming or UX mockups, it’s worth trying both methods of working with PDF files to see if you might get an additional use out of it.

The free Adobe Acrobat Reader has a Typewriter feature now which makes it much easier to add text or fill out forms on your computer, and that is a free download from Adobe. You can read about that at Adobe help. I have used the Adobe Acrobat Document Cloud from here and can recommend it if you need to make forms and are willing to pay money or if you want to try a free trial. Using the full version of Acrobat is likely to give you the most full featured editing experience, but it does cost money and you may not need as much power as it provides.

Open Source Tools
Otherwise, here are a list of some free solutions that all work on the Mac. Preview is on the list.

Hope this helps give you some options to try!


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I do have the Adobe Acrobat Reader, and I’ve used the Typewriter feature. Sometimes it doesn’t work though, and it seems that it’s because some documents don’t allow edits or filling in the text fields? I can still add text by adding text boxes though, with Adobe and Preview. So I don’t understand why text boxes work and the typewriter and sign/fill out mode don’t work. Any thoughts?

These inconsistencies are why I would hope for a simpler editor.

You can’t edit in Acrobat Reader. You need the full Acrobat to do that. It (the typewriter tool) works only to create new fields.

Sign/Fill mode requires someone to actually setup the form with full Acrobat too, which many people fail to do, and then you have to use the typewriter. If you need to edit, it’s full Acrobat or one of the other free tools I linked to. Having used the free tools, personally, if I needed to edit PDF files often, I’d pay the money for full Acrobat. If you need to do it only occasionally, you can get by with a free solution pretty well.

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I mostly use PDF Expert on macOS and iOS. Adobe Acrobat is sometimes needed for really fancy things—form-making and creating templates for others, for instance. PDF Expert seems to be the fastest and most usable general purpose PDF tool that I’ve come across.

I bought editing functionality on PDF Expert on the Mac, but not on iOS.

DEVONthink’s built in tools are also good, but they only work if you’re using DEVONtechnologies tools already.

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PDF Expert is very good and can often be found at a discount for the Mac version - I got it for $25 or so. There’s an IOS version too.

PDFPen/PDFPenPro is also very good (I prefer it to PDF Expert) but it’s expensive.

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I agree. PDF Expert is very good.

I used to love Preview and it was one of my “cornerstone” apps until they completely ruined it. The deprecation of “Save As”, replaced by a mind-bogging paradigm of a “copy” that has to be “deleted”, and the total cluster-mess that they made of the markup tools have rendered it almost useless. I now use Skim primarily, with PDF Pen for when I need to edit. Unfortunately neither of these is any good for jpegs or other image files, so Photoshop sees a lot more use than it did previously. Thanks, Apple.

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Oh, I forgot about Skim. Really useful for handling annotations, though I don’t keep or manage PDFs in Skim. Instead I open them there occasionally when I want to do something complicated with notes or highlights.

+1 for PDFPen Pro. I feel it’s what a native Mac PDF Editor should be.

Does any of those non-Adobe PDF-Readers/Editors show CMYK / separations. Before sending a PDF to the printer I always check CMYK in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC. But sooner or later I want to get rid of Adobe products …

Small thing - did you know that Option-Save gives you Save as…? Doesn’t address your other points, but …

Yes, but it’s still annoying. My fingers have been trained for decades into the cmd-shift-S pattern and there is now no keyboard shortcut to Save As that I’m aware of.

There is a keyboard shortcut (Cmd-Shift-Optiion-S) but that doesn’t negate your point

Yeah, really hard to do that one with one hand, lol. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the Save As paradigm, I really doubt anyone had trouble grasping it, and WIndows still uses it. Every time I see that new dialog with “Delete” in it, my brain goes “Delete? Delete what? I haven’t saved anything, and I don’t want to delete anything!”

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Bret Terpstra’s hyperkey concept is a hacky idea that might help you out. You can assign a useless key—e.g. capslock—to be a one-key solution to those crab-hands shortcuts.

Other, similar products might also be worth exploring. Keyboard Maestro comes to mind.

Yes, between BetterTouchTool and Karabiner I can remap and macro-ize pretty much anything, but the annotation is now so lame it’s not worth it, I’d rather use another tool if I can.

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