Today’s post discusses five differences and one similarity between Adobe Acrobat and Acrobat Reader to help you decide which program is best for your PDF projects.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of differences and similarities. Instead, this list is based on the features I believe are most important to a general audience.
- Difference 1: Edit PDF Tools
- Difference 2: Prepare Form Tools
- Difference 3: Organize Pages Tools
- Difference 4: Create PDF Tools
- Difference 5: Export PDF Tool
- Important Similarity: Comment Tools
- Where Can You Find These Tools?
- Additional Differences
What about Versions and Cost?
Acrobat Reader is Adobe’s free PDF display software.
Adobe Acrobat is a PDF creation and management software available as an annual subscription called Adobe Acrobat Pro DC (DC stands for Document Cloud). Adobe Acrobat Pro DC is periodically updated with new features and improvements.
Adobe Acrobat is also available in a non-subscription software currently called Adobe Acrobat 2020. This version is a one-time purchase and is not continually updated.
In addition, Adobe offers a streamlined version of Adobe Acrobat Pro DC called Acrobat Standard DC, which is currently only available for Windows.
This tutorial is available as a YouTube video showing all the steps in real time.
Watch more than 150 other writing-related software tutorials on my YouTube channel.
The features discussed here are based on the desktop versions of Adobe Acrobat Pro DC and Acrobat Reader, although many of the features are also available in the corresponding mobile applications.
Difference 1: Edit PDF Tools
Adobe Acrobat’s Edit PDF tools let you change text and images, such as adding, moving, deleting, and rewriting text boxes, as well as adding images, watermarks, and headers and footers (which includes page numbers). The Edit PDF tools also let you create external links and internal links. These tools aren’t available in Acrobat Reader.
Difference 2: Prepare Form Tools
Adobe Acrobat’s Prepare Form tools let you create forms that other people can fill and sign with a digital signature. Acrobat Reader doesn’t let you create forms. However, Acrobat Reader does offer limited capacity to fill and sign existing forms.
Difference 3: Organize Pages Tools
The Organize Pages tools in Adobe Acrobat let you rearrange the pages within your PDF, as well as insert files, extract pages, and split your PDF into multiple PDFs. The Organize Pages tools aren’t available in Acrobat Reader.
Difference 4: Create PDF Tools
Adobe Acrobat’s Create PDF tools let you convert other types of files (e.g., Microsoft Word files, PowerPoint slides, web pages, scanned images) into PDFs, create blank PDFs, and add blank pages to existing PDFs. These options aren’t available in Acrobat Reader.
Difference 5: Export PDF Tool
Adobe Acrobat’s Export PDF tool lets you convert PDFs to Microsoft Word files and PowerPoint slides, as well as a variety of other formats. Acrobat Reader doesn’t include this functionality without purchasing an online service called Adobe Acrobat Export PDF. This is an important difference, particularly for writers and editors who need to convert PDFs to Word files in order to edit them with Word’s Track Changes tools.
Important Similarity: Comment Tools (Editing Tools)
What most of us think of as editing tools (e.g., comments, strikethroughs, insertions, highlights), Adobe calls Comment tools. These tools are included in Adobe Acrobat and Acrobat Reader.
However, only Adobe Acrobat lets you create and print comment and edit summaries and export comments and edits to Microsoft Word.
Additionally, Adobe Acrobat offers more options for selecting and copying text into comment pop-ups.
Where Can You Find These Tools?
Many of the tools discussed here are available in the Tools Center, which you can access by selecting the Tools tab in both Adobe Acrobat and Acrobat Reader.
If you are using Acrobat Reader, you may notice that several of the buttons in the Tools Center do not provide access to the tool. Instead, they open dialog boxes or webpages encouraging users to purchase Adobe Acrobat.
Additional Differences between Adobe Acrobat and Acrobat Reader
Here are several additional features only available in Adobe Acrobat:
- Combining files
- Comparing files
- Creating bookmarks
- Creating PDF Portfolios
- Creating action buttons (e.g., navigation buttons and page view buttons)
- Adding tooltips
- Attaching files
- Organizing (i.e., moving) pages
- Password protecting files
- Redacting text and images
- Changing page orientation (rotating pages)
- Adding Metadata (e.g., keywords, copyright)
- Duplicating pages
As you can see, the choice to use Adobe Acrobat or Acrobat Reader will depend on your needs.
If you are new to Adobe Acrobat or would like to finetune your skills, please visit my Adobe Acrobat page for a variety of entry-level and advanced tutorials.
Updated May 08, 2022