Today’s post discusses three differences between Acrobat Reader and Acrobat Pro to help you decide which program you should use for your PDF projects.
First, a quick note on cost: Acrobat Reader is free. Acrobat Pro is available as an annual subscription called Acrobat Pro DC (DC stands for Document Cloud) and as a one-time purchase called Acrobat Pro 2020. Adobe also offers a streamlined version of Acrobat called Acrobat Standard, which is currently only available for Windows.
This tutorial is also available as a YouTube video showing all the steps in real time.
Watch more than 100 other document software tutorials on my YouTube channel.
The images below show the 2021 versions of Adobe Acrobat Pro DC and Adobe Acrobat Reader DC. Adobe modifies its interfaces occasionally, so your software may look slightly different than these images.
1. 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 Acrobat Pro and the most up-to-date version of Acrobat Reader.
A significant difference between the two programs is that only Acrobat Pro lets you create and print comment and edit summaries and export comments and edits to Microsoft Word.
Additionally, Acrobat Pro offers more options for selecting and copying text into comment pop-ups.
2. Editing Tools
In the Adobe universe, Editing tools don’t relate to copyediting but to direct manipulation of 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). These tools aren’t available in Acrobat Reader.
3. Export (Conversion) Tool
Acrobat Pro’s Export 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 add-on package. For many writers and editors, this is an important, if not the most important, difference between the two programs because many of us need to convert PDFs to Word files in order to edit them with Word’s Track Changes tools.
Here are a several additional features that are only available in Acrobat Pro:
- Creating blank PDFs or additional blank pages
- Combining files
- Comparing files
- Creating bookmarks
- Creating external links
- Creating internal links
- 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)
- Extracting pages
- Splitting PDFs
As you can see, the choice to use Acrobat Reader or Acrobat Pro will depend on your needs. I use Acrobat Pro because I frequently convert PDFs to Word files, compare PDFs, and move pages within PDFs.
If you are an Acrobat Pro beginner or would like to learn new skills, explore my Adobe Acrobat page for a variety of entry-level and advanced tutorials.
Updated August 15, 2021