When it comes to editing a PDF file on Mac, you have two choices — upload the PDF to an online conversion service, or use a Mac PDF editor app.
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While online PDF conversion services have their own advantages and are usually free (though some may have certain restrictions), we assume you’ve already tried out. So, we are not going to talk much about them.
Instead, we want to show you the best PDF editor apps for macOS. After all, you are a business person who handles PDF documents on a regular basis. Desktop software is more convenient to use, and more likely to improve your business productivity.
Here we round up some of the most powerful Mac PDF editors currently in the market. The recommendations below are for Mac users only, if you are on a PC, see our review of the best PDF editor for Windows 10.
Online PDF Editor vs. Desktop PDF Editing App
There is no absolute answer as to which editor is better, but here’s our take:
If you are in a hurry, and you only have several non-confidential PDFs to edit, go for online PDF editing services like PDFescape. Simply open a web browser, upload your PDF file and start editing.
Note: we recommend you not to upload any private or confidential documents due to security concerns. Because your PDF files are going to be uploaded elsewhere in the cloud you can’t control or access.
If your documents are important, and you only have minor editing tasks such as: add a signature, comment, merge/split pages, etc.; We recommend Preview — a free built-in app in macOS that allows you to edit images and PDF files. We’ll cover this app more below.
How about Adobe Acrobat Pro? It’s great, but our main concern is its price — $300 direct purchase (or $15 per month if you go for subscription), it’s definitely on the pricer side. Plus, you can get almost all similar features from other Mac PDF editors we recommend below while paying much less.
Best PDF Editor for Mac in 2020: What to Consider?
The following factors are merely what we think you should consider in order to narrow down the list to come up with your favorite tools. They are, however, by no means the industry standards.
Security: all downloadable software must be free of viruses and malware. Though Macs are widely considered to be more secure than Windows PCs, recent news reveals that macOS isn’t safe anymore due to crapware and malware threats. We make sure the PDF editor app we recommend are clean and safe.
PDF Editing Features: the Mac PDF editor you choose should be able to do basic editing tasks like annotation, add/delete pages, form filling, highlighting, and so on. Advanced editing features include: add a password, create links, export PDFs to other document formats, etc. Bottom line: the best Mac PDF editing software should offer more features than what Preview does.
OCR Support: this is important because if a PDF editor doesn’t support OCR (Optical Character Recognition), you can’t use it to handle scanned PDF files which are essentially images. OCR is able to extract all the content in a scanned PDF file and export objects into editable texts or graphs. The software that integrates OCR technology will save you lots of headaches when it comes to editing scanned PDF documents.
Ease of Use: this is the main factor that makes desktop software superior to most online PDF conversion tools. If you’ve used some online PDF editors, you probably feel the navigation and operation are not that smooth. You need a lot of back and forth to make the change to a desirable level. A great PDF editor app should make it hassle-free and enjoyable during the editing process.
macOS Compatibility: The software you choose should also be able to run on the latest macOS Catalina and be compatible with some older macOS versions that are widely used by Mac users. If it can’t, it would be a waste of your time to download and install it on your Mac on to find it doesn’t work. Besides a PDF editor app that keeps updating tends to be more trustworthy and reliable.
Help/Support: We value those developers that provide helpful tutorials and guides to facilitate the customer experience. Also, it’s ideal that users can reach out to them via email, phone, live chat, etc. for any inquiries or technical questions.
Best PDF Editor for Mac: Our Picks for 2020
1. Preview (Built-in App on Mac)
The Preview app built in your Mac lets you add text to PDFs, highlight it, sign documents, leave comments, and more. You can choose where in the document you’d like to post a note and move it later if you change your mind. Some of the more interesting features include novel ways to sign documents. If you have a trackpad, you can even sign documents with your finger. If you have a camera on your device, you can sign a piece of paper. Hold it up and snap a photo, thereby adding the signature to the document. Editing images with Preview is simple and intuitive, as is the ability to share and export your completed files.
2. Adobe Acrobat Pro
Adobe Acrobat Pro helps you create professional, polished documents that are easy to send and view. With features to protect your files, you’ll never have to worry about other people making modifications or copying sensitive information. With a built-in e-signature feature, you can send, track, manage, and store signed documents. Adobe Acrobat Pro is also known for its ability to convert different kinds of documents into PDFs including Word, Excel, and Paper materials. Calculations, checkboxes, signature fields, can all be converted. This software also includes tools to help you prepare for high-end print production.
3. PDF Expert
PDF Expert makes editing simple by automatically detecting the opacity, font, and size of the original text. You can modify the text, images, or links without difficulty. Some of the other notable features of this software include the ability to collaborate with clients and team members by adding notes and protecting information through passwords. Compatible with any Apple device, iPhone, iPad, and Mac, you can use PDF Expert to transfer files between devices seamlessly. Similar to other editors, you can also use PDF Expert to create applications, tax forms, and sign them with an electronic signature in a few clicks.
PDFpen allows you to draw, scribble, and highlight PDF text with underscoring and strikethrough. You can use editable text blocks to correct texts, and move, copy, and resize images to your liking. The advanced version PDFpen Pro uses OCR technology to turn pictures of scanned text into words you can easily modify and proofread for errors. If your PDF requires more dramatic changes, you can use PDFpen to export to Word for easy sharing and editing. When it comes to signing your PDF with a secure and trusted signature, you have a few options. You can scribble your signature with a mouse or trackpad. You can also scan an image of your signed signature and drag and drop it into place. Lastly, this software gives you complete control over the way the pages of your PDF are formatted. You can delete pages, reorder them, or merge documents as you require.
Known for its intuitive interface, PDFelement offers simple navigation with professional-level results. Using bookmarks, you can quickly locate points of interest and link to them. The included OCR technology can turn paper documents into searchable, selectable, and editable PDFs in over 25 different languages. With paragraph and single-line editing tools, you can maintain the document style by reflowing text. PDFelement also supports form creation, password encryption, annotations, and permissions-based restrictions.
6. ABBYY FineReader
ABBYY FineReader can read pages from a PDF on your hard disk or from a scanner, and with its OCR engine, it can then extract text, arrange tables, and preserve layout so you can make the necessary edits. FineReader’s text recognition accuracy is one of the highest in the industry, according to their internal testing, at a rate of 99.8%. Text sizes, font sizes, headers, footers, footnotes, tables of contents, and footnotes, all can be recreated through this software’s adaptive document recognition technology. You can create searchable PDFs, modify images with the image editor, and create ebooks for reading while on the go.
PhantomPDF is ConnectedPDF Powered, meaning that it offers cloud-based services, such as the ability to grant and revoke document access, collaboration features, and tracking to see who has opened your document. With this editor, you can adjust text flow across multiple pages, columns, or paragraphs. Move text boxes, change their size, and toggle how the text is justified until it fits your requirements. You can create PDFs in virtually any file format, merge PDFs, or split them into different documents.
8. Able2Extract Pro
As a cross-platform tool on Windows and Mac, Able2Extract Professional is a creator, converter, and editor, with multiple uses. You can convert data to and from editable Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, Publisher, PowerPoint, Open Office, Autocad, and all image formats. You can create secure PDFs, sign and edit PDFs. It comes with a wide range of formatting options, with prefixes and suffixes, numbering sequences, date-time stamps. Able2Extract also comes with a number of collaboration features that allow annotations and notes. You might consider this software if you want an editor that handles many different tasks in a simple, intuitive fashion.
9. Power PDF Standard
Power PDF Standard touts itself as a more efficient choice for Mac users than other standard “freemium” PDF editors available. This app has been designed to help maximize productivity when converting, editing, creating, or sharing documents across any platform. You can collaborate with powerful markup and commenting tools. You can send documents securely with features such as password security and text redaction. You can also compile and create PDF files from almost any file type. Power PDF Standard helps you control every aspect of your workflow.
10. PDF Studio for Mac
PDF Studio for Mac was built to be a reliable alternative to Adobe Acrobat with all of the expected features offered at a lower price. As the application only occupies a small amount of space on your hard drive (300MB), you get all the features you need with no bloatware. Some of the features in the standard edition include precision measuring tools, secure documents, and the ability to fill in and save PDF forms. Create watermarks, headers, and footers, all supporting PDF 2.0 standards. The Professional Edition includes OCR text recognition, an interactive form designer, the ability to compare and optimize PDFs, and a way to split and merge documents.
Andreas is a freelance tech writer based in California. He works on a Mac in the office and lives with a PC and many old computer electronics at home. While he is not reading or writing, you’ll probably find him playing online games with friends.
From that random idea that needs to be jotted down, to making complex notes and mind maps, in today’s day and age, it’s better to stick to a note taking application, rather than relying on physical pen and paper.
In our previous article, we saw some of the best note taking apps for Windows, and in this one, we have got you covered with our list of the best note taking apps for Mac.
Best Note Taking Apps for Mac
1. Apple Notes
The stock Notes app that comes with Mac OS itself, is actually not that bad. It comes with basic note taking functionalities like formatting, lists, checkboxes, drag and dropping pictures/files. While it doesn’t offer anything out of the box, where Apple Notes shines is how fast it is to open and get started with a new note. Also it syncs immediately and effortlessly with the Notes app on your iPhone and iPad. We highly suggest you first checking out this app which already comes with your Mac, before buying or installing another note taking app.
– Very fast and simple to use
– Comes pre-installed
– Sync with notes app on iPhone and iPad
– Not ideal for handwritten notes or drawings
– No charts, graph support
– Works only within the Apple Ecosystem
Bottom Line: If you are someone who needs to take notes on your computer very rarely, might be for a grocery list or quick information, you’ll get by easily using the stock Notes app. Apple Notes does offer all the basic functionalities you might need and best of all, you don’t even need to install another app.
Link: Use Apple Notes on iCloud here
Chances are you have heard of Evernote, as it is one of the most popular note taking apps available on almost all platforms. Evernote offers some great ways to keep all your notes perfectly organised. You start off your note by creating/selecting a particular notebook and all your notes are kept organised in these notebooks. You also have a tags to classify all your stuff, and it basically works like a File Cabinet.
In terms of features, it is a beast and it has almost any and every feature you’d want in a note taking app including pie charts and bar graphs to searching text in a picture. We also strongly recommend trying Evernote with its Web-clipper companion which makes taking notes/clips form the web so easy, you can never go back. But all this does come at a price, which makes Evernote a little on the bulkier and slower side.
– Feature packed to the brim
– Available on all platforms
– Easy organisation of notes
– Heavy app and takes time to start up
Read: Don’t Like Their New Pricing, Try These 8 Best Free Evernote Alternatives
Bottom Line: Well, if you are someone who has to take loads of notes and are also looking to keep them organised in the best way possible, Evernote is a really good investment.
Price: Free(Basic), $34.99/Year(Plus), $69.99/Year(Premium)
Link: Download Evernote from here
Unclutter is a neat tool which can increase your productivity by many folds. The app works almost like Sticky Notes; you can access it very quickly from any window you are working on. Just go to the top of your screen and scroll down, Unclutter should appear with its three windows: the first being the Clipboard, second being Files and the last being the Notes section.
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Creating a note is pretty fast, just make Unclutter appear and start with your new note or even copy directly from the clipboard or even a file. Click on the ‘+’ to take another note and you can also see all your notes or search through them.
But do keep in mind that the notes you can take are pretty limited to text only and the absence of formatting and checkbox lists might be. Ideal breaker for some.
– Easy access, one swipe away
– Pretty fast
– Comes with a Clipboard as well as a file holder
– Supports only text notes
– No organisation
– No sync, only on Mac OS
Bottom Line: Unclutter is a very cool app where you can take notes in a jiffy, so we’d recommend this app for someone who is looking to take some quick text notes while working on their computer and doesn’t need any fancy formatting or feature.
Price: $9.99 (Free Trial available)
Link: Get Unclutter here
Next on our list, we have a note taking app specifically designed for programmers. BoostNote started out as a open source project and has gained a lot of popularity among the programming community over the years.
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What this app basically allows you to do is store your code or code snippets as notes. You can access quickly or even take notes in markdown. Once you open the app, you can select if you want to create a markdown note or create a code snippet. And when I said it is meant for developers, I meant it. BoostNote supports code syntax highlighting in more than a hundred languages and it is also very easy to keep all your notes organised.
– Supports markdown notes
– Code highlighting
– Plenty of syntax and UI themes
– Open source
– Available on all platforms
– Takes time to startup
Bottom Line: Well the answer is obvious, this app is a blessing for programmers as they can now manage all their code snippets and keep them organised while also not losing on the ability to take notes in markdown.
Link: Download Boostnote from here
OneNote is a full blown note taking application from Microsoft, which has been here for a while now. And over all these years, it feels like Microsoft has almost perfected the note-taking experience.
What separates OneNote its competitors is that it using the app feels very close to taking notes on a real notebook; you can write, draw, add pictures literally anywhere on the page at any orientation, just like on a paper notebook. It also comes with a ton of features, the biggest selling point would be built in OCR reader. While you can get it for free for almost all platforms, the Mac app is huge in size and a little slow to use.
– Feature-rich note taking app
– Office integration
– Notebook like experience
– Completely free
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– Huge size
– Can be sluggish at times
Bottom Line: If you are invested even a little in the Microsoft space, OneNote is a no brainer and even if you are not and looking for a great digital notebook, OneNote won’t disappoint.
Link: OneNote is available here
Notability is our pick as the best note taking app for students. It works exceptionally well with the Apple Pencil on the iPad to create beautiful hand-written notes and sketches. You can rotate, scale, and recolour your ideas and sketches until your notes are just how you want them. You can even markup photos and annotate PDFs and once you’re done you can easily share them through Airdrop or any other storage service.
Notability keeps all your notes neatly organised and also syncs them up between your iPad, iPhone and Mac, so you can access them anytime anywhere.
– Great for hand-written notes and sketches
– Support for pressure sensitive strokes of the Apple Pencil
– No search tags
– No support for shapes
Bottom Line: If you have an iPad which you use to take or sketch notes, Notability works really well with the Apple Pencil and if you have the money to spend, just go for it.
A great alternative to Notability would be ZoomNotes which comes at a lower price, but offers almost all the features of Notability.
Link: Buy Notability from here
The next app on our list is Journey, which takes maintaining your daily notes to a whole new level. While Journey is aimed more to be a digital journal, you can still use the feature-packed text editor to take quick notes and Journey will keep them ordered by the date. You can also search through all your notes and even view them by locations. The app backs up and syncs all your notes using Google Drive and it should be imperative to say, it also does provide impressive security features to protect your privacy.
– Keeps everything organised like a Diary
– Easy note taking
– Streamlined review of your notes
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– Requires Gmail/Google Drive account
Bottom Line: Journey works best for noting down your everyday goals or writing something about your day. If you are looking to make the switch from a physical diary to a digital one, Journey might be your best bet.
Link: Download Journey from here
With all the normal note taking apps or text editors, it gets really hard to note down or represent scientific equations, derivatives and mathematical graphs. Enter Manuscripts, a free note taking app made for scientists and scholarly writing. Describing it as just a note taking app would be an understatement as it is capable of much more from a writing a research article to penning down a book.
There are various templates which you can choose from and a plethora of import and export options including LaTeX.
– Scientific Notes/Writing
– Solid import and export formats
– Citation and bibliography formatting
– Not quick for taking simple notes
Bottom Line: Manuscripts is a capable and powerful app for when the going gets tough. Of course, it isn’t for the average Joe, but rather for taking scientific notes with equations and graphs. If you are looking for more of a digital laboratory notebook with support for experiment templates along with equations and graphs, check out Findings.
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Link: Ger Manuscripts here
Last but definitely not least, we have iThoughtsX, a mind mapping tool that lets you organise your thoughts and at a glance see the whole project. Mind maps are ideal for brainstorming with means of keeping your ideas structured and nothing gets omitted out in the whole process.
Although it has a steep learning curve, it’s really easy once you get the hold of it. There are multiple templates and layouts from which you can start and there’s an impressive amount of built-in icons and clipart images.
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– Create perfect mind maps for summarising and meeting notes
– Task Management
– Hand-off feature(Start your min map on one device and finish on another device)
– Steep learning curve
– Not good for other kind of notes
Bottom Line: Mind maps are especially useful for managers and developers or anyone managing a large project. So if you know you need to create mind maps, this app is for you.
Link: Get iThoughtsX here
Wrapping Up: Best Note Taking Apps for Mac
We believe that there is an app for everyone with their own particular need. So whether you are a student or programmer or businessman, we really hope that you could find at least one note taking app from this list suitable to your own needs. And that concludes our list of the top note taking applications available for the Mac. Don’t forget to connect with us and tell us your favourite app from the list or if we missed yours.