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Are Free PDF Editors Good Enough? Adobe Acrobat Pro DC vs. PDFescape

Adobe Acrobat is the brand's PDF editor. It comes in a free trial version (Acrobat Reader) and a premium subscription, Acrobat Pro, which includes editing features as well as expanded export options. But how much does Adobe Acrobat Pro DC cost, and is it worth it?

As an all-in-one solution, it seems perfect for heavy-duty PDF users. However, it is a subscription-based program. So if you're an equally cost-conscious and tech-savvy person, you may be wondering about free alternatives.

Is Adobe Acrobat DC Worth the Price?

You can try a free trial of Acrobat Pro for one week. After that, Adobe's PDF editor costs $ per month, or you can stick with the free Acrobat Reader, which only includes a few features such as highlighting.

Paying for Acrobat Pro DC has many benefits, including a host of editing and exporting features and the security of the Adobe brand. One of the major perks of purchasing from a larger company is that you know the software will stay competitive. There's also integration with Adobe Creative Cloud.

Related: Reasons to Buy the Adobe Creative Cloud

But $ per month price for Adobe Acrobat Pro adds up to a staggering $ per year. Is it really worth it for a PDF editor?

One of the strongest free PDF Editors is PDFescape. It offers most of the features of Adobe Acrobat Pro in its free version, with more available in its premium options. Compare with Acrobat, which cuts off access to most of its features after the trial expires.

For this post, we'll compare PDFescape to Adobe Acrobat Pro DC to see if Adobe's PDF editor is really worth the price.

PDFescape: A Free Adobe Acrobat DC Alternative

PDFescape is available in three versions, including PDFescape Basic. This version is free, and it's the version we'll compare to Adobe Acrobat Pro DC. This will let us see whether a free program can provide a good alternative to Acrobat Pro Editor. Also, this article compares the desktop version of this PDF tool for Windows rather than using the web version.

PDFescape also offers a Premium and an Ultimate version, each with extra features. These cost $ or $ per month, respectively, adding to an annual bill of $ or $ USD. Otherwise, pay $ or $ on a monthly billing cycle.

PDFescape lets you edit PDFs for free, while Adobe Acrobat Pro DC locks these features behind a paywall after one week. But how does this free PDF editor stack up against Adobe's editor?

Let's take a look.

Download:PDFescape for Windows (Free)

Download:Adobe Acrobat Pro DC for Windows or Mac (Free trial, subscription required)

User Interface

Both Acrobat Pro DC and PDFescape have a similar, multi-pane interface structure.

The main pane in each program lets you view your PDF. There are tools to edit it on the right-hand bar, and reader tools such as bookmarking and thumbnail view on the left.

Clicking each option brings up its tool menu, but you can only view one at a time. In PDFescape, there's also a toolbar at the very bottom of the software window.

Check out the top pane and the tools inside it, also. PDFescape uses the Ribbon interface you'll recognize from Microsoft Word and other Microsoft products, perhaps as a way to make the software more intuitive for users.

In contrast, Adobe doesn't mirror any other commonly used software programs, unless you frequently use Adobe products. Acrobat Pro DC features tool menus that are set up similarly to older versions of Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Reader.

This is nice if you're already familiar with Adobe products, but if you're not, it can be a little difficult to get used to Acrobat's setup.

The features on the right side of Acrobat's interface let you access additional commands and manipulation options, whereas the features on the right and left side of PDFescape offer a few additional features, but otherwise don't reveal much.

The options at the top of the interface offer more features, but some of these are a bit redundant. For example, there are several Edit and View buttons, which contribute to the toolbars being overly cluttered.

Looking back to Acrobat, you may notice that Adobe's Home interface has more words than icons. The file list in the middle pane shows you all the files that you've recently uploaded to Acrobat Pro Dc.

PDFescape has a similar feature, though instead of a list, the software lists your recent documents in thumbnail views.

Winner: PDFescape.

Despite PDFescape's redundant menu options, this software makes it extremely easy to navigate through the different PDF options, all from the top menu bar.

Editing Capabilities

Many people find that the ability to edit a PDF is vital. The Tools tab in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC reveals a wealth of well-organized options.

Combine Files allows for combining material from several PDF files into one. After clicking the Combine Files button, you'll be prompted to upload the PDFs you want to combine. Then just click Combine.

Your combined PDFs will show up in a new Binder tab. You can easily adjust the order of the combined pages by clicking Organize Pages. Just drag and drop the pages the way you'd like them ordered, and close the pane.

You can also combine files in PDFescape. From the main interface, go to Create PDF, then click Combine Files.

Upload both PDF files you want to merge and click Combine.

Just like with Acrobat, this combines both PDFs into a single document.

Unfortunately, you can't further adjust the page order with the Basic version of PDFescape. If you want to use the Page Preview panel to reorder your PDF pages, you'll have to upgrade to a paid account.

Unfortunately, this seems to be the case for a lot of PDFescape's features.

Here are a few more things you can't do with the free version of PDFescape that you can unlock with the paid versions:

  • Insert or edit images
  • Add page numbers
  • Add a header or footer
  • Split the PDF into multiple documents
  • Convert your PDFs to other formats (such as Word, Excel, or HTML)
  • Highlight text or add review notes
  • Password secure your PDF or set secure permissions

And these are only a few of its limitations. However, it is worth pointing out that you can access some of these features with the (still free) online version of PDFescape.

You can't do anything complicated, but you do gain the ability to highlight, comment, and annotate the PDF, though the editing features here are less powerful. Additionally, you can use the online PDF editor offered by PDFescape to encrypt your PDF, which the desktop version doesn't allow in the free version.

Conversely, editing PDF text and images in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC is a straightforward process. This is likely because Acrobat Pro DC is a paid PDF editor already.

You can easily crop photos, enjoy a convenient automatic spell check feature, and watch formatting automatically adjust to added text.

Winner: Adobe Acrobat Pro DC.

It is pretty inconvenient that PDFescape allows you to combine files, but doesn't let you rearrange those file pages. Giving users image editing permissions doesn't seem like too much to ask, given how much free image editing software is out there, so PDFescape is really lacking here.

PDFescape's free version also loses points for not allowing comments or highlights in the desktop version when these features are offered for free on the software's online version.

There's no way around it. Acrobat Pro DC is just easier to work with when editing PDFs.

Signature Capabilities

There are many instances when you might need to sign a PDF. After filling out a form for tax purposes or reviewing your rental contract, for example.

Unfortunately, the free version of PDFescape does not offer a native PDF-signing feature. You'd have to upgrade to a PDFescape Ultimate membership in order to unlock it.

You can, however, sign PDFs in the web version. Simply upload the PDF you need to sign. Then you can click on the Text feature to enter information in the document's blank fields.

Then, when you're ready to sign, just use the dropdown font menu to select the Signature font.

Sign your name, and click the double green arrow button to automatically save and download your signed PDF file.

Adding a signature in Adobe is simple, too. Just click the Fill & Sign option in the right-hand menu.

Choose Sign from the top toolbar. If you've previously signed something in Acrobat Pro DC, the software will remember your signature.

If it's your first time signing a PDF in Acrobat, all you have to do is click Add Signature. Then, simply type, draw, or upload an image of your signature to the software and click Apply.

You'll then be able to place your signature on the appropriate line and adjust the size.

Winner: Adobe Acrobat Pro DC.

Both of these programs can work well to sign your PDF documents, but PDFescape will only let you sign your documents if you upload them to the web platform. Even if you already have the free software downloaded on your computer, this creates an inconvenient extra step.

With Acrobat Pro DC, however, you get easily accessible and convenient signing features right at your fingertips.

Accessibility Options

Initially, PDFescape was a purely cloud-based application (i.e. the web platform was its only platform). Later, the service developed the offline-friendly desktop version. However, PDFescape does not have a smartphone or tablet app, so you're still dependent on computer access.

Furthermore, only Premium or Ultimate users get offline access. As a free user, you either have a steady internet connection or you're out of luck.

As for Adobe Acrobat, it has both Android and iOS apps that Pro users can access. So if you need to edit PDFs from your iPhone or Android device, you can. Moreover, all of Acrobat Pro's editing features can be used offline after the initial download.

Download: Adobe Acrobat Reader for Android (Free trial, subscription required)

Download:Adobe Acrobat Reader PDF Maker for iOS (Free trial, subscription required)

Winner: Adobe Acrobat Pro DC.

The sheer convenience of having access to your PDFs from a mobile app gives Acrobat Pro DC a clear advantage over PDFescape here.

Overall: Adobe Acrobat Pro vs. PDFescape

While PDFescape is convenient if you just need to combine a few PDFs or sign a contract, the free software fell short in this comparison. Adobe Acrobat Pro triumphs in editing capabilities, signature capability, and accessibility options, while PDFescape wins in interface design.

Adobe Acrobat Pro DC is your best choice for extensive PDF editing, signing, and manipulation since you can do pretty much anything you want to your PDFs with your Acrobat subscription. It's also easy to use and has a beautiful interface.

Related: How to Sign a PDF: Ways to Secure Electronic Signatures

In comparison, PDFescape isn't necessarily difficult to use, but its crowded interface isn't always the most intuitive, and many of the tools in the software are off-limits to free users.

Also, Adobe Acrobat Pro DC boasts even more features not covered here. For instance, a Compare feature that contrasts differences between two PDFs and integrates with Dropbox or tracks PDF forms sent to others.

Purchasing the Premium or Ultimate version of PDFescape unlocks numerous capabilities, too. But as far as its free version goes, there's really no contest. The free version of PDFescape has numerous limitations where Adobe offers too many features to list.

Is Acrobat Pro DC Worth the Money?

We think Adobe's PDF editor comes out ahead, but what do you think? Would you still rather jump through hoops with a free PDF editor, or is it important to have all of the features you need in one place?

And for Adobe apps that are worth installing, check out this helpful list.


7 Lesser-Known Adobe Apps Worth Downloading

Everyone knows Adobe offers apps for mobile platforms, but do you know about these hidden gem Adobe apps on Android and iOS?

Read Next

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Kayla Matthews ( Articles Published)

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Where to buy Adobe Acrobat Pro DC

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