A variety of apps and programs can read PDF files, but if you want to create or edit a PDF, things can get complicated. From the beginning, Adobe Acrobat has been the default app for tackling this task, and Pro DC is the company's top-of-the-line version. Is it worth the high entry fee? Let's find out.
Substantial tutorial info: During the download process, you're asked about your level of familiarity with Acrobat. If you say that you're a beginner, the app will show you a few major features, walk you through exporting a PDF to Microsoft Word, show you how to scan a document, and even play a one-minute video about editing PDFs. Clicking on the "?" icon in the upper right opens up a web page with seven more videos for beginners, and seven for experienced users, all ranging from one minute to 13 minutes in length. The website also has a User Guide, which is basically an online manual.
Tabbed viewing: When the Mozilla Firefox web browser first appeared, one of its major distinctions was tabbed browsing. With this function, you could track all of your open web pages at a glance, without cluttering your task bar. Adobe Acrobat does the same thing with PDFs. If you're just editing the occasional document, this won't be a big deal, but it should be handy for people who have to wrangle a lot of PDFs on a regular basis.
Document comparison: This is more than just looking at two files side-by-side. Acrobat will actually analyze the text and highlight changes. Then each change can be tagged as "Accepted," "Rejected," "Cancelled," or "Completed." Like Google Docs, this change tracking tool can genuinely streamline your workflow and help you avoid mistakes in the final product.
Semi-automated signature requests: If your job has you frequently sending out documents and forms to be signed, the Send for Signature feature may be a lifesaver. It streamlines getting a signed document back and lets you track what's signed and what isn't.
Syncs with iPhone and Android version: "DC" stands for Document Cloud, which works basically like Google Docs -- once you're logged into your Adobe cloud account on your PC, you can start editing a PDF there and read it later on an iPhone or Android device that has the Acrobat Reader mobile app installed and set up. This is a lot handier than having to manually move a file from one device to another, and a more reliable method of file retrieval.
Secure log-in options available: Adobe offers two-step verification to confirm your log-in, although it sends a text via SMS instead of sending a code to an authentication app, the latter of which is more secure because the verification code is a lot more difficult to intercept. Alternatively, you can opt to receive the code via email, but authentication apps are still the ideal method. You can also give Adobe a phone number that it can call if you need to recover your account.
Trial version requires credit card info and physical address: Granted, Adobe products have been historically prone to piracy, which is one of the reasons why the company's moved to a subscription model. But its free trial can't be downloaded without giving payment info, as though you were actually buying it. If you don't cancel your trial before the 7 days are over, you're then charged $14.99 a month, though Adobe will refund you in full if you cancel within 14 days. We think there could be a friendlier approach, such as popping up a notification in the program at the end of the trial period, saying that you need to pay to continue using it, then asking you to confirm the charge.
Opted into usage data sharing by default: If you log into your Adobe account on a website and click on the Security & Privacy section, there's a subsection labeled "Privacy" with two entries: "Desktop app usage access" and "Machine learning." Both are enabled by default. The first entry is described as "[T]he option to share information with Adobe about how you use our desktop apps." And your benefit is "a more personalized experience, as well as help[ing] us improve product quality and features." This is less information than we'd like, and it's unfortunate that this pre-enabled function isn't mentioned during the buying or installation process.
The machine learning feature, which "analyze[s] your files to improve our products and services" by way of "content analysis and pattern recognition" doesn't mention how much human interaction there is with your documents during the machine learning process, how this data is stored, or how long it's retained. Considering how frequently Acrobat Pro may be used to handle confidential materials, having this enabled by default and not articulated is also unfortunate.
Generally pricey: You can avoid a subscription system by buying a standalone copy of Adobe Acrobat Pro 2017, but there is no trial version, and it costs $449, or $199 to upgrade from a previous version, or $119 for the "Student & Teacher" version. At full price, it would take two and a half years for Pro 2017 to become cheaper than the Pro DC subscription. If you don't need the Pro features, you can get Standard 2017 for $299 or upgrade from a previous version of Standard for $139. (Or you can subscribe to Standard DC for $12.99 a month, so Standard 2017 would take "only" 23 months to become cheaper.) And Adobe appears to have pretty tight control on prices -- we weren't able to find any discounts at third-party stores.
If you don't need to edit PDF files very often, you can get a good one like PhantomPDF for less than $100, which is a relative bargain. In our experience, very few free PDF editors are good enough to be worth their frustrations, although PDF-XChange Editor has a good reputation.
The trial process, data sharing opt-in, and overall expense of Acrobat Pro DC are problematic, but the app itself is feature-packed and operates smoothly. If it has functions or usability that you can't get in competing products, that you need on a regular basis, then it may be worth the price tag.