Best PDF reader for Mac
While it's easy to open PDF's these days, with most browsers and even office suites offering some form of built-in PDF reader, often it's not enough to simply be able to read a PDF.
The Portable Document Forum (PDF) was originally developed by Adobe in the early 1990's, as a way to share documents between users with different operating systems. Additionally, because it couldn't be edited, that meant the document's integrity could be preserved.
The problem for users nowadays is that PDF's now commonly form user agreements which require signing. On top of this, collaborative working means that having to convert PDF files into native documents for editing and then back again just isn't practical.
Therefore it helps to have a PDF reader that has extended features for editing and e-signing.
However, the prevalence of Windows PCs means that sometimes Apple Macs can seem left behind, especially with the continued development of macOS as an app platform.
We've therefore highlighted the best in PDF readers for the Mac, not least where additional features will allow macOS users to do more with the PDF files they have.
- We’ve also highlighted the best free PDF readers
- Want your company or services to be added to this buyer’s guide? Please email your request to [email protected] with the URL of the buying guide in the subject line.
An easy-to-use PDF management tool
Available to download directly from the Mac App Store, PDF Reader Premium from Kdan Software is one of the most powerful and popular PDF management tools for Apple computers. It functions as a file manager, file converter and page editor.
With the software, you can easily edit PDF files by adding freehand writing, text boxes, sticky notes, hyperlinks and annotations. And to ensure that important documents don’t get mixed up, you’re able to label them by adding tags and color-coding. What’s more, to keep track of all your saved files, you can make use of an import history feature.
The app works with iCloud, too, meaning you can back up and access saved documents on an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. There’s even compatibility with Dropbox, so you can easily import documents from devices that run on other operating systems.
Overall, you should find the app smooth and quick to use. It’s powered by a proprietary rendering engine, which aims to ensure that large files are processed and loaded without any lag. Currently, the app costs $59.99 (£42), although there is a free version that you can try before you purchase.
Apple's own dedicated document viewer
Apple Books is more than just an app for reading novels-at the heart of Apple Books is the ability to read and organize PDF files. The only stipulations is that they must be DRM-free, which makes it somewhat limited by comparison to some of the more dedicated readers featured here.
However, as a simple PDF reader Apple Books-formerly iBooks-does the job exactly as it needs to. Better still, it's bundled for free with iOS 12 so if you're already up to date with the upgrade cycle then the chances are you already have it but perhaps didn't know it can be used to read PDFs as well as novels and a range of document formats.
The one limitation Apple Books has that some of the other apps here don't have is that it can't be used for editing, anotating, or creating PDF files. However, as we're only focused on PDF readers in this piece Apple Books is still a wworthy and necessary inclusion. Even still, there are other apps available in the App Store that can provide expanded functions for manipulating PDF files, if required.
Adobe’s own heavyweight offering
Adobe not only invented the trusty PDF document in the first place, but the company has also created some top-notch apps to manage them. Acrobat Pro DC is a great example, and it supports both Windows and Mac devices. The software allows you to create, edit and convert PDF files with ease.
Whether you happen to be using a desktop PC, laptop or tablet, Acrobat lets you turn any paper document into a PDF file. You just have to snap a photo of the piece of paper and upload it to Adobe’s platform, then you can subsequently edit it. Acrobat also lets you convert PDFs into any Microsoft Office file format, preserving all fonts and formatting.
Thanks to integration with Excel, you can even edit data in scanned tables, making it easier to edit and analyze financial data. Just like Kdan Software’s PDF Reader Premium, you can keep track of the changes you and your colleagues make to PDF documents.
Acrobat is capable of detecting the differences between two versions of the same PDF, too. You can sign up for a business plan for £15.17 a month, which gives you the option to add more team members in the future.
A popular PDF editing suite
PDF Expert is a robust and easy-to-use solution for managing business documents. And with a four-and-a-half star rating in the Mac App Store, it seems to be one of the most popular options out there for Mac users. The software gives you the ability to read, edit and annotate PDF documents from a central dashboard.
One of the great things about PDF Expert is that it’s fast and slick to use. Thanks to smooth scrolling and a fast search function, you can quickly find what you’re looking for across multiple PDF files.
This app lets you edit images, text and links, plus the software can automatically detect fonts, size and opacity of writing. Plus, if you happen to own an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, you can add annotations and notes to documents on-the-go. Like most PDF apps out there, PDF Expert comes with a free download option, but the app for iPad/iPhone costs $9.99 and includes in-app purchases, while the version for Mac costs around $100 for 3 Macs.
A comprehensive document management suite
Wondershare has developed a Mac version of the popular PDFelement app, which is positioned as an easy way to edit PDF documents. It gives you the tools to add text, images, links, backgrounds, watermarks, headers and footers to PDF documents.
The software provides an extensive selection of PDF editing options. Not only can you add text to documents, but you can also tweak the font type, size and style. There’s the ability to rotate, extract, replace and crop images too.
PDFelement is a great option for teams in particular, with powerful collaborative capabilities, letting you add sticky notes, comments, text boxes and more. And you can use the tool to fill out business documents such as contracts and tax forms. PDFelement retails at $49.95 for the standard package, but for all features you will need the Professional package priced at $79.99.