Center For Practice Management, PDF, Productivity

Adobe Acrobat Alternatives for Lawyers

Over the years Adobe has made some significant changes in how the Acrobat Standard and Pro versions are developed and priced. In the past you could purchase a license for Adobe Acrobat and keep the software for several years with support. Adobe would issue an upgrade, and existing customers – so long as they had a recent version of the software – would get reasonable upgrade pricing. Recently Adobe has embraced the SaaS pricing model, charging a per user per month fee for the Acrobat software. They no longer support older versions of the software. If it is time to upgrade or you feel like the total cost of ownership for Adobe Acrobat is no longer advantageous for your firm there are plenty of options to consider.


Before you make a switch first assess what you need from a PDF manipulation software application. If you only need to view, comment, print, sign and fill out PDF documents you can stick with the free Acrobat Reader DC.   Do you need to save documents to PDF? Word, WordPerfect, Google Docs all do that natively with either the File – Save As menu or the File – Print menu.  Scan to PDF? Most smartphone apps and scanners like the Fujitsu Scan Snap will do that. If you need to combine multiple documents into a single PDF, move pages around, add pagination, Bates stamp, apply redaction, run Optical Character Recognition, create forms, send for electronic signature, password protect documents, or other complex functions? You may need a fee-based alternative.

The next part of the decision making will be looking at who is using the software, where and for what? Your support team may do fine with an installed piece of software, but the attorneys may need mobile versions that can be available on multiple devices or in the cloud. Are you a Mac or PC? Do you need features like redaction, page organization, batch processes, or other ways to manipulate a PDF or do you mostly send PDF documents for signature or comment? Even though it may be a little harder for the IT team to manage (keeping up with patches, logins, training, and licenses) you can work in a mixed environment where some people have one tool and others a different one.


Following are some paid alternatives to Adobe Acrobat that offer a similar feature set with a price point that may be more palatable for your firm’s need.

Kofax (f/k/a Nuance) Power PDF

If you are looking for an Acrobat DC Pro alternative that has almost all of the features but prefer to pay a license price versus a monthly price look no further. Power PDF has Standard and Prof for Windows, Standard for Mac and business licensing. A single license for Power PDF Advanced for Windows costs $179 – forever.  They offer a 15-day free trial.


NitroPro, at $128 per license for the Nitro Productivity Suite, has all the features of Adobe Acrobat DC Pro. You can purchase 3 licenses and get one free or 8 and get 2 free. They have a free trial offer. The biggest drawback to NitroPro is it is not compatible with the Mac OS.

Foxit PhantomPDF

Foxit PhantomPDF Standard 10 is $139 per user and $179 for Business 10. They also offer PhantomPDF for Mac OS for $139. While you can sign a PDF you cannot send for signature.

CutePDF Pro

At $50 CutePDF Pro should do everything you need if you don’t need redaction and Bates stamps. There is no version for the Mac OS. You cannot send a document for signature.


Preview is part of the software that comes with the Mac OS. It is remarkably robust, though it does not have Bates stamping or redaction or send for signature.


If you just need one or two features of the full-blown software, such as the ability to send for signature or run optical character recognition or secure a PDF there are many tools that let you perform discrete tasks on a PDF document.  If you have not upgraded your old and unsupported version of Acrobat be aware of the options that may be more economically viable for your firm.