Adobe Reader vs Adobe Acrobat: Which One Is the Right Choice for You?

Adobe developed its PDF file format to allow a better way to create, copy, and exchange documents. Learn which is better between Adobe Reader vs Adobe Acrobat.

The PDF file format is widely regarded as being among the most important to society. What makes this file format so special, among many things, is its definitive presentation and universal nature.
PDFs appear the same no matter what devices they're viewed on. That enables a massive array of devices to read them and creates conditions where large swaths of the global population can share information.

Two of the most popular programs that facilitate the use of PDFs are Adobe Reader and Adobe Acrobat. Confusion around these program's differences have created several Adobe Reader vs Adobe Acrobat questions that we aim to answer in this post.

Below, we break down the advantages and limitations of each program so you can better understand which is best for your PDF needs!

What Is Adobe Reader?

We'll open up our Adobe Reader vs Adobe Acrobat discussion by first exploring the least robust of the two programs - Adobe Reader. Adobe Reader is a freeware that most computers come pre-installed with.

Note that several other Reader-like applications exist in the freeware marketplace. Adobe's Reader just so happens to be the most popular.

What Does It Do?
Given the free nature of Reader, it's features are limited. Still, the things that Reader does, it does well.Three core functions you can expect to perform using Reader include:

View PDF Documents
As its name suggests, Reader facilitates the reading of PDF files. You can expect Reader to present your files with a professional-level fidelity. The software can also open various types of PDF file extensions.

Make Comments
Commenting on PDFs is a relatively new feature that has been added to Reader. With it, you can highlight sections of a PDF and make accompanying notes.These notes can be helpful for personal reference purposes or collaboration between teams.

As you might expect, Adobe Reader does allow for the printing of PDF documents. Documents can be printed psychically or can be virtually printed into new files on your device.
Note that security restrictions placed on a PDF file (which we'll discuss in a moment) may limit Adobe Reader's ability to execute print functions.

What Is Adobe Acrobat?
Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Acrobat DC (the name of its most recent, "pro" iteration) is a piece of paid software. The tool comes with most Adobe Creative Suite subscriptions or can be purchased a-la-carte from the Adobe store on a subscription basis. Acrobat is like Reader at its foundation but boasts a host of heightened features that make it the tool of choice for professionals.

What Does It Do?
Presenting you with an exhaustive list of Adobe Acrobat features would go well beyond the scope of this post. We will, however, give you a taste of what you can expect to enjoy when opting into this paid program.

Here are a few examples of what Adobe Acrobat can do:
Everything Adobe Reader Can
If you can do it in Adobe Reader, you can do it in Adobe Acrobat. That means you can expect to be able to read, mark-up, and print PDF documents. Acrobat even lets you open and work with file extensions that fall outside of the PDF family for increased versatility.

Any time you include sensitive information in a document, you run the risk of data leaking. Adobe's Acrobat is well aware of that reality and has worked to combat it by introducing a host of security features customers can use. For example, documents can be password protected in Adobe Acrobat. This password can be used to restrict access to a document or to restrict specific features within a document. That might mean not letting people copy and paste sections of your PDF or disabling printing with certain settings.All password-protected documents can also be encrypted.

Document Editing
Where Adobe Acrobat really shines is through its document editing capabilities. The sky is the limit when using this tool as you can edit text, adjust document formatting, create interactive form fields, and much more. Whether you just need to finesse a document or you need to create a whole interactive workbook, the tools offered through Adobe Acrobat have you covered.

Signing Documents
If you have a document that needs to be signed, Adobe Acrobat enables you to do that digitally. You can create signature fields in documents, send those documents off and recipients can use a digital signature to finalize things. That ease of signing has made Acrobat an instrumental tool when conducting real estate transactions, loan agreements, and more.

Combining Files
If you've ever wondered How to combine PDF files Adobe Acrobat is your answer. The tool has a document merger that allows you to put multiple documents into it and stitch everything into a single workbook. Documents that are combined don't even need to be PDFs!

Adobe Reader vs Adobe Acrobat
Now that you have a better understanding of the Adobe Reader vs Adobe Acrobat equation, which tool is right for you?

While that's a question only you can answer, as a rule of thumb, if you're just planning on viewing PDFs, Reader will cover your needs. If you have to perform document edits, manage security, or do other more complicated tasks, you'll want to upgrade to Adobe Acrobat.

The beauty of Acrobat is that Adobe offers free trials of the tool so you're welcome to give it a try before you buy. Download the program today, experiment with its features, and determine for yourself if the money required is worth the spend!

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