Adobe Acrobat Standard DC vs. Adobe Acrobat Pro DC

Here's what you need to know before purchasing Adobe's paid PDF editor.

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Rob Schultz / IDG

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Adobe Acrobat remains the gold standard for PDF editors—as well as the most expensive. Given the cost of upgrading from Adobe’s free Acrobat Reader, it’s worth familiarizing yourself with the differences between the company’s two paid products for individuals: Adobe Acrobat Standard DC and Adobe Acrobat Pro DC (which cost $12.99 per month and $14.99 per month, respectively, with an annual commitment). While both versions will get you the desktop software, access to Adobe Document Cloud services for storing and sharing files, and an Adobe Sign subscription to sign and collect legal electronic and digital signatures on any device, there are some differences in features and capabilities that may make one or the other better suited to your needs.

How they’re similar

It’s easiest to start with how Acrobat Standard DC and Pro DC are similar because many of the most essential features are available in both versions. For example, both Standard and Pro enable you to create PDFs. That includes converting documents and images to PDF, creating PDFs from any application that prints, combining multiple documents and file types into a single PDF file, and turning webpages into interactive PDFs with live links.

acrobat pro dc editing Michael Ansaldo/IDG

Both Acrobat Standard DC and Pro DC provide essential editing tools like markup and comments.

Both versions also support basic editing of PDFs. You can add, delete, reorder, and extract pages; edit images and text; permanently remove sensitive information; add page numbering, bookmarks, headers, and watermarks; and convert PDFs into Microsoft Office files and a variety of image formats.

adobe acrobat pro dc reorder pages Michael Ansaldo/IDG

Both Acrobat Standard DC and Pro DC let you insert, delete, reorder, and extract PDF pages.

Acrobat Standard DC and Pro DC both allow you to share and collaborate on documents as well. You can share documents—as an email attachment or as link to the file in Adobe Document Cloud—add comments and markups, fill in forms, collect e-signatures, and receive real-time activity notifications.

How they’re different

Once you move beyond the basics, there are a few key differences between Acrobat Standard DC and Pro DC that may influence you to decide on one over the other.

Searchable scanned documents

A critical feature for many users is the ability to convert scanned paper documents into searchable, editable PDFs. For that, you’ll need Acrobat Pro DC. It can recognize text in a variety of languages, allowing you to easily find and edit information in the document.

acrobat pro dc recognize text Michael Ansaldo/IDG

You need Acrobat Pro DC to create searchable and editable text in PDF files.

Enhanced editing

While Acrobat Standard DC includes enough editing capabilities for most personal and business use cases, Acrobat Pro DC adds a few that might be required in certain scenarios. For instance, Pro DC gives you the option to redact sensitive information from documents when you want to keep it hidden from particular viewers, rather than only permanently remove it as Acrobat Standard DC does.

Acrobat Pro DC also lets you add audio, video, and interactive objects to PDFs. If you work with legal documents, Pro DC is the only version that enables Bates numbering.

Perhaps most importantly, Acrobat Pro DC extends editing to your mobile devices, allowing you to edit text and images; reorder, delete, and rotate PDF pages; and fill and e-sign PDFs on your tablet or phone.

Document comparison

If you send a lot of documents out for review, you need an easy way to make sure all requested changes have been made. Only Acrobat Pro DC lets you compare two versions of a PDF side by side. You can even filter the types of changes you want to view and print a comparison report and summary of changes.

acrobat pro dc compare documents Michael Ansaldo/IDG

You can compare versions of the same document in Acrobat Pro DC and view a summary of changes.

Operating system support

This will be the deciding factor for Mac users. Only Acrobat Pro DC is compatible with both Mac OS and Windows; Acrobat Standard DC is available for Windows only.

Pricing

Both versions are offered as monthly or yearly subscriptions, and not surprisingly, you pay a bit more for Acrobat Pro DC’s extended capabilities. A monthly subscription to Acrobat Standard DC costs $23 per month. If you make an annual commitment, it’s knocked down to $12.99 per month or $155.88 billed annually. An Acrobat Pro DC monthly subscription runs $25 per month, while and annual commitment reduces that to $14.99 per month or $177.88 billed annually.

Which one is right for you?

If you’re a Windows user and your PDF use is limited to creating, editing, and sending documents, Acrobat Standard DC has more than enough functionality for you. Acrobat Pro DC is best reserved for business users and those with particular needs, like protecting sensitive information. It’s also the only choice for Mac users.

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