November 03, 2010, 8:53 PM — There is certainly no lack of tools -- ones that are good and free -- to help you create PDF documents. But what if you have a job where you need to make new PDFs and your sources are already-created PDF documents? Or if you need to update your company's finished PDFs? The choice of applications that actually allow you to change a PDF after it was created is more limited.
The best-known tool is, of course, Adobe Acrobat, and no wonder: Adobe Systems created the PDF standard. However, Acrobat is not inexpensive; prices begin at $299 for the Standard version.
[ See also: Free alternative PDF tools ]
For this roundup, I compared Adobe Acrobat X Standard (the latest version of the application, which will be released within the next few weeks) to these three competing applications: Foxit PDF Editor 2.2, Nitro PDF Professional 6 and Nuance PDF Converter Professional 7. All of the competitors cost $99.99, considerably less than Acrobat. I tested them on two Dell laptops: one equipped with a 1.86-GHz Pentium M processor, 4GB of RAM and Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); the other with a 2.2-GHz Pentium Dual-Core processor, 2GB of RAM and Windows Vista Business (32-bit).
For the sake of the test, I used a PDF version of an IRS document (specifically, the W-9 form), so that I could work with something that used fill-in fields as well as explanatory text. (I hasten to add that any changes made to the documents were immediately discarded.)
All of these applications let you load a PDF document into them so you can make changes to its content. I looked them over with an emphasis on ease of use when it comes to editing the text and manipulating the graphics, relative to the value of their price.
As this roundup was being researched, Adobe announced the imminent release in mid-November of the next version of Acrobat. The company gave me access to a review copy of Acrobat X (in other words, Version 10).
Acrobat X Standard ($299) is the basic version of Acrobat. It's the lowest-price option among the three versions of Acrobat that allow you to change around words and graphics in PDF documents (the free Adobe Acrobat Reader only lets you view PDFs, not edit them).