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Why Acrobat Pro is not worth paying for

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Why Adobe is not worth paying for

Adobe produce great PDF tools but you can get what you need without spending a cent. Here’s why Acrobat Pro is not worth paying for.


Adobe Acrobat Reader seems to come bundled with most PCs these days. If it’s not already on your PC then chances are that the first time you try to view a PDF on your computer you’ll be prompted to download the free version.

The free version is fine for simply looking at PDFs (I guess that’s why it’s called ‘Reader’), but there are a lot of things that the free version doesn’t do.

Here’s a screenshot from the Adobe website that shows what you can and cannot do with Reader:

Acrobat Features
Screenshot from Adobe Website taken 7 December 2020

As you can see, Acrobat Reader allows you to do very little with a PDF…unless you hand over some money.

Cost of Acrobat Pro

If you want the full set of features (or even just one of the additional features) you have to upgrade to Adobe Acrobat Pro, which will cost you the tidy sum of €30.24/mth.

That adds up to about €360 per year without you getting anything you can keep. If you’re purchasing for a business, it costs €20.56/mth per person, which would quickly add up too.

Acrobat Pricing
Adobe Website 7 Dec 2020

Admittedly you get a lot of features for your money but many of those features are overkill for what you’re likely to be doing with your PDFs. Do you need to:

  • Measure the distance, area and perimeter of objects in PDFs?
  • Turn Adobe Photoshop (PSD), Illustrator (AI) or InDesign (INDD) files into PDFs?
  • Create technical PDFs in Microsoft Project, Visio or Autodesk AutoCAD?

I’m guessing that you don’t. The features that you do need, and that you have to pay €360 per year for, are actually available in other (free) software. That’s why Acrobat Pro is not worth paying for.

Finding Better Value

Not wanting to spend money on features that I don’t need, I spent a long time looking for a good alternative. I wanted to either

  1. pay for only what I needed (which I expected to cost far less than €360 per year) or
  2. better yet, get what I needed for free.

Eventually, over the course of about 3 years, I found the best options. It was a lot of research – taking free trials of different products, checking stability and functionality, and checking how well they integrated with other software.

I now use two different pieces of software (both free) that together do everything that I need. They do virtually everything that Acrobat Pro can do (excluding the advanced features that I would never have a use for anyway).

With my free software I can:

  • Convert documents and images to PDF files;
  • Create PDFs from any application that prints;
  • Create, protect and send PDFs in popular Microsoft 365 apps for Windows;
  • Combine multiple documents and file types into one PDF file;
  • Convert web pages to PDF;
  • Prevent others from editing information in PDFs;
  • Create a password protected PDF;
  • Create and export PDFs;
  • Turn PDFs into editable Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint files;
  • Insert, delete and organise pages in a PDF;
  • Split a PDF by extracting one or multiple pages;
  • Add bookmarks and page numbering;
  • Reorder, delete or rotate PDF pages;
  • Add comments to PDFs with a full suite of commenting tools including text editing, highlighting, underlining, and sticky notes.
Why Adobe is not worth paying for

The Value of Paperless Academy

Those two pieces of software form the basis for two of the courses on Paperless Academy – PDF Manipulation and PDF Annotation. In those courses you not only receive the software at no extra cost to you but in addition I take you on a full tour of the software and show you, step by step, how every single function and feature of the software works.

Once you purchase a course you have access to it for life. You can dip in and out whenever you want, and come back to refresh your memory whenever you want. I’ve broken the courses into small bite-size chunks so it’s very easy to find the topic you want when you’ve forgotten how to do something.

I’m sure many of you are wondering can I just tell you what the software is called and let you get on with learning how to use it, and I understand where you’re coming from. However, there are two points I would make in reply:

  1. I spent a lot of time testing and fine tuning in order to find this software and ensure that it works well. It does. If you want to save yourself that time (and the cost of Acrobat Pro) then it’s worth paying for the information;
  2. Listen to what students of Paperless Academy have said about their experiences of the courses, and specifically how useful it was to be shown how the software works:

“In each course I found that by the middle or latter lectures I was learning either new systems or how to better apply tools that I hadn’t really engaged or utilised before.”

“I was not starting from scratch with any of the concepts or systems addressed in the courses provided by Paperless Academy. However, in every course I found that while I understood the general principles covered in the initial lectures, the way Gerard brought things back to basics meant that I came away with a fundamental improvement in my organisation or work flow.”

How to Save on Software

So, that’s my ‘value proposition’. You can keep spending €360 a year on Acrobat Pro and never own it (and probably never know how to use it properly to its full potential), or you can spend €250 on two Paperless Academy courses and not only own the software but also know how to use it to its full potential.

The choice is yours.

Not sure where to start?

How about a free e-book?

The Lawyer’s Guide to Going Paperless

A comprehensive, easy-to-read overview to help you decide if going paperless is right for you.

(Hint: If you like the idea of having more free time, fewer expenses and a clutter-free office, then it probably is.)

Lawyer's Guide to Going Paperless