Review: Adobe PDF Tool Is Great, But Do Casual Users Need It?

No doubt you've run across your share of PDF documents in your work and personal life. Adobe's Portable Document Format has become a common way to publish newsletters, instruction manuals and even tax forms. Creating your own PDF document is easy, with features built into major Web browsers and Apple's Mac system, or available through an array of free Windows apps.

So why pay $156 or more a year for Adobe's Acrobat DC service? You get those free capabilities in one place, plus features for filling out forms, appending digital signatures and making changes on the go.

The Basics

Many people already use Adobe's free Acrobat Reader for reading documents. But to create documents, you need to pay for Acrobat, or use a free PDF creator from an outside party. Not all PDF creators are the same, though. Some convert text to graphics, for instance, so you're unable to search documents later. And editing capabilities tend to be limited and cumbersome.

I create a lot of PDF files instead of printing out records. Free tools are typically adequate for that, but Acrobat is much easier for rotating and reordering pages and combining multiple PDF documents into a single file. Acrobat also makes it easy to edit text and convert documents back to their original form, whether that's in Word or a Web page.

Adobe Systems Inc. also makes an iPad version, though with fewer features. Versions for iPhones, Android and Windows Phone devices have even less. Files you create and edit will sync through Adobe's Document Cloud storage service. All this comes with Acrobat DC.

Forms and More

My favorite tool is the Fill & Sign app for iPads and Android tablets. Take any form, such as a school permission slip for your kid. You simply snap the form with your tablet's camera and enhance the image...

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