The Best PDF Converter Software of 2020

By editorial staff
, Member
| Updated
Jan 03, 2018

Best Picks

Convert PDF Software: Why you Need it to Convert PDF to Word?

The top performers in our review are Adobe Acrobat DC, the Gold Award winner; Power PDF Advanced, the Silver Award winner; and Foxit Phantom PDF, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a system to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of the top 10 PDF conversion software applications.

The portable document format, more commonly known as a PDF, captures a document much in the same way that a printed document does. PDFs can be sent anywhere and viewed on any operating system and device without incompatibility issues. The versatility of PDFs makes them a good option for businesses to post documents on company websites. Companies can offer more in-depth research and analysis to their customers and offer a downloadable document that can be read on any operating system.

As popularity of the PDF has grown, so has the need for programs that allow you to create, edit and share these files. Convert PDF software does more than convert and edit electronic documents. It offers a range of features that let you manipulate, comment on and secure multiple PDFs. We have reviewed the top PDF converters and ranked them in order according to how well each program allows you to edit your PDFs and convert them into different formats.

Many convert PDF software programs feature optical character recognition (OCR) software (software that allows you to scan paper docs and convert them into PDFs and other formats). However, if your primary goal is to convert PDFs into editable text, you may want to check out document scanning services.

If you need a solution to manage and track your business's documents, you may be interested in some other important office tools. If you have a lot of PDFs going in and out of your office on a daily basis, document management software might be a good fit. These systems give you the tools to manage, organize and securely store all of your documents. If most of your sensitive documents are not yet in digital form, you may be interested in document scanners, which quickly convert paper documents into electronic form so they can be securely shared and saved.


PDF Converter: What We Tested, What We Found

Narrowing Down the List

Originally, we started with 15 PDF conversion software applications. We looked for programs that offer tools to convert PDFs to a variety of other documents. With most users wanting to convert PDF to Word documents, we eliminated one program that didn't integrate with Microsoft.

We then tested 14 programs that met our criteria: namely, programs with OCR capabilities that create searchable PDFs, convert PDFs into popular formats and that are easy to use as well as the other features present on our product comparison (refer to our matrix). We picked the top 10 programs based not only the presence of these features but how well the software performed, with an emphasis on usability.

Testing the Usability of Each Program

To test PDF conversion software, we either received trial accounts of each application or purchased the software from the manufacturer. We tested programs based on their ability to convert PDF documents into different formats, how many steps were involved in setting up the software and converting files, what editing features were present, and what resources the software offers to help you during the conversion process.

We tested these 10 programs for their conversion capabilities and their ability to convert batches of files at once. This was an important test, because many people use convert PDF software to combine multiple documents. If you work with multiple languages, you want software that can handle more than one language as well. Look at our matrix to see how many languages each application supports.

We tested the software ourselves to see how intuitive it was to both access and use. While all software has a learning curve, you do not want to spend days or weeks learning how to execute basic functions. Our Ease of Use score reflects how easy the software was to download or access, the steps involved in converting a PDF to a Word document, how easy it was to navigate the interface and the accessibility of the program's resources. We offer further evaluations of the usability of each software in the product reviews.

Software that Stood Out

In our tests, Adobe Acrobat performed remarkably well in every aspect. Not only does this software offer a clean interface that is easy to navigate, but it offers easy accessibility. You simply download the software and its associated app, and you can access your PDFs from anywhere. We found it was exceptionally easy to convert scanned PDFs into other file formats and never had to access the help resources, although they were present in the application.

When we tested the editing features, we looked for software with OCR compatibility, which lets you create editable PDFs from scanned documents. Editing features are key because often you need to change documents throughout their lifecycle.

When we tested the editing features convert PDF software provides, Soda PDF Professional and Foxit PhantomPDF stood out due to their freehand drawing tools as well as their ability to redact text, collect data from forms and add digital signatures to documents.


Our Verdict & Recommendations

There are many things to consider when deciding which online PDF editor is the best fit for your document-management needs. When choosing software that allows you to create PDFs and convert them into different formats, focus on versions that help your documents work for you.

On our lineup, there is a wide range of programs to choose from depending on your needs. For example, Adobe Acrobat's DC PDF converter is top of the line. PDF Architect is a great value choice. While it may not offer the extensive feature set that Adobe's software does, it effectively converts PDFs and is less than half the price.

Our top three convert PDF software applications have the tools you need to successfully convert PDFs into a variety of other file formats. However, besides their performance, the three programs are very easy to use and offer clean interfaces that are easy to navigate. Between the high performance and ease of use, these programs stand out among the rest.

Another solid choice is PDFelement. While it falls in the middle of the lineup, it offers a high level of usability and numerous conversion tools that improve the software's versatility. Not only that, the program has features that allow you to edit and share password-protected PDFs.

Convert PDF software is a great addition to your document-management system and can help you create, edit and secure your important documents and contracts.

Whenever possible, evaluates all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of typical consumers. The companies had no input or influence over our test methods, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. In addition, results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.

Other Important Considerations for Convert PDF Software

Here are some other features to look for when choosing software:

Output Options
One of the largest benefits of a PDF is that it can be read and used by nearly any operating system without issue. However, there are times when it is necessary to convert a PDF into a different format; often, files are converted from a PDF to a Microsoft Word document for editing purposes. Other types of conversion options include simple text (TXT) files, RTF files and XML.

While all of the software applications on our lineup offer some conversion options, look for apps that offer a range of options. The more file formats the software supports, the more versatility the PDF converter offers.

Access Management
With a PDF, you have more control over who can interact with your document than you would with a normal Word file. When you set controls on a PDF, you can password protect various functions, including who can view it, edit it or even print it. These are important tools in convert PDF software since they allow you to share your documents but still maintain a high level of control over them.


Certain software programs, including Nitro Pro, allow you to send documents for a digital signature while limiting what information in the document the receiving party can change.