Review: 7 PDF editing tools for iOS and Android

It’s not enough to read a PDF on your mobile device anymore -- you have to be able to sign it, copy it or edit it. These apps can help.

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PDF Expert 5

Readdle

PDF Expert 5 crams a rich set of tools into a mostly well-organized interface.

The Edit tool lets you copy and merge PDF files, as well as compress them before sending. Open a PDF, switch to thumbnail view and choose Edit again to add, delete, copy or rotate pages, or split a few pages into a separate PDF. Tap top left for file management tools (including recent and favorite documents), plus connections to a wide range of cloud storage services. 

pdfexpert stamps split

Left: PDF Expert allows you to create your own text and/or image stamps. Right: You can split pages out into a separate PDF.

PDF Expert offers a wide variety of features, including highlighting, underlining and striking through text, inserting text boxes, adding comments, and drawing shapes and lines (in a choice of colors and opacity). In addition, you can insert text and image stamps -- and make your own custom stamps.

A handy pop-up zoom view lets you position annotations precisely, and a separate magnifying view zooms a larger area of the document so you can use multiple annotation tools. You can drag, resize and delete annotations, or undo multiple changes.

Filling in marked fields in a form works well, and you can add text boxes for missing fields. Inserting a signature is a more fiddly process; you have to tap and hold without accidentally selecting anything, something I found a little hard. However, you can finger draw and save your own signature to reuse, or have someone else sign without saving their signature.

You can only use Apple Pencil for annotations when you run it on the iPad. In addition, there is a useful review mode for inserting, editing or deleting text -- but be aware that the mark-ups are only visible in PDF Expert; if you open the document using a different PDF app, the mark-ups will show up as annotations because the actual text wasn't changed.

Bottom line

PDF Expert is a reasonable tool with plenty of useful features, but it -- like iAnnotate -- is expensive compared to many of its competitors.

PDF Max

Mobeera

Mobeera's PDF Max makes it easy to manage content from your phone, whether it's reordering the pages in a document or filling out forms.

To get the most out PDF Max, you're probably going to want a tablet. With its slide-out page navigation menus on the left, a toolbar on the right and another set of menus at the top, I found it crowded even on a Galaxy Note 5. However, it's not an unfixable issue -- the menus are easy to hide, so you can explore documents without losing content behind the application.

pdfmax overview formfilling

Left: PDF Max is easy to use, but has a rather crowded interface. Right: The app excels in form filling.

Where PDF Max excels is in its form filling -- it's easy to zoom into a form and quickly add text to fields. There's also support for pens and styluses where available, so you can sign forms or annotate documents. You can attach voice recordings to documents as well. It'll even work with PDFs that include JavaScript content.

If you take the free ad-supported version, you'll occasionally be interrupted by full-screen ads. That's a better option than losing precious screen real estate to an ad bar, but it can still drag you out of your workflow.

Bottom line

If you deal with a lot of PDF-based forms, then PDF Max's freemium model makes a lot of sense. You can quickly download the app, fill in a form and send it off to wherever it needs to go, either to cloud storage or via email.

Xodo

Xodo Technologies

Like Adobe Acrobat Reader, Xodo's PDF tools are available for everything from phones to web-based apps, with full editing and collaboration support. The software is quick and easy to use, with a well-designed user interface that works both as a reader and an editor -- and there's full support for styluses.

xodo formfilling settings

Left: Xodo has many powerful PDF editing tools, including a form filler. Right: There are a variety of settings you can tweak.

Collaboration is at the heart of Xodo's PDF platform -- its Connect feature lets you quickly share documents with co-workers. You can use your Google account or an account on Xodo's own service to get started, adding collaborators via email. It's surprising to see a free app with this range of features, especially one without advertising. There are no plans to charge for the cross-platform version; Xodo's revenue comes from developing custom versions of its tools for corporate clients.

Outside of collaboration you'll find Xodo a capable and powerful PDF editing tool. There's support for all the common elements, including form filling, annotations, and signatures. Tools are easily accessible, and include the ability to reorder documents and add pages.

There's also the option to connect to other cloud services, with support for the big three of Google Drive, OneDrive and Dropbox. You'll need to install the Dropbox app before you can connect to files stored there, but the other two use service APIs, which don't restrict OS-level access to shared folders.

Bottom line

Xodo's mix of features and its cross-platform capabilities make it well worth using, no matter what phone, tablet, or PC you have -- and its web client also simplifies collaboration. The result is a worthy competitor to Adobe's own tools.

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