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Comparing PDF Viewer, Reader and Editor: What’s the Difference?

Staying up to date on technology terminology is frequently one of the major challenges everyone deals with today. That’s even true in niche sectors such as the world of digital document management and creation. While the average computer user is very familiar with the PDF format and may even have several PDF files on their hard drive, there is often a large amount of confusion surrounding the different types of PDF software. Years of unclear product names and a frequently overlapping set of features have only added to the murkiness of the question.

Viewer, reader, editor, creator — what do all these terms mean, and which type of software do you need to make sure you have access to all the right features? Although it might look like a tangled mess to start, it’s easy to unravel the different meanings behind each type of program. What do you need to know to tell them apart?

Beginning with the Basics: PDF Viewers

A PDF viewer is the most fundamental and limited type of PDF software. Their sole purpose is to allow users to open and view the contents of PDF files so that they may read them on their screens. PDF viewers also let users quickly print PDFs back to hard copy, such as when you download an important form to fill out and submit in person. Viewers have very limited functionality when interacting with the actual contents of the PDF file itself. In some cases, some viewer software allows users to fill out form fields if they are active in the document.

Is a reader different from a viewer? Don’t be confused — a PDF reader and a PDF viewer are two names for the same thing. You can expect the same level of limited interactive functionality from a reader.

PDF Editors and Their Different Types

Compared to a PDF reader or viewer, a PDF editor is a much more fully-featured type of software. Designed to let users manipulate and modify the contents of a PDF, today’s editing programs combine multiple functions into one software package. Some other terminology you might encounter falls under the overall PDF editing umbrella. Those terms include:

  • PDF creator — software that enables users to create new documents from scratch or to take scanned documents and turn them into digital versions.
  • PDF converter — a tool that lets you swap PDF files to and from other file formats, such as Excel, Word, and even image files.
  • PDF editor — the umbrella term for this software. A PDF editor lets you encrypt documents, add form fields, change and modify text, edit images, and much more.

Related Post: How to Create PDF Files

Choose the Best All-in-One PDF Software Package

With so many different solutions on the market, it’s no surprise that many users experience frustration and confusion when trying to work with PDF files. The best solution is to skip piecemeal programs altogether and adopt a fully-featured PDF editor that has every function you need under one digital roof. Kofax Power PDF can be the perfect fit for anyone’s needs, from the individual user to the business searching for an affordable site license. Discover all its features and see how easy it is to learn Power PDF when you download a free trial version now.

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