PDF Architect is easily the most unique PDF program we’ve come across. It’s offered as a free download and three different paid packages, each containing a specific set of PDF tools it calls “modules.” As you move up the payment tiers, more of these modules are unlocked, expanding how much editing power you have over your PDFs.
The “create” module, for example, lets you read existing PDFs and convert a multitude of document types into the format. It also allows you to merge PDFs and move and delete pages within a single PDF. As the foundational module, it’s available with all four plans. The “edit” module is where you can really start manipulating PDF content, and as such it’s only available as part of the three paid plans. The top-level PRO + OCR plan gives you the most robust PDF editor, including all the creation, editing, converting, and reviewing capabilities PDF Architect 8 offers, plus Optical Character Recognition.
This review is part of our best PDF editors roundup. Go there to learn about our testing and how all the competitors performed.
PDF Architect uses an Office-style ribbon interface. Tools are organized in a series of tabs across the top according to their function—converting, editing, commenting, and so on. PDF files open in the document pane, and additional tools here let you navigate the current document by page, thumbnail, bookmark, link, or text search.
You can create PDFs from scanned documents or from most common file formats. PDF Architect also supports one-click conversion of PDFs to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, HTML, text, and image formats. I was able to accurately reproduce documents in all of these formats during my testing. Batch conversion is supported as well.
PDF Architect 8 includes a full slate of tools for highlighting, underlining, and striking out text. You can also annotate documents with comments or the customizable stamping tool and draw on the document freehand or with a selection of predefined shapes. If a document contains sensitive data that you don’t want some recipients to see, you can secure all or part of the PDF with password encryption, permissions, redaction, or digital signatures.
A particular benefit for business settings is an optional e-sign feature that lets you send and track documents for e-signatures from right inside PDF Architect. There are two ways to send for a signature: For a simple document, you can quickly add a signature field to the PDF and send it out for a single signer. For complex documents where multiple signatures may be required, you can prepare a custom workflow that details steps like the order signatures need to be executed and deadlines for each signature. PDF Architect also lets you see who has signed and which signatures are still missing so you can better manage the process.
PDF Architect Standard, which includes all the capabilities of the free version and adds the Edit, Convert, and Page modules, costs US$79 a year for a single user. PDF Architect Professional adds the Review/Comment, Secure, and Forms modules and costs US$99 per year. PDF Architect Pro + OCR includes everything in the Professional version and adds the ability to scan documents to editable PDFs and convert images in PDFs to editable text and make them searchable. It costs US$149 per year. Each plan includes unlimited free upgrades, free support, and the ability to run PDF Architect 8 on three computers per user.
The e-sign feature has to be purchased separately. A free 14-day trial is automatically activated when you sign up for any plan. After that expires, you can either purchase 10 Packs of e-signatures or use e-sign as a yearly subscription.
PDF Architect 8 is a flexible, easy-to-use PDF editor with all the tools you need for any scenario. It’s also one of the most affordable. If you need an inexpensive Acrobat alternative that doesn’t sacrifice essential functionality, look no further.