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Difference Between Adobe Reader and Adobe Acrobat

Adobe Reader and Adobe Acrobat are the two most popular PDF viewers developed and distributed by Adobe Systems Incorporated. Both are very essential tools in today’s electronic workflow that can convert virtually any document to a PDF format while keeping the content intact with the original document. Both can be used to view, print, comment, and search through documents with ease, but the Acrobat is the more advanced version of the Reader with the ability to create and edit existing documents. This article explains the difference between the two PDF viewers on various fronts.

What is Adobe Reader?

Adobe Reader is one small component of Acrobat developed by Adobe Systems to view and open PDF (Portable Document Format) files. It is a cross-platform program which allows you to create PDF documents on one computer and view them on other computer with a PDF viewer such as Adobe Reader. It can be downloaded from the Adobe’s website absolutely free of cost or it can also be acquired from other sources as long as they are compliant with Adobe licensing requirements. Adobe Reader is not same as the Adobe Acrobat. In fact, it’s a small component of a much larger Adobe family which has evolved through various iterations over time. Along with viewing and printing PDF files, it also allows you to do a whole lot of things with PDFs such as form completion, commenting on documents, converting PDFs to Word or Excel, signing and certifying forms, etc.

What is Adobe Acrobat?

Adobe Acrobat is an essential PDF viewing tool that can convert virtually any document to PDF format while preserving the look and content of the original. With Adobe Acrobat, you can not only have all the features of Adobe Reader but so much more including the ability to create and edit texts and images in PDF documents. It is the more advanced version of the Adobe Reader with added functionalities like the ability to scan paper documents. Adobe Acrobat comes in Standard and Pro versions along with a cloud version called Adobe Acrobat DC. The Standard version is the lighter version of the Acrobat with all the necessary features you’ll find in the Pro version with the exception of preflighting documents, creating PDF portfolios, forms authoring, creating actions, and more.

Difference between Adobe Reader and Adobe Acrobat

Basics of Adobe Reader and Adobe Acrobat

Adobe Reader is a free program developed and distributed by Adobe Systems that allows you to view PDF or portable document format files. It is a cross-platform application meaning the PDF file will look the same on a Windows as it will on a Mac and it also allows searching through PDF files.

Adobe Acrobat, on the other hand, is a more advanced and paid version of the Reader but with additional features to create, print, and manipulate PDF files. Adobe Acrobat is literally capable of doing anything that the Reader can do and more.


Adobe Reader, formerly Reader, is a free, trusted standard for viewing, printing, and commenting on PDF documents plus it can interact with all types of PDF content including multimedia and files. Adobe Reader supports a wide range of operating systems including Linux, Mac, Windows, Android, and Solaris in almost 35 languages.

The Adobe proprietary Acrobat is only available for Windows and macOS on a subscription basis. It is the industry standard to create, print, manage, and comment on PDF files, and so much more.

Version History

The basic Adobe Reader is available for free on the Adobe’s website that anyone can download and use to view PDF files. The Adobe Reader Lite is a bloat-free and lighter version of the Adobe’s famous PDF viewer but with the essential features stripped away. Adobe Acrobat is available in two versions: Standard and Pro. The premium services of Adobe Acrobat Reader are available on a monthly or annual subscription basis. The standard Acrobat provides the basic features like viewing, creating, editing and converting PDF files, whereas the Pro version is ideal for professional and business users providing additional functionalities on the top of the ones offered in the Standard version.

Features in Adobe Reader Vs. Adobe Acrobat

Adobe Readers is basically a freeware that allows you to work with existing PDF files. It provides all the basic features to work efficiently with PDF documents such as web integration, documents printing and sharing, email support, sticky notes and highlighting, accessibility options, full-screen viewing, commenting, form completion, signing and certifying, and more.

Adobe Acrobat can do everything that the Reader can do but with an additional feature to create and edit PDF documents. It also allows you to add interactivity features like multimedia elements into PDF documents. It also allows us to encrypt our documents for an extra level of security.

Adobe Reader vs. Adobe Acrobat: Comparison Chart

Summary of Adobe Reader vs. Adobe Acrobat

In a nutshell, both the software applications are essential for viewing, printing, and searching through PDF documents, except the Adobe Acrobat is a more advanced version of the Reader with an extra ability to create, manipulate and edit PDF document. Adobe Acrobat can do literally everything the Adobe Reader can do and much more. Plus the Acrobat also comes with the DC version which stands for Document Cloud and is an optional online service which allows users to store documents online and even share with others for seamless access. Adobe Reader is basically a free program used to work with PDF files but with limited features.

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  1. I received a email from adobe saying that I had not logged into my adobe account for more than a year and if I don’t log into it within the next 60 days my adobe ID will expire. I get PDF files sent to me that I can open in my phone, by the way I only am using my phone right now no computer. I looked at my passwords and could find no ID pass code to log in. I remember years ago I had problems opening PDF files, but I do not remember how I fixed the issue. I am not a computer whizz kid by far, so the bottom line is this a phishing scam ? Your reply would be greatly appreciated.

  2. I really needed to understand the differences and have no idea how to log in either, plus this site is filled with so many ads its impossible to read.

  3. “It cannot be able to edit existing text or media.”

    This should be shortened to “It isn’t able to…media.””

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References :

[0]Image credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/0b/Adobe_Acrobat_v8.0_icon.svg/500px-Adobe_Acrobat_v8.0_icon.svg.png

[1]Image credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e1/Pdf-portfolio.png/640px-Pdf-portfolio.png

[2]Padova, Ted. Adobe Acrobat 8 PDF Bible. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2008. Print

[3]Fridsma, Lisa and Brie Gyncild. Adobe Acrobat DC Classroom in a Book. San Jose, CA: Adobe Press, 2015. Print

[4]Masters, David L. The Lawyer's Guide to Adobe Acrobat. Chicago: American Bar Association, 2008. Print

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