PDF (Portable Document Format), since its first release in the 1990s, has long been praised thanks to its stability, accessibility, and shareability. However, the issue of being hard-to-edit makes it nearly impossible to make any alternations to a PDF document.
As a result, many PDF tools have been created to address this problem. Generally, there are two categories of PDF tools: desktop applications and web-based tools. They are not identically the same, and the differences don’t simply result from operating systems. For users, it is important to understand which type of PDF tool is the most suitable.
This article will provide a holistic comparison of each category on the basis of the following 4 components:
- Privacy & Security
Online PDF tools are usually free to use. You won’t be required to register a new account, download any plug-ins, or spend a dime on subscription fees or upgrading your plan. The reason is quite simple: these online PDF tools themselves act as media service providers for advertisers, so that they can generate revenue and never worry about making profits. All you need to do is to upload the files as instructed and download them once completed. The whole process is absolutely free, but some online PDF tools may set a free limit, for instance, twice a day. If you exceed the free limit, you will need to pay.
For desktop applications, they are paid software but offer a wider range of features. Unlike online PDF tools, they make money by providing ads for advertisers as displaying ads on any desktop version may be viewed as adware or spyware, which is not worth taking the risk. SwifDoo PDF provides two different versions: standard & pro version. If you want to permanently unlock all features of SwifDoo PDF, it only costs you $ 119. This one-time fee allows you to edit, compress, and convert your PDF documents.
When selecting a PDF tool, you want it to be all-in-one, versatile, and easy-to use. That means you can enjoy more freedom when it comes to editing your PDF documents. Features including adding annotations, inserting images, cropping pages, converting documents, and applying e-signatures are required and crucial to deal with different PDF documents.
Online PDF editors are useful for one-time tasks. That is to say, if you need to process a large number of documents at one time, it is inconvenient and time-wasting to repeat the file uploading process again and again. For example, iLovePDF can perform no more than two tasks simultaneously. If you want to merge multiple PDFs into one document. For an online PDF tool, you should combine the first two documents, and then proceed with the remaining tasks. These types of PDF tools are good at performing a single task, but cannot perform multi-task requests. Additionally, their features are not as powerful as desktop PDF tools, for example, CAD to PDF or to other file formats.
On the contrary, desktop PDF tools can integrate many more functions within one application. Even during the free trial period, you are able to combine/split pages, insert page numbers, apply header and footer, and extract table of content. For most cases, desktop PDF tools will provide a seven-day or two-week free trial. During this time, you have access to every feature. However, when the free trial expires, some features will be limited and you need to upgrade to premium to unlock all features. However, it is still worth upgrading once you know the performance of this software.
Quality is another determining factor in judging an eligible PDF application. The most fundamental criterion to test a good PDF converter is to check whether the converted document is in good form and quality. A file full of wrong formatting, inconsistent font size, and unreadable code is definitely what we want to avoid.
For online PDF tools, they are able to process simpler documents without too much complex formatting. Here when we mention “complex formatting”, it actually refers to multimedia content (audio, video and other forms of animation). Consequently, if your PDF file contains the above elements, it is better not to adopt an online tool. However, if your PDF document is pure text with simpler formatting, online PDF tools can impress you.
Comparatively, desktop PDF software can deal with complex documents. That’s simple because most PDF tools are equipped with OCR (Optical Character Recognition). This technology can help recognize text within a digital image and is commonly used in scanned documents and images. Therefore, if a PDF document has various styles of formatting, desktop PDF tools cannot go wrong.
Privacy & Security
In the digital age, the internet has become a must-have element for most people. However, the prevalence of network connection has posed a huge threat to us – data and information leaks. Regardless if it is for business or individual purposes, privacy and security issues are worthy of massive attention.
As to online PDF service providers, it is strongly suggested not to upload any personal and highly sensitive information on these online platforms, such as bank account numbers. Once you upload the document into the platform, it will remain there for a short time, which creates vulnerability for an information leak. However, many online PDF tools notice the latent risk as well and promise they will immediately delete your documents once you finished the relevant operation. Choose online tools carefully: select the ones that have been around for a long time and check their privacy policies.
For desktop PDF applications, they are installed on your computers or phones. Hence, the document you are going to upload won’t be sent to the server and is stored within your device. Even so, choose a reliable software and download it from a trustworthy source. If you are 100% certain that you download the app from official websites or app stores, then do not be concerned about file security and privacy leaks.
From the above description, it can be easily concluded that both desktop PDF tools and online PDF converters have their own strengths and weakness, and what to choose is totally dependent on your specific needs. If you need to process many digital files daily, it is strongly recommended to pay for a desktop PDF reader. Otherwise, an online PDF tool is at your fingertips. Hence, before making decision, try to figure out your requirements and take into account the pros and cons of these two PDF tools.
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