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Working With PDFs: Do I Need Acrobat Pro?

This article applies to: Software Licensing

Cornell University will provide a University-paid subscription to Adobe Acrobat Pro for any University employee who requires it to perform their University job duties. CIT pays Adobe an annual fee on a per-user basis for this access. At this time, this fee is not passed back to the individual or department. 

Most personnel at Cornell who work with PDFs can do everything they need using other applications that are free or are provided to all Cornell employees. Before you ask your department's IT staff to request an Adobe Acrobat Pro account for you, please refer to this table to see if your University business needs can be met with another application that you may already have installed.

If you believe that you do require Adobe Acrobat Pro, please work with your department's local IT support team to evaluate your need, request access on your behalf, and install it onto your Cornell-provided computer.

  • Adobe Reader is a free PDF reader available from Adobe. Your department's IT support team can install it if you don't already have it.
  • Apple Preview is a PDF reader for Macintosh that is part of macOS.
  • Microsoft Word Online can open PDF files uploaded to your OneDrive.
  • Microsoft Word for Desktop can open PDF documents and can edit most simple PDF files.
I Need To... Acrobat Reader Apple Preview Microsoft Word Acrobat Pro
Open/read PDF documents yes yes yes yes
Add comments and markups to PDFs yes [1] yes [1] yes [2] yes
Fill in PDF forms yes yes yes
Electronically sign PDFs yes yes yes

Unlock encrypted PDFs

yes yes yes
Combine multiple PDFs into a single PDF yes yes [2] yes
Create PDFs yes yes yes
Convert Microsoft Word documents to PDF format yes yes
Convert PDF documents to Microsoft Word format yes [3] yes
Edit text/layout of a PDF without converting it to another format yes
Create fillable PDF forms yes
Create PDF documents for others to sign digitally yes [4]
Use built-in OCR to convert scanned text to editable text yes
Encrypt or password-protect a PDF yes
Use Adobe's online collaboration tools with PDFs yes

Table Notes

1 - The person creating the PDF must enable commenting.

2 - Requires converting the PDF to MS Word format, then back to PDF when finished editing.

3 - This works well with simple documents, but complex formatting and layout elements may not convert accurately.

4 - Requires separate Adobe Sign license.


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