11 best PDF generation tools

PDFs are one of the most popular document formats — and for good reason. What sets a PDF apart from almost any other document type is the fact that its content remains the same regardless of what device or program you open it with, as TechRadar’s Jacob Parker writes.

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This makes a PDF perfect for sharing important information and documents.

A PDF can be created from almost any document type too. Word documents, spreadsheets, and presentation slides can all be converted as long as you have a good PDF generation tool.

Finding a good one can be difficult, however. That’s why we’ve done the hard work for you and compiled a list of the 11 best PDF generation tools.

  1. Jotform

    Jotform’s PDF Editor allows you to create PDFs from collected form responses. Just drag and drop the elements you want to include in your PDF. You can also adjust the design and add your own branding. There are more than 600 templates to choose from.

    The PDF Editor is free, but there are limits on the number of forms you can create and submissions you can collect with the free plan. Paid plans start at $34 per month when billed annually.

    Just so you know

    Did you know you can generate PDFs automatically with Jotform? Our free PDF Editor instantly turns form submissions into customizable PDFs that you can easily download, share, and print!

  2. Adobe Acrobat Pro DC

    Adobe Acrobat Pro DC is the market leader when it comes to PDF generation and editing. Adobe created the PDF file format in the 1990s and still retains the rights to it. The interface was recently redesigned, which has made the tool more intuitive for casual users.

    While a free trial is available, full access will require an annual commitment to Adobe’s cloud-based subscription service.  

  3. AltoPDF

    AltoPDF is a fast and free browser-based PDF creation tool. In addition to creating original PDFs from separate files, the tool also lets you combine and reorder multiple existing PDF files. The platform connects seamlessly with major cloud storage providers, allowing you to quickly access and store documents.

    The service is completely free. There’s no need to register or even provide an email address. Just choose your file type, upload your documents, and download the converted PDF.

  4. DeskPDF Studio

    DeskPDF Studio isn’t just a PDF creation tool. It’s a suite of tools that lets you edit, create, convert, sign, and share PDFs. You can create PDFs from more than 300 file formats, including images, Word documents, Excel files, and separate PDFs.

    You aren’t limited to creating PDFs, either. Once you’ve created a PDF, you can convert it into a range of other file types. A free trial is available, and the full version costs $79.95.

  5. FormSwift

    FormSwift is a PDF generation tool for those looking to create legal documents. The platform offers templates for more than 500 legal and tax documents, which can be customized and saved as PDFs.

    The platform is completely free to use, and all the templates have been created by professionals. If you already have your own document, you can upload it, edit it, and export it as a PDF.

  6. HiPDF

    HiPDF provides an all-in-one online PDF solution that lets users create, edit, and sign PDFs. Documents can be created from more than 10 different file types, including the most common forms for casual users. There’s also a free desktop app for both Windows and Mac.

    You can access the basic tool online for free. The pro version starts at $6 per month and gives you full access to additional features like batch processing and unlimited file size.

  7. Nitro Pro

    Nitro Pro is an enterprise PDF solution that lets users create, edit, annotate, sign, share, and store PDFs. You can create documents from a range of file formats already on your computer or directly from a scanner.

    If security is a concern, Nitro lets you create ISO-compliant PDF/A files, which are designed specifically for long-term storage. A free trial is available, and pricing starts at $159.99 per user.

  8. PDF Candy

    PDF Candy is a completely free PDF creation platform, created by the team at Icecream Apps. On top of simple PDF creation, the tool also lets you add watermarks to documents, crop files, split existing PDFs, and number pages.

    The tool is available to both Mac and Windows users online through a browser. Windows users can also download the free desktop app for offline access.

  9. PDF Generator API

    PDF Generator API enables you to create personalized PDFs from the software you’re already using. You can create a range of templates, which can automatically merge with data from your software, using an API to create unique PDF documents instantly.

    Whether you want your software to generate invoices, procurement documentation, marketing reports, or any other type of business documentation, PDF Generator API is the go-to tool.

  10. PDF Online

    PDF Online

    If you want a fast, easy, and free way to turn your Word documents into PDFs, look no further than PDF Online. The platform also allows you to create PDFs from a number of other file formats, including JPG, Excel, and PowerPoint.

  11. Small PDF

    Small PDF is a free and simple PDF generation tool that provides the average user with everything they need to create, edit, and download documents. You can upload almost any file type for conversion. File transfers are secure, and all files are automatically deleted from the company’s servers after use.

    The app is free to use for basic PDF creation. Lifewire’s Tim Fisher notes that while the tool may sometimes say that you need to upgrade if you edit two documents within an hour, this doesn’t appear to be enforced. If you can’t get around it, just wait an hour to avoid paying for the premium version.

All of these tools are perfect for PDF generation, so find one you like and start creating. Whatever you do, stick to tried-and-trusted software. The team at Setapp points out that there has been a rise in the number of PDF generation tools containing malware in recent years. While the 10 tools listed above are safe to use, others you find via Google search might not be.

This article is originally published on Mar 30, 2020, and updated on Jan 26, 2023.

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