Best PDF Apps for Students to Read, Edit and Annotate

We all know how important PDFs are for students. Ebooks, handouts, study notes, research papers, assignments and whatnot.

PDFs are a must in the classroom. They are the most common file type used in schools, colleges, universities and research.

Around one-third of students in the world now rely on PDFs to work on their studies. This number may not mean much, but as a student, you must know that using PDFs effectively can help you study faster and better.

There are so many PDF apps that can read, annotate and edit PDF files. But for a student, an app must always be fast, user-friendly, classroom-oriented and above all, economical – even if the student needs to buy one to unlock advanced features.

Best PDF Apps for Students

PDF apps OG

I have compiled a list of the best PDF apps for students and I am super excited to share the list with you.

So without further ado, let's have a look at the best pdf apps for students.

PDF Expert

pdf expert block01 alldevices
Credit: PDF Expert Website

I am a fan and a long-time user of PDF Expert. This all-in-one PDF solution is a must-have for serious students, teachers and scholars. With it, you can read, annotate and edit your PDF files very easily. You can also arrange, rotate, delete and add pages to a PDF document, or you can create a whole new PDF document from scratch.

The only downside of this app is that it is not available for Android and Windows operating systems. You can, however, take advantage of its incredible features on iPhones, iPads and Macbooks.



UPDF is a cross-platform and all-in-one PDF reader, editor and enhancer for all types of users, including students. It is available for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS and iPadOS making it a universal choice for students as well.

With an improved stylus and Apple Pencil support, UPDF can become a great study companion.

It is free to use as a reader, and the editing & enhanced features can be unlocked at $39-$50 with a single purchase.

PDF Viewer

pdf viewer

Don't get fooled by the name. PDF Viewer is more than just a document reader. With it, you can do the same things as you could with the PDF Expert app.

One advantage that PDF viewer has over PDF Expert is that it is available as an Android app, in addition to Mac, iPhone and iPads.

Wondershare PDFelement

mac pdf
Source: Wondershare PDFelement

Both #1 and #2 in the list are the apps that are not available for Windows computers. But Wondershare's PDFelement is truly cross-platform. Powered with an intuitive design, PDFelement runs with PDF Viewer's technology at the core and PDF Expert's design on the front. So you get the best of both worlds.

While the free version is more than sufficient for students, be sure to try the premium version, which offers loads of PDF editing features.

Note that there is also a Wondershare PDF Reader. This app focuses on reading features only. You can try this if you just need a PDF reading app.

Sumatra PDF

Sumatra PDF is a free & lightweight PDF and comic book reader which is available exclusively for Windows laptops. It is one of the fastest PDF readers out there for Windows. But its functionalities are severally limited to just reading.

Adobe Acrobat DC

Adobe Reader PDF apps for Students

Adobe is the inventor of PDF format and Acrobat is the stock PDF app that the world first used. It now comes in two versions:

  • Adobe Acrobat Reader DC (or Adobe Reader, in short) is a free PDF reading app that is sufficient enough for more needs.
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro DC is a PDF editing suite that can be bought under the Adobe Document Cloud subscription.

Acrobat DC is available for all mobile, tablet and desktop operating systems. The only problem with this app is its speed. It takes too many resources and often lags on low-end computers.

Xodo PDF

Xodo PDF is a cross-platform offline and online PDF reader and editor focused on usability and performance. This is an all-in-one PDF reading, annotation and editing app.

As I said, Xodo is available across platforms. Be sure to check if it is available for your device. It's mostly free, and even if there is a paid upgrade – that is very cheap.

PDFSam Basic

pdfsam basic

When you are working with scanned paper documents, your requirements tend to be rather limited. For example, you might just need to separate the pages of a PDF document into multiple documents or vice versa. Or maybe you want to just alter the orientation of a document’s pages. In this case, PDFSam Basic is an excellent lightweight desktop app that will serve you very well.

PDF Reader Pro

image 5 1

PDF Reader Pro is a lightweight PDF editor and reader perfect for students. Its simple and straightforward interface together make it one of the simplest PDF apps on the list.

PDF Reader Pro offers rich annotations tools to mark up the important content in your textbook. You can write comments, notes and annotate via a stylus or Apple Pencil to get the most of it.

But beyond everything it is a PDF editor as well. With its PDF editing tools, you can manage pages, remove clutter and fix mistakes as if you were typing on a Word document. PDF Reader Pro also has the OCR function that recognizes text in images and convert them into editable texts.

PDF Reader Pro offers all students and teachers a 50% off discount. You can download it to get a 7-free-day trial version.

Other Apps

In addition to these nine PDF apps, there are eight more apps that I can wholeheartedly recommend to students.

  1. GoodNotes (iPad, iPhone, Mac, Windows and Android)
  2. Flexcil (iPad, Android and iPhone)
  3. Notability (iPad, Mac and iPhone)
  4. Noteful (iPad)
  5. Noteshelf (iPad, iPhone, Android)
  6. Drawboard PDF(iPad, Mac, Windows)
  7. Nebo (iPad, Mac, Windows, Android, iPhone)
  8. Skim (Mac only)

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best app for students to read PDFs?

While I have listed several options here, PDF Expert is possibly the best for Apple Ecosystem and Adobe Reader otherwise. You can also go for UPDF for a one-time payment if you want to do more cross-platform.

Is there a free PDF app for students?

There are several PDF apps for students available for free. These include Adobe Reader, Sumatra PDF Reader, PDF Viewer, Xodo PDF and Skim.