AbleWord full review
Update June 2016: This is still the most current version of the software - V3.0.
Although we’ve referred to it as a PDF editor - and many people use it as such since it provides a free alternative to the commercial PDF editors, some of which have a not insignificant price tag - this is not the way AbleWord is promoted. According to its manufacturer, it’s first and foremost a word processor, albeit one that can import and export in PDF format, in addition to more commonly supported formats such as Microsoft Word and RTF. Also see: Best PDF editors.
Since it’s essentially a word processor, AbleWord doesn’t have many of the advanced features that are present in the PDF editors that attract the ‘Professional’ price tag. So, omissions include the ability to create fillable forms, digital signatures and ID certificates, and facilities for a group of people to collaboratively review and comment on a document. However, by virtue of the fact that AbleWord can import PDF files and export Microsoft Word documents, it does allow PDF to Word conversion.
AbleWord isn’t as feature packed as Microsoft Word but it is very much more capable than the free WordPad that’s bundled with Windows. In our first test we opened a Word document that contained sophisticated formatting such as headers and footers, text boxes, images, and multi-column text and, while it didn’t appear exactly as it had done in Word, much of the formatting did appear correctly. Also see: How to edit PDFs for free.
Indeed, the fact that we were easily able to correct the formatting errors proved that all these formatting options were present, even though the file had been partially mis-interpreted. However, the same Word document, first converted to a PDF and then imported into AbleWord, was reproduced perfectly and this is, after all, our main interest.
If we exported from AbleWord as a Word document again, the document looked perfect however, because of the PDF format, the multi-column text had inevitably been converted to text boxes so the text no longer flowed from one column to another. More disconcerting, though, was the fact that each line had also been converted to a paragraph so the justification was lost.
This was quite a severe test, though, and for general-purpose PDF editing, even of documents with advanced formatting features, we found AbleWord more than capable. In addition to the features already mentioned, this word processor also provides spell checking (albeit currently only with a dictionary for US English) and is able to generate tables.
Read next: How to convert a PDF to Word.