Whether or not you are paperless in your office, you are probably dealing with PDFs. If you are dealing with a lot of them, you need PDF-editing software.

Adobe Acrobat is the definitive PDF-editing software, by the company that created the PDF format. Among the many features are a few that stand out. Bates stamping, for example. Even if you do everything else on paper, Bates stamping PDFs instead of reams of paper can save a ton of time and paper. The Pro version also has permanent redaction tools. You can even automatically redact things like social-security numbers automatically from every page of a huge document.

Unfortunately, Acrobat Professional — the version you want for legal work — starts at $449 (or $240/year). But there are alternatives that don’t cost an ongoing arm and a leg.

Here are a few to consider.

PDFPen Pro (Mac)

PDFPen Pro is made by the same company that makes TextExpander, the indispensable tool for OS X and iOS. And while its $99.99 price tag is not exactly cheap, it is substantially cheaper than Acrobat Pro, with a similar feature set.

Its low rating in the Mac App Store seems undeserved. MILO list members consistently give it high marks. But if you aren’t sure, you can download a free trial direct from Smile Software’s website and see for yourself.

PDF Studio Pro (Win, Mac, Linux)

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For a true cross-platform option, try PDF Studio Pro. At $129, it is not cheap, either, but it has a feature set to rival Acrobat Pro for a fraction of the price. Plus, you can use it on two computers, regardless of operating system.

Like the other options, you can try it for free.

CutePDF Professional (Windows)

CutePDF is a profoundly unprofessional-sounding name, but its software is solid. CutePDF Pro is just $49.95, and it does nearly everything Acrobat Pro does, including Bates numbering.

And you can try it for free.

Nuance Power PDF Advanced

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Ernie Svenson recently reviewed Nuance Power PDF Advanced on Lawyerist, calling it “much more useful” than Acrobat Standard, and at half the cost. He did not think it measured up to Acrobat Pro, however.

Adobe Acrobat Professional

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In the end, though, if you want the best PDF software, get Adobe Acrobat Professional. PDF is Adobe’s format, and for better or worse, Acrobat is the best software for editing PDF files. Also, it supports the PDF/A format, which the federal courts are planning to adopt. Most of the cheaper alternatives do not.

Besides, if managing PDF files is essential to your practice, $240/year should not be a make-or-break expense. Just get Acrobat and be done with it.

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