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How to Compare to Pdfs

Comparison software is broadly used for simple comparison. Sometimes, it is needed to compare two Pdfs. The most common cases are when you need to convert a Pdf file to Word or compare a pdf on one computer with another version of the same Pdf file stored on another computer.

When it comes to tools for comparing PDF files, there are basically only two options: free and commercial. The free options are either limited in functionality, or they have annoying ads that make it hard to work with them. On the other hand, the commercial (paid) solutions tend to be much more powerful and sometimes even have professional support included in the price. Depending on your particular needs, however, sometimes free will serve you best. We’ve tested dozens of the most popular PDF comparison tools available and selected eight of them as the best of their type. We also expanded on this list by selecting three solutions that combine PDF comparison with file conversion functionality within one product.

Compare two pdf documents and highlight differences. This is extremely useful for comparing contracts or other documents that are difficult to read on a computer screen, especially if they have a lot of formatting such as tabs, tables, and text color changes. If you have ever wondered how to compare pdf files on your computer, then this tool is perfect for you. It works on Linux, Windows and Mac OSX.

There are numerous tools available to compare two PDF documents. It’s a tool that make use of the PDF format to create documents, this format is widely-used for storing any type of information in an easy manner without losing its quality because it can be easily read by any device.

How to compare PDF files:

  1. Open Acrobat for Mac or PC and choose “Tools” > “Compare Files.”
  2. Click “Select File” at left to choose the older file version you want to compare.
  3. Click “Select File” at right to choose the newer file version you want to compare.
  4. Click the Compare button.
  5. Review the Compare Results summary.
  6. Click “Go to First Change” to review each file difference between the older document and the newer document.

Compare files

Available in: Acrobat DC Continuous (subscription), Acrobat 2017

With the all-new Compare Files tool, you can now quickly and accurately detect differences between two versions of a PDF file.

  1. Choose Tools > Compare Files.Select files to compare
  2. Click Select File at left to choose the older file version you want to compare. Click Select File at right to choose the newer file version you want to compare.
  3. Click Change File and then choose an already opened file or browse to select your desired file. Click the Swap arrows icon between the thumbnails to swap the position of the old and new files.Select files to compare
  4. To ignore differences between the graphic elements, select the Compare Text Only checkbox.
  5. You can modify settings by clicking the Settings gear icon, which opens the following dialog box.Settings for Compare Files
    1. You can limit the comparison to a portion of the documents by entering the page numbers in the Old File and New File fields.
    2. Under Document Description, select the type of documents that you are comparing.
      • Select Autodetect to let Acrobat decide.
      • Reports, Spreadsheets, Magazine Layouts: Compares the content as one continuous text body, from end to end.
      • Presentation Decks: Looks at each slide or page as a mini-document, and matches ones that are similar. Then compares the content of each matching document. Identifies documents that have moved, such as slides in a presentation.
      • Scanned Documents, drawing or illustrations: Creates an image capture of each scanned page and compares pixels. Looks at each scanned page and matches ones that are similar. It also identifies pages that are in a different order. This option is useful for comparing images or architectural drawings.

        : If your document content can reflow across pages, select Reports, spreadsheets, magazines layouts; otherwise select Presentation Decks. For comparing scanned files, select Scanned documents, drawings or illustrations.
        • With either the reports or presentation options selected, the Compare Text Only option identifies only the text differences between two documents.
        • With Scanned Documents selected, the text is compared separately from the graphics, and then the results are combined. In documents containing magazine advertisements that have text on top of background image art, a reflowed passage is compared in text-only mode. The artwork is compared separately in the background. The differences (both text and line art and images) are combined into a single results document.
    3. Show in Report, select the elements of the documents for which you want to see the differences in the compare report.

      Note: The text option can be used with any document type. It is designed for comparing text in large documents (250 pages or more). It also compares text between documents that have background artwork on each page, which slows processing.
    4. Click OK.
  6. Click Compare.Acrobat displays the results in a new document. The first page provides an easy-to-scan summary of all file differences.Compare resultsa – Comparison timestamp, b – Compared files information, c – Total changes, d – Distribution of changes, e – Formatting changes, f – The hyperlink to take you to the first change
  7. Click the Go to First Change button to begin reviewing each difference in detail.
  8. Select how you want to review the differences. 
    • Side-by-side view: Use the Side-by-Side (Ctrl+\) view to see a parallel view of results where the differences are shared in highlighted bands. The old file is displayed on the left and the new file is displayed on the right, with the changes highlighted in each band connecting across the files for easier review. Click a band to display a pop-up note detailing all of the changes within the band. You can also click the highlighted content to open the pop-up.
    Side-by-Side viewRight-click a change or its pop-up and set an appropriate status for the change.Set status for the change
    • Single page view: Use the Old File or New File button (Ctrl+/) on the toolbar to see the individual file with all changes highlighted.
    Single page view
  9. To review all the changes: 
    • Use the Filter and Show options.
    By default, annotations, formatting, and background differences are turned off. To see these changes in the report, select these options from the Filter menu in the toolbar. You can also filter comparison results by selecting specific types of changes in the Filter menu. From the Show menu, you can select an option to show or hide legends, row highlights, or results.Filter optionsShow options
    • Use the Previous Change (Ctrl+.) or Next Change (Ctrl+,) button to go through the changes one-by-one.
    Navigation buttonsThe Previous Change and the Next Change button are also available in the pop-up notes detailing the changes.Navigation buttons in the pop-up
    • Use the right pane. Click the triangle at the center of the right Acrobat window to open the right pane. This pane lists all the changes visible in the Compare Results report. Use the search text box to search for any specific change.
    List of changes highlighted in the Right Hand Pane
  10. Save the Compare Results file (File > Save). Click the cross button at the top right of the toolbar to close the Compare Files tools.

You can print a comparison report along with the summary of changes.

  • Click the Print  icon in the toolbar, and then click Print in the Print dialog box.

Compare files in Acrobat DC Classic

Available in: Acrobat DC Classic (desktop only) Note:

If you have desktop-only Acrobat DC Classic version, follow the steps below. If you have Acrobat DC subscription or Acrobat 2017, see Compare files in Acrobat DC Continuous and Acrobat 2017 above.

You can use the Compare Documents tool to find differences between two versions of PDF files. After comparing two files, Acrobat provides a detailed report of every change, including text, fonts, images, and even the order of the pages.

  1. Choose Tools > Compare Documents.
  2. Choose the documents to compare. You can limit the comparison to a portion of the documents by entering the page numbers in the First and Last page fields under each filename.
  3. Under Document Description, select the type of documents that you are comparing. To ignore
    differences between the graphic elements, select Compare Text Only. Click OK.Acrobat displays the results in a new document. The first page summarizes the file comparison results.Document compare summarya – Differences between the files, b – Files compared, c – Get Started hyperlink to take you to the first difference, d – Moved or deleted pages, e – Key to the symbols used within the report
  4. Select how to review the differences.
    1. Use the Compare panel on the left side (default).
      • Page through the thumbnails in the Compare panel. An icon below a thumbnail indicates a difference. A green arrow signifies moved or deleted pages. A purple arrow designates a change on the page.
      • Return to the first page and click Get Started to go to the first difference.
      • Changes are highlighted on the main screen. Hover your mouse over the highlight to see the details. The color legend in the upper right provides a guide.
    2. Use side-by-side view.
      • In the Compare panel on the left, click the options icon, and select Show Documents Side
        By Side
      • Changes are highlighted on the main screen. Hover your mouse over the highlight to see
        the details. The color legend in the upper right provides a guide.
    Compare options in AcrobatThe Compare options provide you tools to customize the document comparison.

How to Compare PDF with PDFelement

The latest version of Wondershare PDFelement – PDF Editor for Windows comes with a compare PDFs function that you’ll see right on the main welcome page when you launch the application. Clicking this module will take you to a second page where you can select two different but similar PDF files. The comparison tool is then activated, and you can proceed to do various actions based on the content that is automatically highlighted.

Here’s a full run-down of how to compare two PDF files for changes, omissions, additional content, and other differences.

Step 1. Launch PDFelement and Choose the Compare PDF Icon

On the Home page of PDFelement, you will be able to see several icons for various PDF actions. Click the one that says Compare PDF, which will trigger a pop-up window for file selection.

open pdf to compare pdf

Step 2. Choose the PDF Files to be Compared

In the pop-up window, click “Select File” on the left to choose the base file and the one on the right to select the file to compare it with. After that, click the big blue “Compare” button at the bottom of the window. PDFelement will process both files and open them up for your review.

select files to compare pdf

Step 3. Compare the Two PDF Files

When the files are opened side by side, the differences between them will be highlighted in each file, as applicable. There’s a key available on the top-left toolbar and a list of differences right below it. Each type of difference is assigned a particular color so it’s easy to see what types were found in the two files.

Step 4. Detailed Comparison Actions

– Navigate when Comparing PDFs – Previous and Next Buttons

The first modification is selected by default. If you need to move to the next difference, click the Next button from the 4 options above the documents. You can use Previous and Next to navigate through the differences one at a time.

compare two pdf files

If you need to see the differences in just one category of content, such as images or text, use the Filter button and uncheck the content you don’t need to compare.TRY IT FREE

compare two pdfs

– Hide What You Don’t Need to See – The Show Feature

This button can be used to show or hide any type of difference, including all of them. This is particularly useful when you’re only looking for extra content in the comparison file that’s missing in the base file.

compare pdf files

An All-in-one PDF Solution – PDFelement

You can use PDFelement to compare PDF files, but that is not by any measure the only thing you can do. PDFelement is a robust PDF and document management solution in its own right, having won several awards for its ease-of-use, feature-richness, and intuitive design. You can use it for a vast array of PDF actions, both basic and advanced. Here are some of the key features of PDFelement:

  • Edit PDF – PDFelement offers the full range of PDF editing tools and the ability to add/delete/modify any type of content – images, text, tables, graphs, hyperlinks, footers/headers, watermarks, background colors and textures, pagination, and much more.
  • Convert PDF – PDF files can be converted into a range of other file types such as Word, Excel, HTML, EPUB, RTF, etc. Again, the rendering in the output file will closely match that of the source PDF.
  • PDF Signing – Create and add a digital signature or handwritten signature to any document.
  • Forms Management – Easily create or fill interactive PDF forms with form field highlighting and other useful features.
  • Annotations and Commenting – A full suite of markup tools at your disposal, allowing for document collaboration and clear, concise communication between collaborators.
  • OCR Text Recognition – Recognizes text in over 20 languages with multilingual support. Accurate and fast optical character recognition allows users to completely digitize their document workflows and reduce physical paper consumption. Great for savings, great for the environment.
  • Cloud Integration – PDFelement Pro DC is integrated with Wondershare Document Cloud, allowing users to store and retrieve PDFs from their desktop and send documents to multiple signers to get their electronic signatures (includes document status tracking and other advanced features included in Document Cloud.)
  • Batch Processes – Several key functions can be executed on a large batch of files, which saves a tremendous amount of time otherwise wasted on repetitive tasks.
  • PDF File Management – Merge and Split PDFs, combine files of different types into a single PDF, combine several PDFs at a time, and do much more with PDFelement’s comprehensive collection of file management tools.
  • PDF Security – Apply strong password-based encryption to control who sees, copies, modifies, or prints your confidential PDF files.

As you can see, the compare PDF files feature is just one of many rich functions you’ll find in the new PDFelement for Windows and Mac. PDFelement also has a Pro version for iOS devices that brings a lot of desktop functionality to the mobile frontier. In addition, attractively bundled offers are available that include Wondershare Document Cloud usage for a true hybrid desktop/cloud experience.


PDF Compare is a tool to compare two PDF files and highlight differences between them. It supports difference highlighting and detection of missing contents, inserted pages, or modified text. Currently only the differences are shown between documents but it also has support for merging documents together based on the detected differences.

When you want to compare two different PDF documents, it’s very likely that you’re seeking a way to determine if they display the same information. It could be that you’re assessing two different versions of a customer contract or two different terms of services. Many people also use document comparison to check files for accuracy and make sure that any changes were accurate and complete.

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