7 Best Free PDF Editors

Use these free PDF editors and online tools to make changes to your PDF files

Illustration of pencil erasers
Westend61 / Getty Images

It's not easy to find a truly free PDF editor that lets you not only edit and add text, change images, add your own graphics, sign your name, fill out forms, etc. Below, however, is a list of exactly what you're looking for.

Some of these are online PDF editors that work right in your web browser, so all you have to do is upload your PDF file to the website, make the changes you want, and then save it back to your computer. That's ​the quick way — but do bear in mind that, typically, an online editor isn't as fully featured as its desktop counterpart, plus the file is exposed to the internet (which might be of concern if it contains sensitive content).

Because not all of these free PDF editors support the same features, and some are restricted in what you can do, remember that you can process the same PDF in more than one tool. For example, use one to edit the PDF text (if that's supported), and then put the same PDF through a different editor to do something supported in that program (for example, to edit a form, update an image, or remove a page).

Switching formats

If you don't need to change the contents of the PDF but instead just need to change it to another file format (such as  .docx for Word or .epub for an e-book, etc.), see our list of free document converters for help. On the other hand, if you have a file you created yourself that you want to save as a PDF file, see our How to Print to PDF tutorial.

Microsoft Word: A top choice

If you already own Microsoft Word 2016 or 2013, then skip all the suggested programs below: You have a great PDF editor at your disposal right now. Just open the PDF as you would any Word document, give the program a few minutes to convert the PDF, and then edit away.

Sejda PDF Editor (Desktop Version)

Sejda PDF Editor is one of the very few PDF editors that actually lets you edit preexisting text in the PDF without adding a watermark. Most editors only let you edit the text you add yourself, or they support text editing but then throw watermarks all over the place.

Plus, this tool can run entirely in your web browser, so it's easy to get going without having to download any programs. You can get the desktop version if you'd rather.

What we like:

  • Can edit existing text and add custom text
  • Lets you load PDFs from other websites
  • Supports adding hyperlinks
  • Includes a signature tool
  • Lets you insert blank pages into the PDF
  • Can remove pages from the PDF
  • Supports whiting out parts of the page
  • Can insert images and shapes into the PDF

What we don't like:

  • Can be used on only three PDFs every hour
  • Limited to PDFs with fewer than 200 pages
  • Doesn't edit PDFs larger than 50 MB

Works with: Windows, macOS, and Linux

There are some differences between the online and desktop versions that you should know about. For example, the desktop edition supports more font types and doesn't let you add PDFs by URL or from online storage services as the online editor does (which supports Dropbox and Google Drive).

Another neat feature is the web integration tool that lets PDF publishers provide a link for their users that they can simply click to automatically open the file in this online PDF editor.

All uploaded files are automatically deleted from Sejda after five hours.

Tip: You can use both the online and desktop versions to convert a PDF to a Word doc or a Word doc to PDF. Open the Tools section in either program to find that option. More »

02
of 07
Inkscape

Inkscape is an extremely popular free image viewer and editor, but it also includes PDF editing functions that most dedicated PDF editors support only in their paid editions.

What we like:

  • Can edit PDF text
  • Supports manipulating graphics
  • Includes lots of image-editing tools

What we don't like:

  • The number of graphics-editing tools can be overwhelming

Works with: Windows, macOS, and Linux

Inkscape is a very capable image editing program. If you're not already familiar with programs like GIMP, Adobe Photoshop, and other image editors, however, it's probably a bit advanced for you.

In the context of PDF editing, though, you should consider Inkscape only if you want to delete or edit the images or text in the PDF. We suggest you use a different tool in this list to edit PDF forms or add shapes and then plug that PDF into Inkscape if you need to actually edit the preexisting text. More »

PDFescape online PDF editor

PDFescape has quite a lot of features. It's completely free so long as the PDF does not exceed 100 pages or 10 MB.

What we like:

  • Works online through your web browser
  • Includes lots of tools
  • Lets you add your own text and images
  • Can delete and add PDF pages

What we don't like:

  • Can't edit existing text
  • Doesn't edit large PDFs

Works with: Any OS

You can't truly change text or edit images using this editor, but you can add your own text, images, links, form fields, etc. 

The text tool is very customizable so that you can pick your own size, font type, color, alignment, and apply effects such as bolding, underlining, and italics.

You also can draw on the PDF, add sticky notes, strikethrough text, put white space over anything you want to disappear, and insert lines, checkmarks, arrows, ovals, circles, rectangles, and comments.

PDFescape lets you delete individual pages from the PDF, rotate pages, crop out parts of a page, reorganize the order of the pages, and add more pages from other PDFs.

You can upload your own PDF file, paste the URL to an online PDF, and make your own PDF from scratch. 

When finished editing, you can download the PDF to your computer without ever having to make a user account. You need one only if you want to save your progress online without downloading the PDF.

PDFescape has an offline PDF editor, too, called PDFescape Editor, but it isn't free. More »

Screenshot of PDF-XChange Editor in Windows 10

PDF-XChange Editor offers some great tools, but not all of them are free to use. If you use a non-free feature, the PDF will save with a watermark on every page.

If you stick to just the free features, however, you can still do some editing to the file and save it back to your computer.

What we like:

  • Uses OCR (optical character recognition) to identify the text in the PDF
  • Can import a variety of shapes and images
  • Supports adding QR codes to the PDF
  • Offers a portable version

What we don't like:

  • Many features require a license

Works with: Windows

You can load PDFs from your computer, a URL, SharePoint, Google Drive, and Dropbox. You can save the edited PDF back to your computer or any of those file storage services.

The PDF-XChange Editor program has lots of features, so it might seem overwhelming at first. All of the options and tools are simple to understand, however, and they're categorized into their own sections for easier management.

One nice feature is the ability to highlight all the form fields so that you can easily spot where you need to fill in. This is really helpful if you're editing a PDF with lots of forms, such as an application.

Although the free version puts watermarks on your edited documents, this program does let you edit existing text, add your own text to the PDF, and add or delete pages from the document.

You can download this program in portable mode to use on a flash drive or as a regular installer.

Many of the features are free, but some are not. If you use a feature that's not covered by the free version (you're told which features are not free when you use them), the saved PDF file will have a watermark attached to the corner of every page. More »

Smallpdf online PDF editor

One of the quickest ways to add images, text, shapes, or your signature to a PDF is with Smallpdf.

This website allows you to upload a PDF, make changes to it, and then save it back to your computer all without needing to make a user account or pay for any anti-watermarking features.

What we like:

  • Is completely free
  • Lets you add more text to the PDF
  • Can put white space over areas you want to erase
  • Supports importing shapes
  • Can load and save PDFs from various sources

What we don't like:

  • Doesn't let you edit existing text
  • Only two PDFs can be edited every hour

Works with: Any OS

You can open and/or save your PDF to your Dropbox or Google Drive account, too, in addition to your computer.

You can import three shapes into a PDF with Smallpdf: a square, circle, or arrow. You can change the object's main color and line color, as well as the thickness of its edge.

Text size can be tiny, small, normal, large, or huge, but only three font types are available. You can change the color of any text you add.

When finished editing the PDF, just hit the APPLY button and then decide where you want it saved. You can also run the edited PDF through Smallpdf's PDF splitter tool if you want to extract the pages from the document.

If you edit two PDFs within an hour, you have to upgrade to Smallpdf Pro if you want to keep using the website. Or, you can wait an hour to edit another. More »

FormSwift's free online PDF editor

FormSwift's Free PDF Editor is a very simple online PDF editor that you can use without even making a user account.

It's as simple as uploading your PDF file to the website and using the menus at the top of the page to quickly perform some basic PDF editing functions before downloading it back to your computer.

What we like:

  • Everything is free and a user account isn't necessary
  • Doesn't leave a watermark
  • Can erase or redact existing text and images with white or black space
  • Lets you insert your own images
  • Can add your own custom text to the PDF
  • Circles, checkmarks, and "x" icons can be placed over any text
  • Supports highlighting anything on the page
  • Easy typing, drawing, and signing

What we don't like: 

  • Cannot edit existing text
  • No easy-to-access undo button (but you can delete what you've done)
  • Can upload PDFs only from your computer (not from other places such as Google Drive or Dropbox)

Works with: Any OS

When you're done editing the PDF, you can download the file as a PDF file, print it directly to your printer, or save the PDF as a Microsoft Word .docx document.

Note: The PDF-to-.docx conversion didn't work for every PDF that we tried, but in those that did convert successfully, the images were formatted nicely and the text was fully editable.

Another feature offered by FormSwift at formswift.com/snap lets you quickly edit or sign PDFs from your phone by taking a picture of a document. You can then share or download the PDF when you're done. It's not perfect: Most things done through a web app are spotty. It does work, however, with a little patience.

You can upload Word documents and images to FormSwift, too, if you need to edit those instead of a PDF.  More »

PDFelement Pro

PDFelement Pro, just as the name sounds, is free but with a major limitation: It places a watermark on every page of the PDF. That being said, the watermark doesn't cover much of the page, and it's important to realize that it supports some truly great PDF editing features.

What we like:

  • Lets you edit the PDF's text directly
  • Supports adding images, links, and custom watermarks
  • The background of the PDF pages can be edited
  • Headers and footers can be included in the PDF
  • Supports combining several PDFs into one
  • PDF pages can be cropped
  • Supports OCR
  • Can insert, extract, delete, and rotate PDF pages
  • Editing embedded forms is easy
  • Can password-protect the PDF

What we don't like:

  • Free version places a watermark on the PDF

Works with: Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS

This program would be a truly free PDF editor if it weren't for the fact that the free edition will not save without first putting a watermark on every single page of the PDF.

Depending on what you'll use the PDF for, however, the features it supports might be enough for you to consider living with the watermarks.  More »