7 of the Best Free PDF Editors

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If you’ve ever needed to edit a PDF, you have found that free PDF editors are hard to come by. Fortunately, there are resources online that you can use to edit that document without paying for software. 

In this article, I’ll look at seven different PDF editors that will let you edit at least a couple of files for free. I’ve tested each of the websites by editing a PDF to verify that it is completely free and to see what features are available without paying.

Where To Find a Free PDF Editor

Over the last year, the world has seen a stronger shift toward technology than ever before. Because many of us are now working, studying and conducting virtually all of our affairs from home, digital file formats such as PDFs are quickly becoming more common than paper documents.

While PDFs can be secure and convenient to use, they can also be challenging to edit. Fortunately, a few free PDF editors make it easy to make basic changes like rotating a page or signing a document. Some free PDF editors even let you make more advanced edits such as converting file types and finding and replacing text. 

No matter what changes you need to make to a document, you’ll most likely find the right tool on one of these seven free PDF editors

Free PDF EditorFree Editor PlatformCompatibilityBest For
SejdaOnline and desktop (offline)All web browsers including Chrome, Safari and Firefox; Mac, Linux and WindowsDirectly editing PDF text and adding hyperlinks
SmallPDFOnline and AppAll, including Mac, Windows, iOS, Android and LinuxQuick, minor edits online
PDF CandyOnline and desktop (offline for Windows only) All web browsers including Chrome, Safari and Firefox; Windows for desktop versionConverting PDFs online
PDFescapeOnlineAll web browsers including Chrome, Safari and FirefoxSmall PDF documents and annotation
PDFsam BasicDesktop (offline)Windows, Linux and MacOSSimple edits including merging, splitting and rotating
Apple PreviewDesktop (offline)MacOSMac users making simple edits offline
PDF-XChange EditorDesktop (offline)Windows XP or laterWindows users editing PDFs offline

Below, you’ll find detailed information on each free PDF editor including how to get started, how to edit your PDF and what you can expect when using each site.

Sejda

Sejda free PDF editor

Best for editing text and adding hyperlinks

Whether you’re looking to work online or offline, Sejda is a great free PDF editor to check out. You can upload PDFs up to 200 pages (or 50MB) to edit online or download the desktop version of Sejda for free.

When I checked out Sejda, I used the free online editor to upload and modify a PDF. The first thing I noticed was that I was able to select text directly on the PDF and edit it. I could highlight, bold, underline, erase and add words, characters and links directly to the document. Sejda also provides tools for filling out forms, adding images, creating digital signatures, annotating a document and more. There was even a “find and replace” feature that let me search through the text on the PDF. 

In addition to the free PDF editor, you’ll also find a variety of other tools available for free at Sejda that help you modify a PDF in other ways. If you need to merge, split, compress, secure or convert a PDF, you can do those things for free at Sejda. Just scroll over “All Tools” next to the company’s logo in the top-left corner. 

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ProsCons
– You can choose to work online or offline for free with Sejda
– While editing a PDF document, you can search and edit the text
– PDF documents uploaded online are deleted after two hours to ensure privacy
– There’s a limit of three PDFs per hour online
– The free version is available only for PDF documents under 200 pages or 50MB

SmallPDF

SmallPDF

Best for making quick, minor edits online

SmallPDF is a great way to modify or edit a PDF document. This resource offers 21 tools to convert, compress and edit PDFs completely free. You can check out the full list of PDF tools here and click on what you need to begin editing online instantly at no cost. With the free online version, you can process up to two PDFs each day.

SmallPDF is available for free online, on the App Store and on Google Play. Unfortunately, if you want to download SmallPDF to your computer so that you can edit PDFs offline, you will have to pay a monthly subscription. Plans start at $9/month for individuals signing up for the Pro plan, but you can’t subscribe monthly. You have to pay for a full year’s subscription. That will buy you premium features such as the ability to convert scanned PDFs to Word documents and digital seal protection on signatures. You’ll also get access to unlimited document processing, file storage and customer support. 

Still, SmallPDF has pretty much everything you’ll need to edit a PDF online at no charge. Whether you want to merge or split documents, add a digital signature, number pages, convert or compress the document, you’ll be able to do it for free with SmallPDF.

ProsCons
– 21 PDF tools including a wide variety of converting and editing features
– Process up to two PDFs per day online as often as you need
– You don’t have to create an account to use SmallPDF’s 21 free online tools
– Free apps are available in addition to the website and desktop version
– To edit PDFs offline, you’ll have to pay a $108 annual fee after a seven-day free trial, and there’s no monthly payment option
– Free version doesn’t include premium features (including converting scanned PDFs to Word)
– Limited to only two PDFs per day

PDF Candy

PDF Candy free editor

Best for converting PDFs online

While PDF Candy’s homepage can be a little overwhelming, it’s clear that this free PDF editor offers a lot of tools online. Many of them deal with converting PDF documents into various file formats and vice versa. In fact, you’ll find 26 different converting tools. 

You’ll also find a variety of tools for basic PDF editing including splitting, merging, compressing, cropping, rotating and text editing. You can also create basic annotations, add a signature and more. Once you’ve found the tool you need, you can click on it to upload your PDF and begin editing. 

If you’re a Windows user, you can download the desktop version of PDF Candy for free. It offers the same tools as the free online PDF editor, but you can use it offline. You can also upgrade to a paid version of PDF Candy, but that can get expensive quickly.

ProsCons
– 26 different options for converting PDF files
– Windows users can download the desktop version to edit offline
– 17 tools available for free including editing, merging, cropping and more
– Hourly limit of two PDFs with the free PDF editor
– Short processing time to wait after making your edits
– File size limit of 10MB

PDFescape

PDFescape homepage

Best for small PDFs and annotation

PDFescape is another great free PDF editor. It works entirely online, so you don’t have to download any software. If you pay for the full version, there’s a desktop application for download. However, the free version online includes some great features and may be all you need. 

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With PDFescape, you get access to several free online tools including a PDF reader, editor, form filler, form designer and annotator. You can check out a full list of features here to compare the free online tools to premium desktop versions. If you’re ready to edit your PDF, simply drag it or upload the document to the homepage of the website. 

When I uploaded a PDF, I was able to insert text, whiteout blocks, images, freehand (signatures), links, form fields, lines, arrows, shapes and checkmarks. I could also add sticky notes, highlights and other annotations. Additionally, you can modify the document itself by rearranging or deleting pages, cropping, rotating and more. 

ProsCons
– Completely online; no download needed
– No account or sign-in needed to use
– No trial period or watermarks
– File size limit of 10MB or 100 pages
– No free desktop version, which means you can’t edit PDFs offline

PDFsam Basic

PDFsam Basic

Best for simple edits such as merging, splitting and rotating

If you’re looking for a simple free PDF editor that can split, merge, extract pages, mix and rotate PDF documents, PDFsam Basic is the perfect software for you. You’ll have to download it to use it, but it’s completely free and having the software downloaded means you can edit documents offline. 

I downloaded PDFsam to check it out, and the download took just a few minutes. The interface was really user-friendly with all of the features split into free and premium sections and clearly labeled. Once you select the feature you need, click “Select PDF” or “Add” to upload a document. From there, you can choose the changes you need to make and click “Run” to download your edited file. 

You can check out a full list of features available on the free PDF editor online. There, you’ll also find detailed tutorials on how to complete each task. PDFsam is available to download on Windows, Linux and MacOS as long as your computer has 70MB of disk space.

ProsCons
– No trial period or limit to how many files you can edit within a certain timeframe
– You can edit PDF documents offline with the desktop software
– No watermarks on the finalized PDFs
– Can’t edit or add text/markups for free
– No online version, so you’ll have to download the software

Apple Preview

Apple Preview

Best for Mac users making simple edits offline

If you have a Mac, you probably already have Apple Preview downloaded by default. In addition to simply viewing pictures you have saved, this application is also great for editing PDFs. 

When you first open Apple Preview, “Finder” will pop up so that you to select a photo or document to view. If you choose a PDF, you’ll be able to make basic edits including adding a signature, notes and annotations, text and more. Once you’ve opened a document, in the top-right corner you’ll see the highlighter tool and rotating tool. You can click the “Markup Toolbar” button to see additional tools. 

From the toolbar, you can add text, freehand writing, shapes, signatures and more. You can also choose from a variety of fonts and sizes so that your document looks just right. When you’re finished, you can save the edits to the original file or save a copy to your computer.

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ProsCons
– Preloaded on Macs
– Enables basic edits including adding a signature, rotating a document and inserting text
– Also allows text search
– Available only to MacOS users
– Can’t directly edit preexisting text on the PDF that you upload
– Markup tools aren’t obvious

PDF-XChange Editor

PDF-XChange Editor

Best for Windows users editing PDFs offline

PDF-XChange Editor is a great option if you have Windows XP or later. You can visit this page from your computer and click “free download” to install the software. The free PDF editor includes all of the features of the paid version; the only downside is that the free PDF editor will include a watermark stamp on edited documents. 

This free resource includes nearly any tool you could need for viewing and editing a PDF. It allows you to create new PDFs and modify existing documents. You can edit, correct, add or remove text in addition to making the PDF searchable with optical character recognition (OCR).

To see a full list of features, be sure to check out the PDF-XChange product comparison chart. If you’re a Windows user and you don’t mind downloading the software to your computer, this may be the only resource you’ll need.

ProsCons
– Can create, view, edit, annotate and digitally sign PDF files
– Includes optical character recognition (OCR) which is something most free PDF editors don’t have
– Can edit documents offline after downloading the software
– A watermark is stamped onto edited PDFs with the free version
– Available only for Windows users to download

Final Thoughts

If you just need to make basic edits to a few PDF documents, there’s probably no reason to purchase a full PDF editor. You can most likely meet your needs with one of the free versions listed here. 

For the best overall experience that includes directly editing PDF text and/or working with hyperlinks, try Sejda. If you just need to make a few minor edits, SmallPDF online may be all you need. 

To convert your PDF to a different format (or vice versa) you’ll likely find the right tool on PDF Candy. PDFescape is great for small documents while PDFsam Basic is perfect for making simple edits like merging, splitting and rotating

Mac users don’t need to look any further than Apple Preview for basic free edits. If you’re a Windows user, PDF-XChange Editor is a great solution for editing files offline. 

Have you used a PDF editor for free that isn’t on our list? Let us know in the comments below!

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