The best free PDF editors, to make it simple and easy to edit PDF files, without having to pay for an expensive subscription service.
Since their introduction in the 90s, PDF or Portable Document Format files have become the go to way to create and share large documents. This is because their creator, Adobe co-founder Dr. John Warnock, originally came up with the idea for the PDF as a means to enable anyone to create a file that has the same formatting and appearance regardless of which computer or operating system they’re opened on.
While these days you can open and read PDF files right from your browser, you’ll need a PDF editor if you want to make changes, convert them to other file formats or sign them. Fortunately, there are still a number of excellent free PDF editors if you don’t find yourself working with PDFs often enough to invest in a paid solution. However, if you do end up working on more PDFs, many of the options on this list have paid tiers as well which include additional features and allow you to edit an unlimited number of documents.
For those that want to look at PDFs without having to open a browser, these are the best free PDF readers around and if you need to sign additional documents that aren’t in the PDF format, we’ve highlighted the best eSign software solutions.
We tested a wide range of free PDF editors, comparing their tools, features, OCR integration, cloud storage options, and cross-platform compatibility to find the best software solution for you.
Whether you want to edit PDFs online or on your desktop computer, these are the best free PDF editors that can take the hassle out of making changes to PDF files.
We've featured the best PDF editors.
The best PDF editor right now is: Adobe Acrobat Pro DC
It's not free, but if you need to edit and create PDFs professionally, Adobe Acrobat Pro DC is the software for you. It gives you total freedom to create new PDFs from scratch and edit existing documents without fuss, on desktop or mobile.
The best free PDF editors of 2022 in full
PDF24 Creator may have a somewhat dated website but this is because this free PDF editor and converter has been around since 2006. It’s made by a small team based in Berlin and is the project of Geek Software.
In addition to being surprisingly feature-rich for a free PDF editor, PDF24 Creator is a very small program that can easily run on older systems. In terms of features, it allows you to create new PDFs, merge existing ones, compress a PDF, convert a PDF to other formats, extract specific pages to create a new document and optimize a PDF for the web. PDF24 Creator also lets you apply OCR to a PDF so that you can convert scanned images to text.
PDF24 Creator has a minimalistic user interface and it’s clear that the program is designed around speed first and foremost. All of the important features are easy to find and when you first open the software, you’re presented with a grid of editing options.
Read our full PDF24 Creator review.
PDF Candy can be used as an online PDF editor though there is also a desktop version available for Windows. The free version has plenty of functionality but you can also upgrade to a paid plan to remove the limitation of only being able to complete one task per hour. If you’d rather forgo adding another monthly subscription to your budget, PDF Candy also offers a lifetime plan.
The web-based editor presents you with all of its various features including converting PDFs to a variety of formats, merging PDFs, compressing PDFs, extracting text and images, resizing pages, cropping PDFs, adding watermarks and more in a list of buttons. In total, there are 44 different tools to help you create, edit and convert PDFs.
Once you’ve made the necessary changes to a PDF, you can download the file directly to your computer or save it to your Google Drive or Dropbox cloud storage. You can also edit multiple PDF files and when you go this route, PDF Candy queues them so you can download everything at one time.
Smallpdf was created in Switzerland back in 2013 with the aim of creating a single tool to compress and edit PDFs. One thing that sets this free PDF editor apart from the competition is that it’s available in 24 different languages and used in 195 countries around the world.
Smallpdf’s main focus is providing an excellent user experience that makes its online PDF editor very easy to use. On its website, you can upload a PDF and begin making annotations and taking notes. You can also add pictures, text and shapes to a PDF. Once you’ve made the necessary changes, Smallpdf allows you to compress a PDF or export it as a Word, Excel or PowerPoint file.
If you want even more functionality, you can upgrade to Smallpdf’s paid version. While the web version is slightly cheaper, you can pay a bit more to take advantage of the desktop version so you can work offline. The company also offers a 7-day free trial so you can test out its paid features for yourself before deciding if you want to upgrade.
Read our full Smallpdf review.
Unlike with Microsoft Windows, Apple includes a built-in PDF editor for free with macOS in the form of Apple Preview and it's surprisingly capable. In addition to letting you work with PDF files, it also includes a number of image-editing features.
When it comes to PDFs, Apple Preview lets you fill in forms and add signatures using its markup tools. However, you can also combine PDF documents, transfer pages from one PDF to another, add text, highlight and more. Apple’s free PDF editor even allows you password protect PDF files that contain sensitive information.
Apple Preview may be a simple free PDF editor but it gets the job done and best of all, it comes pre-installed on every MacBook, iMac, Mac Mini and the rest of the company’s Mac devices. Unfortunately, it’s not available for iPhone or iPad, so you’ll want to do your PDF editing on desktop before sharing your finished documents on mobile.
Just like PDF Candy and Smallpdf, Sejda is another free online PDF editor. What sets it apart from other similar offerings is its security features as all of the files uploaded to the service are wiped from its servers after just five hours. This means you can use it to work on sensitive documents without having to be worried about your data being leaked or stolen.
Sejda also offers a desktop version with the biggest difference being that all of the processing is handled locally as opposed to in the cloud. Regardless of which free version you choose, Sejda limits you to working on a maximum of three tasks per day, one file at a time and files can’t be larger than 50MB or 200 pages.
In addition to being able to edit the text in a PDF, you can add new text as well as images including shapes and drawings. Sejda also lets you add annotations, create forms, whiteout sections of a document and more. For those that do decide to upgrade, Sejda is available as a weekly, monthly or annual subscription though there are discounts for larger teams with multiple users.
Read our full Sejda review.
Which type of free PDF editor is best for you?
When deciding which of the best free PDF editors to download and use, first consider which bits of your PDF file you need to change. If you’re just trying to add information to a form digitally, you’ll just need a basic editor that supports text insertion.
However, if you need to change the content of a PDF substantially, you’ll require a more powerful PDF editor that can make modifications to text or images already stored in the file. In some cases, especially if you want to change almost all the content of your file, it may be better to use a PDF to Word converter instead.
How we tested the best free PDF editors
To test for the best free PDF editors we first set up an account with the relevant software platform, whether as a download or as an online service. We then tested the service using a handful of PDF files to see how the PDF editor could handle editing not just text, but also images, as well as tables imported from Microsoft Excel. The aim was to push each software platform to see whether it could simply and easily not just edit a range of content types but also do so faithfully and consistently without introducing formatting issues or similar problems.