A PDF splitter is an incredibly useful tool to have on hand, even if you only need to use it very occasionally. When the need does arise, it's invaluable.
PDFs are designed to appear the same way on any device, which is extremely handy, but they're also notoriously difficult to edit unless you invest in premium software. That's because Adobe owns some of the technologies involved in editing such documents, and charges other software developers a fee if they want to use them.
Often though, you don't want to make extensive changes to a PDF – you just want to divide it up into manageable chunks. Whether it's a set of lecture notes that are too large to manage, or an instruction manual for a TV that only includes a few pages in your language, sometimes splitting a PDF makes life far easier.
Thankfully, there's no need to pay for software to split PDFs – there's a raft of tools available that will do the job for free. Here are our recommendations for the best PDF splitters to chop your documents down to size.
1. PDFsam Basic
An unfussy PDF splitter with all the options you need, completely free
When you want to split a PDF, the free open-source application PDFsam Basic is our top recommendation. It's wonderfully simple to use; just select your PDF, decide where it should be split (after a certain number of pages, after a set of specific page numbers, or into equally-sized chunks), then let it do its work.
Unlike most free PDF splitters, it also lets you define how the resulting smaller PDFs should be named, with the option to overwrite existing documents if you prefer.
This isn't a full PDF editor (its name simply stands for Split and Merge), but for simple tasks an uncluttered tool is exactly what you need. If you do want more features, PDFsam Enhanced starts at $39 (about £30, AU$55) per year – a fraction of what you'd pay for Adobe Acrobat.
A PDF splitter that can import documents from the cloud
iLovePDF is an impressive collection of tools to handle virtually any PDF-related task, including merging, converting, watermarking, rotating, and yes, splitting. To split a PDF, you'll have to submit your document to iLovePDF’s servers, which you may be reluctant to do if it contains sensitive information, or if your internet connection is a little slow.
However, iLovePDF has several advantages over other tools. Not only can you use it on any device with an internet connection, you can either upload documents or import them directly from Google Drive or Dropbox. Once that's done, you have the options to split by range, or extract all pages individually.
iLovePDF doesn't provide quite as many options as PDFsam Basic (you can't create custom naming rules, for example), but for quick PDF splitting without the need to download extra software, it’s hard to fault.
A refreshingly simple PDF splitter you can use in your browser
Sejda is another excellent choice for splitting PDFs in your browser, and it's refreshingly simple to use. Just upload your document, then select which pages to split, or turn every page into a new file, and the web app will handle the rest.
There are limits on the free service: every hour, you can process no more than 200 pages or 50MB data (whichever comes first) and perform no more than three tasks.
That’s pretty generous, but if you need to perform more tasks, there are weekly, monthly and annual passes available. At $5 (about £4, AU$7), a weekly pass would work out quite expensive over a long period, but is perfect if you’ll only be needing the full tool for a short time and don’t want to commit to a longer subscription.
A PDF splitter for both web and desktop, with a few caveats to consider
SodaPDF is a PDF splitter that's available as both a web app and desktop software. The web app is perfect for one-off jobs, whereas the desktop version is a better choice if you'll be using it regularly.
The desktop version will offer to install Adaware Web Companion, but (unusually for this kind of software), the option to do so is unchecked by default. The software developer will earn a commission from users who install the add-on, so it’s refreshing to see that it’s putting users’ preferences first.
You'll also be prompted to register for a free account. You can skip this for the first few days, but you'll lose access to many of SodaPDF's features if you don't sign up after 14 days. The web-based tool has no such restrictions.
5. PDF-Xchange Editor
A PDF splitter and much, much more
PDF-XChange Editor's isn't just a PDF splitter, but a whole editor. Not all the features in its various menus are available in the free version of the software, but developer Tracker has taken feedback on board, and it’s now easier to see which tools aren’t available without opening your wallet because their icons are greyed out, and menu options include an icon of a shopping cart.
You’ll find the option to split PDFs under the Organize tab in the menu. The ability to split the PDF into separate pages is free, but that ability to divide up pages is a premium option. You can’t choose precise page ranges to split, but you can split the document at regular points, or at a set number of pages. You can also decide whether or not to copy comments and bookmarks across to the freshly split documents, where to save them, and whether to overwrite any existing files.
- Check out our guide to the best free PDF editors