The best free PDF editors are designed to help you view, create, and edit professional PDFs completely free of charge. No perpetual licenses. No on-going subscriptions. Just free software for editing PDFs.
While most modern browsers act as some of the best free PDF readers, letting you open and view files, dedicated free PDF editors are the superior option when you need to create and modify PDFs - especially if you’re in and out of documents regularly.
A top free PDF editor maximizes productivity on a budget, making it simple to edit PDF files online or in a free desktop download. But the very best free PDF editors also add features like file conversion, OCR software, and eSign software built into the tools.
And almost all offer premium upgrade options, if you find yourself in need of a fully fledged PDF editor capable of editing an unlimited number of documents.
When choosing the best free PDF editor for your needs, make a list of the must-have feature-set needed by you and your team. Not all free Adobe Acrobat alternatives are created equally. For example, if you’re going to be bulk-editing, a tool like PDF24 Creator will serve you better than SmallPDF.
We’ve tested out a range of PDF editing software - comparing tools, features, OCR integration, cloud storage options, cross-platform compatibility, and ease of use to identify the best free PDF editors online and for download.
TODAY'S TOP 3 BEST PDF EDITORS
We’ve tested, reviewed, and rated the best PDF editors for Windows, Mac, iPad, and more. If it's in budget, we recommend these top three premium picks - bringing professional PDF editing tools into the home or office.
Adobe Acrobat DC: best PDF editor overall
The original is still the best. Adobe Acrobat DC lets users edit and create professional-looking PDF on desktop or mobile. In our 5-star Acrobat DC review (opens in new tab), we praised the extensive feature-set. “Sometimes,” we wrote, “the best solution on the market has its reputation for a reason.”
Nitro PDF Pro: best PDF editor for beginners
Nitro PDF Pro is one of the simplest PDF editors we’ve ever used - but that effortless user experience hides a wealth of advanced tools. In our Nitro PDF Pro review (opens in new tab), we felt it let users edit and convert PDFs "with ease and speed."
pdfFiller: best PDF editor for online collaboration
Online PDF editor pdfFiller is a web-based, business-focused end-to-end document management tool. As such, it excels at letting you securely share and work with others on the same documents. We reviewed pdfFiller (opens in new tab) as “very versatile PDF document management system”, though the advanced toolset means a steeper learning curve.
The best free PDF editors of 2022 in full
PDF24 Creator is our pick for best free PDF editor overall. You may find the website a tad dated, but this is because this free editor and converter has been around since 2006. A case of ‘If it ain’t broke…’
The tool is surprisingly feature-rich for a free PDF editor, PDF24 Creator is a very small program that can easily run on older systems - ideal, then, for businesses with limited resources or a suite of low-spec computers.
In our review, we rated it as “one of the best examples of free tools that go above and beyond. It’s packed full of features, and comes with everything you might need to create and edit a PDF document.” While we noted that it lacked more advanced features usually found in premium tools like Adobe Acrobat DC, we felt that most users will find more than enough utility within PDF24 Creator.
In terms of features, the editing software offers document creation, PDF merging, PDF compressing, and converting PDFs into other formats. You can extract specific pages to create a new document and optimize a PDF for the web. PDF24 Creator even 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. And yes, our top choice for best free PDF editor is genuinely free and unlimited, through and through.
Read our full PDF24 Creator review
Smallpdf was created with a single goal in mind: edit and compress 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. So, if you and your business needs multilingual support from their PDF editing tool, Smallpdf is essential.
Long considered one of the best free PDF editors online - you can make all the changes you need from your browser - the user experience is excellent and incredibly easy to use. When we reviewed Smallpdf, we found the lightweight, cloud-based tool perfect for simple tasks, but not ideal for high-volume editing or advanced features.
Using the PDF editor is straightforward. Upload your PDF via the website, 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 premium edition. 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. Alongside a web PDF editor and Windows desktop app, users can also install the PDF editor on Android and iOS phones.
Read our full Smallpdf review
PDF Candy is ideal if you want a free online PDF editor and a way to edit PDF files in your browser. You’ll also find a desktop version available for Windows if you upgrade to the lifetime license.
Easily one of the best free PDF editors online, it's delightfully simple to use - everything is clean, clear, and easy to navigate. And it's absolutely packed with functionality, with an impressive 47 different tools for editing, altering, converting PDF files, and so much more.
The free version places a one-task-per-hour limit, which can be removed by setting up a monthly or annual subscription, or purchasing it outright for a one-off payment. The latter also grants access to the Windows-only desktop PDF editor app.
However, no tool or feature is off-limits, regardless of your plan. And that makes PDF Candy a great choice whether you're a casual PDF editor or a productive power-user. There's something for everyone here.
In our review, where the software earned 4.5 stars, we said it "simplifies and streamlines online PDF editing and converting, while packing in plenty of extra tools you didn't know you needed until now."
The free online PDF editor presents you with plenty of useful tools. This includes the option to edit PDF files online, convert documents to a variety of formats, merge and compress PDFs.
On top of that, PDF Candy lets you easily extract text and images, resize pages, and add watermarks. In total, there are an impressive 47 different tools to help you manage and edit PDF files. All features are found in a handy list of buttons, so you won't spend ages looking for what you need.
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.
Read our full PDF Candy review
Apple’s Preview app is free, and as you’d imagine, only available on the Mac. It’s designed to let you preview many different image formats, but its most interesting feature is its ability to view, interact with, and manipulate PDFs.
After reviewing the best free PDF editor for Mac, we felt Apple’s product was “a remarkably powerful tool, offering you the basics, while also allowing you to perform what could be considered pretty powerful editing and note taking functions.”
The basics are seamless: open a file, scroll through the pages, search for specific words, print the whole document, or just parts of it, fill in specific fields, add notes, it’s all there, and you can’t really ask for a more easy-to-use PDF reader.
But Preview does one better: you can manipulate PDFs files to a certain extent. No, you can’t actually edit the text, but you can reorder pages, rotate them, and even delete them.
Even better, you can copy pages and paste them onto a new document, enabling you to create custom PDFs containing only the information you need (as long as those original PDFs allow you to copy their pages - some have restrictions that prevent that).
All in all, Apple Preview is an excellent tool when dealing with PDFs.
Read our full Apple Preview review
I Love PDF is an online service that allows you to manipulate PDF files in a number of ways. You can merge files together, split a single one into multiples, and convert documents to and from the PDF format.
It’s not a full PDF editor like Adobe Acrobat DC. In fact, we noted in our review of the PDF editing tool that while it “allows you to manipulate PDF documents in a vast number of ways, the only drawback is that you can’t actually change the existing content of these files, although you can add additional text boxes, shapes, images, and more.”
Despite this, it does contain a number of interesting features that are cleverly implemented. This includes being able to use your phone’s camera to scan pages, and have them appear back on your page on your computer, once done. You can easily add page numbers to every page, or even a watermark, and of course add a digital electronic signature to a document.
The online PDF editor (or, rather, PDF manipulator) is free, as long as you access it from a web browser. A handful of tools have limited functionality in this way, but should be suitable for most people’s needs.
If you require more advanced features, including OCR capabilities, then you’ll need to consider subscribing. This will also allow you to also download software to work and manipulate PDFs while offline.
The only thing you cannot do is alter the original content of a PDF, although you can add additional text boxes, images and shapes.
Read our full I Love PDF review
Sejda, like PDF Candy and Smallpdf, is one of the best free PDF editors available online in your browser. You can also grab a separate free downloadable, editable PDF app for desktops.
What sets it apart from other similar offerings, however, are its security features. All files uploaded to the service are automatically wiped from its servers after two hours. This means you can use it to work on sensitive documents without having to be worried about your data being leaked or stolen.
We described Sejda as a convincingly power PDF editor, noting that using it is “so self-explanatory, it's difficult to fault the tools that are available.” Conversely, we were disappointed by the lack of precision over layout and movement controls.
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 PDF text, 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
How to choose the best free PDF editor for you
When deciding which free PDF editor is best for you, 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 dedicated PDF converter instead.
How we test 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.