How to edit a PDF file

Updated: 04/26/2017 by Computer Hope

Note: Portable data files are for viewing, not editing. If you only need to copy text from the PDF, see our document on how to copy text from an Adobe PDF.

Note: If you need to copy text from a PDF that has been scanned, see our how to copy text from a scanned PDF document.

PDFWe recommend PDFs be converted to a DOC, ODG, RTF or another file format before editing them. After the file is edited, it can be saved as an updated PDF. Below are the steps for converting a file using a software program or online resources.

Free tools to edit PDF files

We highly recommend the Oracle PDF Import Extension for OpenOffice Draw and PDFill as free tools for editing PDF files. We found PDF Import Extension to be the most useful free program because of its ability to convert almost any PDF file. Also, PDFill can convert images contained in your PDF into vector images, as well as edit PDF objects. It is available for all major platforms, including Mac. PDFill can come in handy when you want to work with form fields, decrypt a PDF, and perform other features not available in the PDF Import Extension.

To edit a PDF file using the PDF Import Extension, follow the steps below.

  1. If you don't already have OpenOffice installed on your computer, download and install OpenOffice. It is a complete suite of free productivity software that includes OpenOffice Draw.
  2. After installing OpenOffice, run the PDF Import Extension.
  3. Next, open the program OpenOffice Draw.
  4. Once open, navigate to the PDF you want to edit and open it.
  5. After the PDF has been open, edit any text field by double-click it. If you want to add new text, click the Text link at the bottom of the window, and then click where you want to add text.
  6. Finally, after you have finished editing the file click the PDF link to export the file as a PDF.

Although PDF Export Extension is a fantastic free solution for editing a PDF, it does have some limitations. It does not currently support PDF forms, table conversions, or the decrypting of protected files. If you are running Microsoft Windows, many of these limitations can be avoided by also using PDFill.

Below are the steps to edit and otherwise manipulate a PDF using PDFill.

  1. Download and install PDFill.
  2. Open the PDFill PDF Editor if you want to edit a PDF or the PDFill PDF Tools if you want to encrypt, decrypt, merge, add headers, or perform other quick tasks.
  3. If you are editing a file, after PDFill PDF Editor is open, click File, select Open New PDF Project, and browse to the PDF you want to edit.

Online conversion

Note: It may take several minutes to convert a PDF and online services do not convert password protected files.

There are several online tools that can convert your PDFs. However, because it is easier to edit a PDF as a Word file without using the software tools mentioned above, we recommend the PDFtoWord converter by Nitro PDF Software.

Non-free tools to edit PDF files

Finally, if you edit PDFs daily and the above solutions are not sufficient, there are also plenty of commercial PDF editors. Unfortunately, many of these programs can cost several hundred dollars.

Additional information

  • See the PDF definition for related links and information.