Home > Computing > How to edit a PDF

How to edit a PDF

PDF files offer an easy way to share information. However, they can also be a pain to work with, because like that guy you’ve been seeing, they’re hard to change. Have no fear though, there are a few ways to get into the meat of a file to add or subtract content while keeping the original format intact. Some of the options below will do just that, maintaining the the original file and content layout with relative ease, while others require a bit more effort on your part. Before attempting any of the following editing techniques however, it’s important to know PDF files are often secured by their creator and thus difficult to change. Though security levels fluctuate — some files are entirely password protected while others simply restrict reading and editing capabilities — most sport some level of limitation. Thankfully, nothing is set in stone when it comes to the Adobe’s flagship format.

There are multiple methods for getting around security, but if a file is password protected, breaking into it typically involves downloading labor-intensive, encryption-breaking software. However, you can always try capturing and saving a screenshot of a secured PDF if you absolutely must edit a document. Whatever you do, trying to get into a secured PDF is going to be a big mess so it might be better just to start from scratch in certain instances. Regardless, users can edit text, add images, make annotations, and export files with the proper PDF utility, pushing the boundaries of what can be done with file format when in the right hands. It’s not always going to be free, nor cheap for that matter, but at least there are notable options available for on-the-fly editing.

Below are three methods for editing a PDF, whether you prefer to alter the document using desktop software, Web-based tools, or the chaotic conversion-to-conversion method. Also, check out our guide on how to password protect a PDF if you want to protect your work from being changed, or our straightforward guides on how to merge PDF files and how to convert a Kindle ebook to a PDF

Skip ahead to the next page for steps to editing using web-based tools or through file type conversion. 

Option 1: Editing a PDF using desktop software

If you find yourself needing to edit PDF files regularly, then downloading desktop software is the way to go. There will definitely be a bigger financial commitment at first, but desktop applications tend to make the process simple and clean, something well worth it if you plan on using them on the reg. Also, if you already have one of the following programs, you can download the updates to include the PDF editor. There are some free software options available, but as with anything, you get what you pay for. Therefore, below is the best of the cheap.

Adobe Acrobat ($450 one-time purchase or $50 per month annually)

Adobe

Adobe better best be on the list as it’s the company that first debuted the PDF in ’93. Being the case, Adobe Acrobat comes equipped with a quality editor and a comprehensive set of instructions regarding its use, even though it’s likely the most straightforward and intuitive option on our list. The downside is the cost, which can run you an upwards of $50 a month for single, annual subscription. However, would-be users can always download the free, 30-day trial of the software before they purchase the full package.

Step 1: Locate and open the PDF you wish to edit.

Adobe Acrobat Pro

Step 2: Click the Tools option in the top-right corner of the window, followed by the Content Editing panel at the top of the resulting drop-down list.

Content editing

Step 3: Select the part of the PDF you wish to alter. Adobe will automatically present you with the respective, available tool set once chosen.

PDF editing

Step 4: Select the appropriate tool with which to make your desired edits. Options vary depending on which version of Adobe Acrobat you’re utilizing, but most users will typically find tools for adding, editing, and otherwise manipulating text, images, and other formatting elements commonly found within PDF files. 

Adobe editing adding photo

Microsoft Word (Free with most versions of Windows)

Editing a PDF with early incarnations of Microsoft’s popular word processor may be a pipe dream — after all, older versions will merely import the file code or produce an error message — but it’s a no-brainer with Microsoft Word 2013. Although the company’s instructions page provides step-by-step instructions for opening and editing a PDF, we’ve laid out the entire process below, sans the thin typeface and completely bland copy.

Step 1: Launch Word, click the File option in the top-left corner of the window, and select Open option from the resulting drop-down menu. Afterward, select Computer followed by the Browse button on the right-hand side of the window, and choose the PDF file you wish to open from either the browser window or by entering the file name in the bottom text field. Then, click the Open button in the bottom-right corner of the window. Keep in mind the converted document may lose its original formatting, especially between pages, and showcase differing lines and page breaks.

Word 2013 Edit

Step 2: Select the appropriate tool with which to make your desired edits as you would normally in Word. As usual, users can access a wealth of tools from the application’s main toolbar, whether they’re looking to add or alter text, images, or other commonplace elements. Word will automatically save the PDF file when finished.

Word 2013 Toolbar

AbleWord (Free)

The freemium AbleWord functions much like your standard word processor, allowing users to read, write, and edit PDF files without the premium cost of programs like Microsoft Word. The desktop application is lightweight, simplistic, and bolstered by a healthy set of tools and conversion formats despite it’s limited capabilities. 

Step 1: Navigate to the AbleWorld download page, click the blue Download button near the top of the page, and follow the onscreen installation instructions for the program once downloaded.

AbleWord download

Step 2: Launch AbleWord, click the File option in the top-left corner of the window, and select Open option from the resulting drop-down menu. Afterward, select the PDF file you wish to open from either the browser window or by entering the file name in the bottom text field, and click the Open button in the bottom-right corner of the window.

AbleWord Open

Step 3: Select the appropriate tool with which to make your desired edits as you would normally in any popular word processor. As usual, users can access a wealth of tools from the application’s main toolbar, whether they’re looking to add or alter text, images, or other commonplace elements. AbleWord will automatically save the PDF file when finished.

AbleWord toolbar

Next Page: How to edit a PDF using Web-based tools or through file type conversion.

Get our Top Stories delivered to your inbox: