All you need to know about editing PDF and PDF Editors

In this essay, I am going to shed light on how to edit PDF, what PDF Editors are available, and why a lot of people prefer to edit their documents online.

This post also will give you a lot of useful information regarding:

  • Main reasons behind adjusting PDF;
  • Guidance on how to annotate PDF files on Mac OS and Windows for free
  • A list of useful freemium tools to edit PDF online;
  • A lot of other hints on PDF manipulation.

Therefore, if you edit files in Portable Document Format infrequently or daily, this content is for you.

Let’s jump right in.

Definitive guide on editing PDF and PDF Editors (by Andrey Palagin)
Definitive guide on editing PDF and PDF Editors (by Andrey Palagin)

One more time about what PDF is

First of all, allow me to remind you what PDF is. Per Wikipedia, PDF is a file format that presents documents, including text formatting and images. It is a container for a variety of content. Besides flat text and graphics, PDF may include logical structuring elements, interactive elements such as annotations and form-fields, layers, rich media (including video content), and three-dimensional objects, along with various other data formats. In other words, PDF serves to keep and display all the printed stuff, plus the majority of multi-media essence.

So why PDF is so popular?

PDF has become the most popular document format due to its independence of the software, hardware, or operating system it is viewed on. It gives you the warranty that the content, which is saved as PDF in OpenOffice on Linux, looks the same way in Mail on iOS.

In comparison to raster graphic images, some text and the other elements in PDF could be scaled, selected, recognized, and copy to clipboard. That is why PDF file is a fantastic way to share an information.

Why do we need to edit PDF?

To look the same everywhere PDF content is locked. PDF is not designed to be edited. But, what if you need to add some comments or highlight the important text, the same way we usually deal with printed documents?

Nowadays, when the environment matters and paper consumption is being reduced; a lot of people prefer to review and edit all the documents electronically. For instance, some businesses are in favor of signing and annotating contracts or forms digitally. PDF is the best format to save contracts. Moreover, PDF Editor is the best tool to revise and to sign documents.

There are two main routes for editing PDF:

  1. The old school — via applications (client-side editors);
  2. The modern approach — online services (server-side editors).

Let’s review each of them.

What is the best program to edit PDF?

I have to admit that, Adobe Acrobat Pro DC is the best PDF editor in the world. It is not cheap (at all). Acrobat is an unbelievably capable desktop software to view, create, manipulate, print, and manage files in Portable Document Format. It provides professional users with the widest set of options to create PDF files from scratch and edit existing documents with confidence. On the other hand, the majority of users, as well as businesses, do not need all those functions and may not be able to get good returns on expenditure, if Acrobat is purchased.

How to edit PDF on Mac

By default, Mac OS has its fantastic Preview application, which gives you the ability to read, edit, and save PDFs on your Mac.

Editing PDF on Windows

Windows OS provides a very limited PDF Editing capability built-in. The best approach for editing PDF documents in Windows is to install the free version of Acrobat DC or any other free software available on the web.

The best way to edit PDF on iPhone or Android

In case you are on the go and need to slightly adjust a PDF document on your smartphone, please consider installing the appropriate application from the app store. Mobile operating systems have no PDF modification functionality built-in. At the same time, a lot of great applications are available in the app markets.

How to edit PDF Online and on any device

PDF files can be edited online, in any OS, and on any device, thanks to server-side applications. A web browser is all that is needed.

To edit a PDF online you need to:

  1. Pick up the best online PDF Editor;
  2. Upload your file in PDF;
  3. Add all the edits you need within your browser;
  4. Download the modified version of your PDF.

Unfortunately, at the moment there are not too many free PDF Editors published on the web. That is why I have decided to conduct a comparative analysis of the best free Edit PDF services. Check out the table below.

Top 5 sites to Edit PDF online for free

I have analyzed a dozen server-side PDF Editors and based on their UI, functionality, and speed, I have selected the best five of them.

  1. Edit PDF on PDF Online — my #1 choice for PDF modification and reviewing;
  2. Sejda’s PDF Editor — another good tool with an advanced text modification function;
  3. PDF Escape — well-known and powerful PDF Editor, that requires more time to get used to;
  4. SmallPDF — user-friendly web application to make some edits;
  5. iLovePDF — light PDF editing service, which is good for usual revisions.
PDF Editor comparison analysis: Edit PDF with PDF Online vs. Sejda vs. PDF Escape vs. Small PDF vs. iLovePDF
PDF Editor comparison analysis: Edit PDF with PDF Online vs. Sejda vs. PDF Escape vs. Small PDF vs. iLovePDF

Edit PDF tool on PDF Online is my favorite PDF Editor. It comes with a very clear interface, good navigation, and some unique useful features. I was truly happy to edit my file on a full screen, along with filing the forms with my handwriting and signing a document. It works super fast even on my iPad. However, the main concern is the PDF size, which is limited to 10 megabytes. I wish one day PDF Online’s team will improve it.

Sejda is another wonderful PDF editor. The unique feature is its text editor, which gives you the ability to rewrite a text in a document. Just like Acrobat Pro DC does. However, it may affect other content in a file. At the same time, very popular commenting (text annotation) tool is missing.

I have put PDF Escape on the 3rd place, due to its interface. This mighty tool provides the widest set of features, but it was very hard to navigate through the app. For instance, PDF Escape has password protection and form field creating tools, but it takes too many clicks to get there. The PDF size is limited to 10 MB as well.

SmallPDF and iLovePDF are good online editors too but come with limited functionality.

I have to mention that all above is my personal opinion. So, other PDF lovers have to decide on their own what tool to use, taking into account their individual standards and the job that needs to be done with an editor. However, I strongly encourage you to check out the functionality of PDF Editor on PDF Online. It is worth trying.

What functionality is available to edit PDF online

I also need to explain the meaning of some functions listed in the table. By default we can separate all PDF editing tools into three groups: reading, editing, and collaborating.

Navigation Panel (Nav. Panel) or navigation bar is an important element of the any app’s interface, which gives you the ability to access the information faster. In some Editors, this panel can also show outlines and comments in a document.

How navigation panel assists the reading of PDF
How navigation panel assists the reading of PDF
Navigation panel on

View controls are a set of tools that serve to read a document the way you need. With this feature, you can set the page transition, change the layout, and do more to read your PDF the way you need.

In addition to view controls zoom in or zoom out tools assist readers in scaling a content.

Text modification tools are a key part of editing group, they provide several important functions to modify a content of a document. For instance, when you review a document you can highlight, underline, or strike out any text.

Drawing tools exist to sketch and handwrite on a PDF document. That is a very useful tool when it comes to graphic reconsideration. With PDF Online you can set the color of your drawings, as well as its opacity and the thickness.

Use form field creation function when you want to add a form to your document.

At the same time the eraser serves to remove those drawings, along with some other edits.

Text insertion is needed to place a free text anywhere in a document.

Any page size can be reduced with the Crop Page tool. Keep in mind, that cropping does not decrease file size. It just hides a data, but not discards that.

A PDF can be sign electronically with the Signature tool. Two options are available: drawing your signature with a mouse or uploading your signature in PNG or JPEG to put it on a page.

The comment tool is the most valuable one in the collaboration group, it allows recording comments dedicated to a specific element of a document. That function is an extremely useful feature for collaborating on documents with colleagues or classmates.

Finally, file sharing function serves to publish your output (edited PDF file) on external web resources, such as, and Google Drive. That is a fruitful feature for work groups.

How to edit PDF in Word or making a PDF editable

When it comes to changing the entire content in a document, the best option is to convert PDF into Word or any other editable format. Then you can modify its text — along with other elements — in a word processor or a spreadsheet editor. Regular PDF to Word converter can do that job great. Personally, I prefer making my PDFs editable with free PDF to Word Converter on PDF Online.

As an alternative, you can edit a text in PDF with some professional desktop applications, such as Adobe Acrobat Pro DC, or free online services available on the web. Nevertheless, be aware that changing any paragraph of text may impact the appearance of other elements. That is why professionals prefer transferring PDF into editable formats to compose several content adjustments later.

Five steps for creating your very own PDF Editor

Were you not able to find a PDF Editor that does the job for you? Create your very own programmatically! To start creating your individual PDF Editor:

  1. Choose the programming environment. Would you like to code in Java, .Net, PHP, or Phyton?
  2. Consider what functionality your PDF Editor will provide. Do you need your app to crop pages, annotate a content, or process information in the form fields?
  3. Get the PDF SDK with PDF processing capabilities. You should align the environment and app functionality requirements with SDK’s capabilities.
  4. Code your very own PDF Editor using either SDK’s manual or GUI that generates the code for you.
  5. Test your app, improve it, and release it. Good apps and services always find a way to their consumer.

The list of good PDF SDKs that provides file altering functionality is limited. Though, the majority of them available on the web in a form of a free trial. For example, also provides the PDF SDK with API to process and manipulate files in PDF in C#, Java, PHP, Phyton, or VB.NET. It has 30 days free trial period. Check that out, as well as other solutions, like PDFTron PDF SDK.

Adding PDF editing functionality to your app

Altering and editing PDF programmatically can be done with the SDK as well. Hence, you need to employ PDF SDK to add PDF editing and processing functionality to your app. The majority of PDF APIs and SDKs provide features like merging, splitting, rotating, deleting, extracting and optimizing files in PDF. Some SDKs can also modify PDF security settings, signatures, encryption, and passwords. Find and select the best solution based on its features, error handling, and the quality of technical support.

To sum up, I need to state that editing PDF is no longer a problem. An enormous amount of applications are available on the market. So, every user can select the best tool to perform the edits needed. Desktop OSs have basic PDF Editing functionality built-in. Plenty of apps are available to edit PDF on the go on mobile. Nonetheless, for my daily routine, I prefer to edit PDF online on the server-side. For myself, I found PDF Editor on to be the most suitable one.

Feel free to comment and tell me which Edit PDF tool works best for you and why.

A certified marketing professional who helps businesses, whose values he shares, in achieving their business goals via modern marketing tools.