How to Edit a PDF: Best Tools & Techniques for All Devices

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PDFs files are the go-to choice for sharing documents online, ensuring consistent formatting across devices and platforms. However, as a proprietary format, editing PDFs presents several challenges – in fact, it can be downright frustrating at times.

In this how-to guide, we will offer step-by-step techniques for editing PDFs across various devices to suit any platform or budget.

Key Takeaways

  • PDFs preserve the original document’s integrity, which can make editing challenging.
  • Adobe Acrobat provides versatile PDF editing tools for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android.
  • Online tools are basic but user-friendly and often free.
  • For minor edits, use Google Docs or Microsoft Word to open PDF files.

Why Edit PDFs

PDFs, short for Portable Document Format, capture a document’s electronic image and formatting, such as fonts, text, and graphics. They also support interactive elements like videos and digital signatures.

Editing PDFs lets you modify, add, or remove content to meet your needs. This includes annotating, adding new elements, customizing documents, and collaborating.

Types of PDF Editors

There are various PDF editors, both online and offline.

  • Online PDF Editors: Edit PDFs online using web-based tools that operate in your browser, eliminating the need to download or install software.
  • Offline PDF Editors: Software applications installed on your device. These editors provide more advanced editing capabilities compared to online tools.

Types of PDF Editors

How to Edit a PDF in Adobe Acrobat

  1. Open Adobe Acrobat.
  2. Click File Menu > Open, choose the PDF you want to edit.
  3. Click Edit PDF and select the text or image for modification.
    Note: Use the appropriate tools as needed, such as Add or Remove Pages, Crop pages, Merge PDFs, Redact Content, or Comment.
  4. To save changes, click File Menu > Save or Export.

How to Edit a PDF Without Adobe Acrobat

To edit a PDF without Adobe Acrobat, consider these alternative techniques:

  • Use an online PDF editor
  • Convert the PDF to an editable format such as Word or Docs
  • Use third-party PDF editing software.

How to Edit a PDF on a Mac

Editing a PDF on a Mac is straightforward with native tools like Quick Look or Preview, depending on your macOS version.

  1. Double-click the PDF file to open it in Preview.
  2. Click the “Show Markup Toolbar” icon.
  3. To modify existing text, double-click it and enter changes directly.
  4. Use the toolbar to add text, shapes, or annotations. You can also sign, sketch, draw, highlight, underline, or strikethrough text.

To save the PDF:
–  For editable annotations, select File > Save or File > Export to PDF. 
– To flatten annotations, choose File > Print, then select Save as PDF.

How to Highlight the Text of Your PDF on Mac

To quickly highlight text in a PDF using Preview:

  1. Select the text you want to highlight.
  2. Click the down arrow next to the Highlight button.
  3. Choose a highlight color.
  4. Optionally, use highlight mode to automatically apply a highlighting style.

How to Edit a PDF on Windows

On Windows, you can edit PDFs in Word, use an online editor, or download Windows-compatible PDF editing software, like Adobe Acrobat or PDF-XChange Editor.

Here’s how to edit PDFs in Word using the free online version of Microsoft Office 365.

  1. Log into your Microsoft Account and navigate to OneDrive.
  2. Click Add New > Files Upload, then select the PDF you wish to edit.
  3. Double-click on the PDF file in OneDrive to open it.
  4. Click Open > Open in Desktop app.
  5. On the File Conversion box, click Edit.
  6. Once the PDF opens in Word, you can start editing the document
  7. When finished, click File > Save As > Download as PDF, or choose another file format from the list.

How to Edit a PDF on Windows

How to Edit a PDF on Linux

There are numerous options for editing a PDF on Linux. One straightforward solution is to use a web-based PDF editing tool – keep reading for our list of 10 free PDF editors. OpenSource also provides options for PDF editing on Linux.

Examples include:

How to Edit a PDF on Your Smartphone

The best way to edit a PDF file on your smartphone is by installing an app, allowing you to conveniently make changes to PDF documents.

Here are the steps to edit a PDF file on most smartphones.

  • Install a PDF editing app from the App Store (iOS) or Google Play Store (Android).
  • Launch the app and open the PDF document.
  • Use the app’s tools to modify text, images, or add annotations.
  • Save the edited PDF to your device.
  • Share the PDF via email, messaging, or upload it to your cloud storage drive.
 How to Edit a PDF on Your Smartphone

 How to Edit a PDF on Your Smartphone

How to Edit a PDF in Google Drive

  1. Log into your Google Account and navigate to Google Drive.
  2. Click New > File Upload, then select the PDF file you want to edit.
  3. Right-click the uploaded PDF and choose Open With > Google Docs.
  4. Once the PDF opens in Google Docs, you can edit the document.
  5. When finished, click File > Download, and choose your desired file format from the list.

How to Edit a PDF in Google Drive

How to Edit a PDF for Free

To edit a PDF for free, there are several online and offline tools to choose from. Here’s a list of 10 free PDF editors to help you get started.

How to Compress PDF File Size

When you want to email or share a PDF document online, you may need to compress (or shrink) the file. You can easily reduce the size of your PDF file by using an online PDF compressor tool.

How to Compress PDF File Size

How to shrink a PDF:

  • Open your web browser and go to the PDF compressor tool of your choice.
  • Drag and drop the PDF into the online tool.
  • Wait for the PDF file to upload.
  • Review and select the desired compression options, if applicable.
  • Use the compress or submit button on the webpage.
  • Wait for the tool to shrink the file.
  • Download the compressed PDF file to your device.

How to Compress a PDF for Free

When using free online tools, it’s important to review the website‘s privacy policy to protect the information in your document, especially if it contains sensitive or private information.

Free online PDF compression tools include:

Best PDF Editors

For tasks like manipulating text and images, OCR capabilities, or merging files, consider using full-fledged apps like Adobe Acrobat Pro, PDFelement, or Apple Preview for macOS. These PDF editors offer comprehensive tools and features for advanced document management.

Benefits of Using PDF Editor

Highlight, underline, or comment.

Users can review and annotate simultaneously.

PDFs display uniformly across all devices.

Easily switch formats for compatibility.

Modify text, images, and layouts.
Modify content without recreating the entire document.
Create and fill out interactive forms.
Encrypt and password-protect sensitive information.

The Bottom Line

Choosing the right PDF editor depends on your needs, budget, and preference for online or offline tools. Paid editors offer advanced features like text editing, image manipulation, OCR capabilities, form creation, and security. Meanwhile, free online tools or apps like Google Docs and Microsoft Word are suitable for quick, on-the-go edits.


How to edit a PDF document?

How to edit PDFs for free?

How to make a PDF editable?

Is it possible to edit text in a PDF?

How can I edit a PDF without Acrobat?

Which online PDF editor is best?

How can I use Google Drive with PDFs?

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Vangie Beal
Technology Expert
Vangie Beal
Technology Expert

Vangie Beal is a digital literacy instructor based in Nova Scotia, Canada, who has recently joined Techopedia. She’s an award-winning business and technology writer with 20 years of experience in the technology and web publishing industry.  Since the late ’90s, her byline has appeared in dozens of publications, including CIO, Webopedia, Computerworld, InternetNews, Small Business Computing, and many other tech and business publications.  She is an avid gamer with deep roots in the female gaming community and a former Internet TV gaming host and games journalist.