9 Best Free PDF Editors for 2018

Lauren Fram
Lauren Fram  |  July 23, 2018

PDFs are the lifeblood of many companies. For businesses that send and receive a large amount of legal documents or other forms, PDFs are much more secure and professional looking than other document types.

Unlike other document editor tools, PDFs can only be edited by the creator or those with a password, and information such as how recently the document was edited (and by whom) is hidden. However, sometimes you only need to create a PDF every once in a while, not every day, so you don’t want to invest in dedicated PDF software. That’s when free PDF editors come in handy.

PDFs are images of documents rather than editable text files, so to edit a PDF, one must use specific software. Most electronic signature software employ PDFs to create forms with specific editable fields for signatures, initials and other crucial information. With many of these PDF editors, you can create your own forms and include special fields for information, signatures or checkboxes.

Sometimes you just need to convert a file to or from PDF format or merge multiple PDFs into a single PDF. PDF editors can easily perform these functions without all the extraneous features of more robust design software. While PDFs are generally high-quality images and preferred by graphic designers, all that supplemental functionality is not always necessary. Free PDF editors are generally lightweight and can be operated within your browser — no downloads required.

Using a PDF editor, you can create legal documents, contracts, tax forms, brochures, presentations and more. While many advanced features are only included in licensed PDF software, free PDF editors contain a variety of useful tools for a casual or occasional user.

Though you (likely) won’t be able to create the next Vogue or New York Times using a free PDF editor, you might be able to design and develop an excellent zine or newsletter.


The list we’ve outlined here includes any document creation  solution with an available free offering. It should be noted that this does not include products that are only free on a temporary basis, such as limited trial versions for new users. They may only support one user or one project, but they’re truly free offerings. Scaling, however, will often require full investments.

These products alone have well over 400 validated user reviews on G2 Crowd as of June 16, 2018, and only represent a small portion of the 70-plus document creation software offerings listed on our platform. Whenever possible, the products are ranked by user satisfaction score.

Using reviews from real users, our list of free PDF editors is ordered by highest user satisfaction as of June 16, 2018 from an in-depth analyze of those reviews.


The best free PDF editors 2018

1. PDFelement

free pdf editor

Image courtesy of Wondershare

PDFelement provides users with a wide variety of tools to create, edit, convert and sign PDFs. Users can create bookmarks to quickly locate points of interest, create fillable forms and export data into Excel, split or merge PDFs, convert PDFs to other file types, apply digital signatures and more.

Free option:

  • Free trial available for Mac and Windows
  • Free editor app for iOS; free reader and annotator app for Android

Paid option:

  • PDFelement Standard for Mac or Windows: $59.95
  • PDFelement Professional for Mac or Windows: $99.95

Features:

  • Create, edit and convert PDF files
  • Annotations and comments
  • Digital signatures
  • Watermarks, backgrounds, headers and footers
  • Templates

2. FormSwift

formswift best free pdf editor

Image courtesy of FormSwift

Formswift is a free, cloud-based PDF editor that allows users to upload and edit a PDF within their browser. Users can add text, images, checkmarks and signatures within the editor before saving their PDF. Formswift also provides templates to easily create various business or legal documents.

Free option:

Paid option:

  • Monthly membership: $39.95/month
  • Annual membership: $89/year
  • Single document: $59

Features:

  • Electronic signatures
  • Document creation
  • Edit text, images, checkboxes and signatures
  • Document templates
  • Document sharing via email

3. Smallpdf

 smallpdf best free pdf editor

Image courtesy of Smallpdf

Smallpdf is a tool that allows users to convert files to and from PDF format, compress, split and merge PDFs, as well as edit PDFs. Users can utilize these features directly in a browser or download the browser extension or desktop version.

Free option:

  • Free to use basic features

Paid option:

  • Smallpdf Pro: $6/month or $48/year

Features:

  • Compress and convert PDFs
  • Split and merge PDFs
  • Edit, rotate and read PDFs
  • Convert PDFs to or from Word, Excel, Powerpoint or JPG
  • Electronic signatures

4. Inkscape

inkscape best free pdf editor

Image courtesy of Inkscape

Inkscape is a free and open-source design tool that includes drawing tools, vector graphics capabilities and text editing. Users can create a document and export it as a PDF, or import a PDF and edit it within the tool. Primarily used for image design, Inkscape is ideal for users who seek to add visual interest to their PDFs.

Free Option:

  • Free and open source

Paid Option:

  • None

Features:

  • Object creation (shape tools, text tools, drawing tools)
  • Object manipulation (layers, transformations, z-order operations)
  • Text support (multi-line text, fonts, kerning and linespacing, text on path, text in shape)
  • Multiple file formats supported (PNG, PDF, DXF, EPS and more)
  • Tutorial library (both official and community-created)

5. PDF Pro Editor

 pdf pro best free pdf editor

Image courtesy of PDF Pro

PDF Pro is an online PDF editor that works within a user’s browser. Users can create, print or view a PDF file as well as edit, compress, extract, merge, sign or write on a PDF file. PDF Pro also offers several file conversion options for PDFs.

Free option:

  • Basic features are free for up to three files a month

Paid option:

  • $7.99/month or $47.88/year

Features:

  • Create, print, print to PDF and view PDFs
  • Edit, compress, merge, split and extract PDFs
  • Password protect PDFs
  • Electronic signatures
  • Convert PDFs to a variety of file types

6. PDFescape

pdfescape best free pdf editor 

Image courtesy of PDFescape

PDFescape is a free online PDF editor, reader, form filler, form designer and annotator. All of these tools work in a browser, so no software needs to be downloaded. Users also can purchase a desktop version with similar functionalities.

Free option:

  • Free online version
  • Free desktop PDF viewer and converter

Paid option:

  • PDF Premium: $2.99/month billed annually, $5.99/month billed monthly
  • PDF Ultimate: $5.99/month billed annually, $8.99/month billed monthly

Features:

  • Annotate and mark up PDF files
  • Fill and save PDF files
  • Create basic PDF forms
  • Print to PDF
  • Edit PDFs online and download them

7. Sejda

sejda best free pdf editor 

Image courtesy of Sejda

Sejda is a PDF editor available as a G Suite add-on for Google Drive. Users can edit PDF documents by adding text or images, editing existing text, including annotation and drawing shapes. There is also an electronic signature feature.

Free option:

  • Free add-on to the G Suite

Paid option:

  • None

Features:

  • Split PDFs
  • Add text and images
  • Edit existing text
  • Whiteout, strikethrough and underlining tools
  • Annotations
  • Draw shapes

8. PDF-XChange Editor

pdf-xchange editor best free pdf editor

Image courtesy of Tracker Software Products

PDF-XChange Editor is a free PDF editor with viewing, editing, annotating, OCR and electronic signature features. Users can create PDF files from scanned documents, images, text files, markdown files and more.

Free option:

  • Free to download and use PDF-XChange Editor

Paid option:

  • PDF-XChange Editor: $43.50
  • PDF-XChange Editor Plus: $54.50

Features:

  • Edit, comment and annotate PDFs
  • Create and remove weblinks
  • Spell check documents
  • Add text and images
  • Drawing tools
  • Email documents
  • Print, split and merge PDFs

9. ApowerPDF

apowerpdf best free pdf editor

Image courtesy of ApowerPDF

ApowerPDF has an online version and a desktop version with slightly different functionalities. The online version contains basic editing features as well as the ability to add text and images. Users also can also create PDF documents from scratch. The desktop version has many more features but requires purchase to use.

Free option:

  • Free online editor
  • Free trial for the desktop version

Paid option:

  • Personal license: $12.95/month, $39.95/year, $79.95 lifetime license
  • Business license: $49.95/year, $159.90 lifetime license

Features:

  • Edit PDFs, add text and images
  • Convert PDFs
  • Create PDFs
  • Merge and split PDFs
  • Annotate PDFs

Next steps for selecting the best free PDF editor

PDFs can go a long ways toward making you or your business look more professional. Next time you’re updating your resume or writing a memo, consider converting it to a PDF for that extra level of polish.

With a free PDF editor, anyone can create professional-looking documents. Or maybe you just want to create the next big meme to rival “Is this a pigeon?” or “I don’t feel so good,” and have it look amazing (no judgment). Regardless of your intentions, free PDF editors provide a variety of tools to create and edit documents to elevate you and your business.

* Please note: Reviews may have been edited for spelling and grammar.

Lauren Fram
Author

Lauren Fram

Having lived on both the East and West Coasts, Lauren has settled in the happy medium of the Midwest. After nearly 13 years in Chicago, she has fully co-opted the Midwestern habit of saying "oop" when nearly bumping into things. In her free time she enjoys games of all sorts, and is particularly fond of board games and tabletop RPGs.