There are a very limited number of free tools for editing PDF files, and that’s for a good reason: the PDF file format is incredibly complex! Building a good PDF editor is a serious effort, and few PDF software developers are willing to give away their product at no cost.
Online PDF editors fall short
While there are free alternatives to premium PDF editors, the reality is that most of them fall far short of what users are looking for. Online PDF editors don’t allow you to edit text directly, which is often the main requirement for anyone looking to edit a PDF. They are best suited for smaller tasks such as:
- Adding text or comments to a PDF
- Erasing areas of a PDF
- Merging, splitting or rotating PDFs
- Converting files to and from the PDF format
- Filling out a PDF form
The limitations of online tools is a topic I have covered at length in a previous blog post. DocFly is a free online PDF editor that should help you solve the tasks listed above.
Good desktop products aren’t free
On the other hand, there are no good desktop software products that are available for free. If you are not willing to pay, your best bet for editing text using desktop software is to download the full trial where available. In my opinion, the best free trials are available from the following three vendors:
At best, this is a temporary solution as most trials expire after 14 days. For your longer-term PDF needs, there is no good free desktop solution.
One overlooked way of editing PDF files may do the trick
If you need to edit the text of a PDF and don’t want to download a free trial or pay for software, there is one last option. One proven way to edit a PDF is to simply convert it to another format (such as a Word document). After converting your PDF to Word, you can make the required changes in Word and then convert the file back to a PDF (either by saving it as a PDF or converting it using a PDF converter). While this may sound straightforward, the reality is that most PDF to Word converters today just aren’t good enough.
We built DocFly's PDF to Word converter with these issues in mind. In my personal opinion, the converter is one of the best products in the industry! Most conversions retain the formatting of the original PDF file.