Best free PDF editors 2023: Our top picks

PDF editors are an indispensable tool for those who frequently work with PDF files. Whether it’s part of your job, you manage PDF files for your own personal use, or you just need to complete a one-off editing task, a top editor program is an essential piece of software. Full-featured editors such as Adobe’s Acrobat Pro DC might provide all of the bells and whistles, but a free PDF editor can still offer most of the important tools of a paid service for no additional charge.

Plus, free PDF editors are typically browser based, meaning you won’t need to worry about platform- or device-compatibility issues.

Of course, free products won’t come with every feature of their paid counterparts. So, if you find that you need more advanced tools such as password protection, bates numbering, or e-signatures, then you’re probably better served by one of the best premium PDF editors.

PDF Candy – Best free PDF editor overall


  • Many advanced features
  • OCR capability
  • Very easy to use
  • Cons

  • Lacks a single interface, which some users may not like
  • Free version limits you to one task per hour
  • Price When Reviewed: Free

    PDF Candy is the rare free PDF editor that offers a lot of the features you’d typically have to pay for. We’re talking scanning, multiple file-conversion options, and OCR functionality. While the free version has access to the expansive toolset of the paid version, you’re limited to one PDF task per hour. For unfettered access, you need to shell out $6 month.

    Read our full PDF Candy review

    Apple Preview PDF editor – Best free PDF editor for Mac users


  • Full set of PDF markup tools
  • Supports form filling
  • PDFs can be protected with passwords, encryption, and permission controls
  • Cons

  • Limited native sharing options
  • Only available to Mac users
  • Price When Reviewed: Built into macOS

    Mac users have an excellent PDF editor built right into their operating system. Although its ostensibly a photo viewer, macOS’s Preview app is rife with PDF-editing capabilities including tools for adding text and shapes, redacting content, making freehand drawings, inserting sticky notes, and capturing your signature using your trackpad, camera, or iPhone.

    Read our full Apple Preview PDF editor review

    Sejda PDF editor – Most versatile free PDF editor


  • Online and desktop versions available
  • Performs dozens of PDF tasks
  • No frills interface is easy to use
  • Cons

  • There are daily usage limits without a subscription
  • Limited font options
  • Price When Reviewed: Free (Premium $7.50 p/m)

    Offered as both an online tool and a desktop editor, Sejda is capable of performing dozens of tasks including editing, form creation and filling, Bates stamping, file encryption, and more. If the daily usage limits are too restrictive for you, you can upgrade to the affordable paid version.

    Read our full Sejda PDF editor review What to look for in a free PDF editor
  • Content editing: As its name indicates, a PDF editor’s primary function is to enable you to edit a document. That includes the ability to add and modify text; insert, resize, and move images; and reorganize pages in the PDF. Most free PDF editors will let you perform these tasks, though they may impose daily limits on how many you can perform or how many documents you can edit.
  • Create, convert, and export PDFs: A common need for a PDF editor is to create PDF files from scanned hard copies or by converting digital documents. A good free PDF editor will be able to convert common file formats such as Word, JPG, and HTML to a PDF and preserve the original formatting. It should also be able to export PDFs into other editable formats such as Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, HTML, or plain text, maintaining the original files hyperlinks, images, and other elements.
  • Review and annotate: Most free PDF editors allow you to add comments and other annotations to PDF files during review. Typical annotation tools include sticky notes, shapes, and drawing markup options.
  • Signatures: Often all you need a PDF editor for is to sign a document. This used to be a premium feature only available on paid desktop editors, but more free PDF editors are allowing users to create and add electronic signatures to documents.
  • FAQ 1. Is there a difference between a PDF document and a PDF form?

    While there are a number of different types of PDF file formats, they all fall under the umbrella term of PDF documents. A PDF form is a type of PDF document that has editable form fields a user can fill out. Typically, parts of the document are static and can’t be changed in a PDF form. These usually include questions and instructions for those who end up filling out the form later on. In a PDF form, the content fields a user fills out are typically open to editing and can offer a list of possible answer options or can be written in freely.

    2. Are Word files and PDF documents different?

    Yes. They are two entirely different document formats. While you can export from one file format to another, they are not the same. Word file formats are usually used for word processing, editing, and making changes to text. PDF documents on the other hand, are most often utilized for viewing, sharing, and printing documents. Additionally, Word files can be read and/or written to and contain some version of the “.doc” file format. Whereas PDF files are typically read-only and contain the “.pdf” file format.

    3. Can you stop other people from editing your PDF documents?

    Yes. If you have a PDF document that you do not want anyone else to be able to edit, you can protect the file. You can do this by opening the file in Acrobat, clicking Tools > Protect. Then you have a few options as to whether you want to just restrict editing with a password, or if you want to encrypt the file for further safety. Once you choose how you want to protect the PDF document, you can set a password and save.

    4. Can I merge PDFs with a free PDF editor?

    Yes, many free PDF editors such as our top pick PDF Candy, allow you to merge two or more PDFs into one. As most free PDF editors are browser-based, you will just need to open up the PDF editor application or website in your browser and click the “Merge” option. It will then ask you to add the files of all PDFs you wish to merge. Once the files have been added, just make sure that they are in the correct position and alignment you want before proceeding with the merge. Afterwards, all of your previously PDF files will be merged together into one new PDF document.

    Multimedia patent licensing: in conversation with Nokia’s Clay Gaetje

    MIP: What constitutes a sustainable licensing programme?

    Clay: There are of course many factors which make up a sustainable licensing programme. But it involves more than just anticipating the evolution of technology and global markets.

    You also need to keep tabs on the progression of the licensing environment in the countries where your licensees operate. Your patent portfolio has to be proactively developed in anticipation of that progression.

    MIP: What are the key global licensing jurisdictions?

    Clay: If you’re talking about streaming video, then the US is by far the largest market. But the current legal landscape in the US makes licensing more challenging than ever before. It becomes even more complicated as cutting-edge technology moves from consumer-level hardware to software and back-end servers.

    Fortunately, although the US is the largest market, the largest revenue growth in streaming video is coming internationally. This is particularly true for the major players in that vertical, and we see that reflected in other multimedia verticals as well.

    As a multinational company with our headquarters in Finland, Nokia has maintained and developed its patent protection in many countries, covering both the high-revenue and high-growth areas. Lots of these high-growth jurisdictions such as Canada, Germany and Brazil have robust judicial systems with experienced judges.

    I’m pleased to say we are well-positioned for success in our multimedia licensing programme despite the challenges presented in the US market.

    MIP: You mentioned other multimedia verticals. Can you expand on that?

    Clay: Of course. Video content makes up about 80% of all internet traffic. That content obviously powers direct-to-consumer video on demand platforms, as well as free and paid online linear television. But video streaming now bleeds into an almost endless list of other services, such as social media, sports, gaming, gambling, medicine and education. 

    MIP: How important is video to Nokia’s patent licensing programme?

    Clay: In the multimedia space, video is very important. But, in addition to Nokia’s many contributions to the development and improvement of video streaming itself, we also tackled and solved many technical problems around the delivery of that video. Edge caching; storage management; content delivery; the creation, capture and encoding of video; user interface; recommendations—these are just a few of the areas where Nokia advanced the technology. And we have patents reflecting those innovations in the US, in Europe, and around the world.

    MIP: What about when things go wrong? How does Nokia approach patent disputes?

    Clay: We look for the most efficient way to reach agreement with implementers, which in the vast majority of cases is amicable negotiations. However, when a party doesn’t negotiate in good faith, we sometimes have to resort to litigation as a necessary last resort. Even when litigation is necessary, we still look for efficient ways to resolve these disputes, and encourage infringers to engage or re-engage in good faith negotiations.

    MIP: How does Nokia’s approach to litigation encourage that?

    Clay: More certainty in the costs and outcomes of a litigation forum generally helps not only litigation, but licensing discussions as well.

    We’ve had good results in Europe and Brazil, and this has helped us drive consistency across our other licensing programmes. The foresight to maintain and develop an international patent portfolio affords us access to these more consistent forums.

    Despite reticence from some corners, we believe the Unified Patent Court has the promise to be a new cost-effective forum for both parties to resolve disputes. This gives us more confidence in being able to strike amicable agreements with our partners, so actually resorting to litigation becomes increasingly rare.

    Find out how patents are powering consumer electronics and video services at


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