PDFs should be one of the most straightforward document types in the world, but unfortunately they are not so simple when it comes to editing them. Paid-for PDF editors can do it all, but do you really want to pay for a tool to complete a quick and easy editing job? As we have learned from this round-up of free tools and services, you may not need to.

Adobe invented the PDF (Portable Document Format) to solve a problem that dogged people for years: how to view and print documents without requiring the original software that document was created in or the fonts it uses. It wasn’t meant to be a replacement for a word processor – it was a layout format for precise alignment of text and images.

Many programs can save documents in PDF format, but few can edit them directly. But what if you receive a document in PDF form and need to change it? Or you might save a file as a PDF but lose the original (editable) document through a disk or human error? In all of these situations, you need a PDF editor.

However, here’s the thing: free PDF editors generally do not allow you to edit text. What they offer is the ability to erase (or ‘whiteout’) text and replace it with new text. Matching the font, both size and colour, but it’s all you’ll be able to do if you can’t get hold of the original file used to create the PDF.

Some free PDF editors let you annotate PDFs and add or remove pages. The original content cannot be changed, but you can insert notes and comments, use a highlighter pen, strikethrough text, delete pages, fill out forms and so on.

Here are some of your options:

AbleWord

AbleWord

  • RRP: Free

AbleWord is the only free PDF editor we’re aware of that can import a PDF and make it completely editable. It’s best when importing PDF files that were created in Word, but will attempt to replicate all PDF files. The end result won’t look identical to the original but will be close.