How to edit a PDF document for free

PDF file format started by adobe in 1991 by one of its co-founders, as a Camelot project, evolved into what is called the Portable File Format, PDF.  PDF was started because to have a light weight, read-only, portable document file format which the early days lacked. As the years went by, It became the popular document sharing file format, that today needs demand editing it on the go or editing it at home without much work over a simple fix on the document before emailing it or printing it.

These work can be done for free, without spending on professional versions of Adobe Acrobat, Cute PDF, Nitro PDF, with the tools available online as an online editor or downloadable one. In this article, lets take a look into editing PDF document for a light edit and then understanding PDF file  structure to edit its structure and other meta data for a little complex editing before deciding it’s the time to get a professional editors to save a lot of time.

Light PDF Editing

Light PDF editing is a quick fix work. Like hiding or whiteout a certain parts of the document such as your address or what ever information you feel that shouldn’t be there in the final print. Whiteout is adding a white space say a rectangle over the parts to hide that information. Another work is editing a link and adding little texts, shapes and images. And to change PDF information tags such as author, created date etc…before signing the document with your scanned signature and password protecting to finish the work before emailing it. For this light PDF editing work, there is an online editor PDFescape that allows you to edit up to 100 pages and a file size less than 10 mb. Which means less images in the document and more texts.

pdfescape-light-pdf-editing-work

Let’s say I want to edit my credit card statement before sharing it with my accountant. It is a password protected file, and I am going to choose Upload PDF to PDFescape. I browsed my file and uploaded it. Before showing the edit screen, it prompted for password to enter. On entering it I was sent to the edit screen that looked like in the image below,

pdfescape-editing-screen

The editing has 3 sections. Insert, annotate and page. Insert is when you add a text or image. Say to add a digital signature image, or to whiteout some numbers. As you can see it’s really simple light editing screen menu. Annotate section is where you add sticky note or highlight texts. Page section is where you crop or delete a page. This section also lets you undo things in case you did it incorrectly the first time. With the save and download, your light PDF editing is done. You can change the metadata of the PDF file, clicking the “I” icon. You cannot edit the texts or move or resize an image with this editor. Make sure to not press backspace when not editing a text as it goes to the precious page or if you reload the page, your work is not saved when you come back. This is the only drawback I have seen so far.

Editing texts or images in PDF

So that was the simple light PDF editing, now onto some texts and images. There is a tool named, Inkscape that can import PDF as a vector graphics, and you can edit texts and move or replace images and texts easily and Digital Inspiration has explained it well, how to use it to edit texts and images in PDF. The article also mentions about the Open office draw and it is huge in file size and that you download if you have enough bandwidth. I would say it is worth the wait and the bandwidth to get Open office because its the full office suit that you are getting for a 130MB download, as well as some users reporting Inkscape being slow. So if you want to edit the PDF with a lot of texts and images, better install it.

If you have decided to go with the Open office, which you can get here, I am going to talk about how to edit PDF with open office draw. It took about 15 minutes to download it on a 1mbps broadband with 2 computers sharing the internet.

Once you have downloaded it, download and install Oracle PDF Import Extension for open office. Then you can view the PDF file and edit it. Based on the user comments on the extension page, it shows the plugin is unstable at times, doesn’t render the PDF well. I guess It all has to do with how the PDF was created or how the software renders it. I Created a PDF file with Google docs. Open office draw didn’t render the first paragraph of the document as shown in the images below. The first image is the original PDF and the second one is  the one rendered by Open Office Draw with Oracle PDF Import Extension.

original-pdfopen-office-draw-pdf-import

inkscape-rendering

On the other hand Inkscape is able to render it (image above), but the editing is a fail. For example you can’t insert a word in between texts and it writes text over the existing one, and you cant select it to move easily, and using the select tool selects individual letters instead of what you select. It doesn’t edit the texts like it used to before in the older versions as seen on the Digital Inspiration article.

In closing,

PDFescape is good for a light editing work, for more texts and image manipulation work, I would  recommend Open office draw with the extension as Inkscape failed and with the way it handles when you add a text, its not doing the mere purpose of editing. Open office may not swallow a paragraph all the time, and it is easy to edit over Inkscape. Open office is only about thrice the size of Inkscape and user comments on the PDF extension page for Open office shows more than half of the people are happy with what it can do.

3 comments

  • paul dave

    I want to share also this site PDFFiller, Inc which I find very useful in creating fillable and filling out forms. It is easy to use and it has the capability to upload your word or powerpoint documents. You also have the option to print, save, mail, fax, share, send to sign or even add pictures. I was able to get the forms i need through http://goo.gl/vXvTZO.

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