How to edit, sign or convert a PDF

PDFs were designed as a universal file format. If you send someone a PDF file, you can be sure that they will see an identical copy of what you sent – regardless of their operating system or installed software. But what if you need to make changes to a portable document? Luckily, over the years, Adobe Acrobat has brought advanced features including the ability to add text and images, customize fonts, add comments, sign forms, add images, and more. With the latest versions of Acrobat, you can merge PDFs, delete pages, and convert PDFs to virtually any file format, and you can do much of it for free. Alternatively, a number of third-party PDF editors offer more options for modifying documents, and many are free or include a free tier as well.

How to edit a PDF

To edit a PDF, you have the choice between Adobe’s programs (Acrobat Pro or Acrobat Pro DC) or a third-party PDF editor.

It’s important to note that Adobe offers a number of PDF editing tools for free, but limits this benefit to two free transactions every 30 days. All you have to do is sign up for a free account that lets you convert PDFs to a range of different file formats, as well as merge, split, delete, rearrange, extract and insert new PDF pages. You can also sign a PDF, request a signature, and password protect your PDF with a free Adobe account. If you just need to highlight text, add comments or text boxes, or draw on the PDF document, Adobe allows you to do it for free with its online tool. And if you don’t want to sign up for an Adobe account, the company still lets you perform a task and download the file for free.

However, if you need to fix a typo, change the font, add new text, or do something more advanced, you’ll need to pay for an Adobe Acrobat Pro subscription. While there’s no real replacement for Acrobat (since the company is literally the creator of PDFs), some users might balk at the $14.99 per month subscription price for Acrobat Pro DC. If your work or school doesn’t allow free access to Acrobat premium software, you can try Acrobat Pro DC free for 7 days. Remember to cancel the trial before the trial period ends.

There are also numerous PDF editors that offer free editing tools, such as Sejda, PDFescape, SodaPDF, PDF Candy, and many others. Keep in mind that free editing programs don’t have as many tools as Adobe Acrobat and have many memory limitations. However, if you need to quickly delete a section of text or add a few images, a third-party PDF editor is a budget-friendly alternative. Take a look around to make sure you find the right program for your project.

How to sign a PDF

Close up businessman hand electronic signature on tablet by stylus. Write business agreement of contract. Man signs contract on tablet. Business and technology concept.

Chanakon Laorob via Getty Images

If you need to sign a lease or a tax form, you have a choice of free form-filling programs. Adobe Acrobat provides a free online PDF form filling tool that allows you to fill out PDF form fields, add text boxes, check marks, circles and other symbols. The program also includes e-signature tools that allow you to add your signature or initials to any form.

If you don’t want to visit a website every time you need to sign a PDF file, Windows users can download the free Acrobat Reader application and use the fill and sign feature. MacOS users can open a PDF file in Preview and click the Toolbox and then click Sign. On mobile, Adobe’s Fill & Sign application does exactly what it sounds like and is available for Android and iOS.

Many third-party PDF editors include form-filling and e-signing tools. If you need to sign a document quickly, DocFly allows you to directly file or upload your document and either write, draw or upload a picture of your signature. You can get three free downloads per month or pay extra for a monthly or yearly subscription. Some signature programs with free tiers include DocuSign, HelloSign, PandaDoc, and eSign.

How to combine or merge PDF files

Fortunately, Adobe allows users to combine or merge PDF documents for free. Just drag and drop your files, select the ones you want to merge and rearrange them as needed. Adobe’s tool allows users to create a merged PDF of up to 1,500 pages and combine up to 100 files, with each file limited to 500 pages. You can also delete, move or rotate pages. Adobe’s tool works in any web browser and is compatible with any operating system, including Windows, Mac, and Linux.

How to convert a PDF to Microsoft Word or any other file format

Similarly, Adobe allows users to convert PDF to Word documents for free with its online tool. Keep in mind that fonts, images, and alignment can get messed up when switching between file formats (although Adobe does its best) and you might not be able to convert some protected PDFs at all. Just open your browser of choice, go to Adobe’s website, and drag-and-drop to upload a PDF file. Adobe then converts it into a fully editable Microsoft Word document. The company’s free tool also lets you convert PDFs to JPGs, Excel and Powerpoint documents, and vice versa.

If you need to convert your PDF to HTML, you have to pay for the premium version. There are also a number of free conversion tools such as CloudConvert.

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Russell Falcon

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