The very nature of PDF files, i.e. that it is an electronic copy of the original, implies that PDF editing is not possible and essentially you are not able to edit the original content; you will need to convert the PDF back to its original format, such as a Word document, make the changes and re-convert to a PDF. However, it is possible to edit a PDF but there are limitations. There are a range of PDF tools and software packages that will allow the reviewing, annotation and ‘editing’ of documents.
Using a free PDF editing tool
Using a simple PDF editor will let you insert comments and notes, highlight sections of text and images, strike through text, fill out forms, sign forms, delete and insert pages and merge PDF. But keep in mind that none of these operations will be able to change the original content. Some of these packages are available free online but be prepared that you may not be able to carry out some of the ‘editing’ you may want to achieve.
Are those PDF tools really free?
There are a number of free online PDF editing tools available that allow you to annotate, leave a comment, highlight and strike through text, and some will let you edit and/or replace text. Most providers of a free trial ‘editor’ also have a business or professional version that is fee-paying. For example, Nitro PDF charge £98-£120 for their Nitro Pro product, and they have a cloud version too, whilst Foxit offer their standard package for approximately £60 and their Business package for £85.
Screenshot of the Nitro PDF Editor
The difference between the free versions and the professional options is the more comprehensive editing capabilities including drawing tools, stamps, sticky notes, watermarks, headers and footers, as well as being able to change text, styles, fonts and colours of PDF documents, but it is not a Word document and should not be used as such.
It is worth pointing out, however, that should the creator of the PDF documents have encrypted the document and added security levels to the PDF, restricting the receiver to read only, it is almost impossible to be able to do any editing of the document.
Using a paid PDF editing tool
For more comprehensive editing capabilities, or if you are going to be converting files to PDF on a regular basis, then the better choice would be to purchase a professional PDF editing software package. This will allow you to transform scanned documents or images in to editable PDFs. From there you are able to edit the text, lines and paragraphs, add or replace images and/or artwork, delete, merge PDF, insert or rearrange pages, change fonts, colours and styles, mark up and highlight text, add sticky notes with instructions and/or comments, fill out forms, and sign PDFs by typing text directly on to the PDF or applying an electronic signature (sign PDF files) using QuickSign (or another solution) which are secure and legally binding.
Whether you choose to use a free online editor or upgrade to a professional solution with more editing capabilities, there are still restrictions when amending PDFs. If you need to carry out any substantial edits then it is always a better option to convert the PDF back into its original format, i.e. a Word document or PowerPoint presentation, do the edits and then convert it back into a PDF.