How to Edit a PDF without Adobe Acrobat

Adobe Acrobat Pro is widely viewed as the industry standard when it comes to PDF editing. Acrobat has pretty much every tool you need to deal with PDF files, such as adding text, updating tables, inserting images, just to name a few.

However, its pricing plan can hold many people back from purchasing the software.

Billed with $179 for the annual purchase or $14.99 per month in subscription, many individuals and small business owners feel Acrobat Pro is a “rip-off”.

Not to mention the deep learning curve of Acrobat.

So, that naturally brings up this question: How do you edit a PDF file without Adobe Acrobat?

Luckily there are quite a few alternatives, some are free, some are paid options (much cheaper than Acrobat). We show you all of them in this article.

Method 1: Online PDF Editing Services

If you only have a couple of PDF files to modify, and you’re in a hurry, and your documents do not contain sensitive or confidential data, then the best way to quickly edit your PDFs is by using an online PDF editor.

Just upload your PDFs to the server of the service provider you choose, and you can start making changes right away.

Here are a few popular online PDF conversion services that you can try:

  • PDFescape — free. It allows you to edit, annotate, password protect any PDF files. Also, you can create new forms or fill out existing forms. Limitation: up to 10 MB and 100 pages.
  • PDFBuddy — free. You can use it to edit and sign PDF files. Limitation: you’ll need to sign up to save any changes. Upload up to 3 PDFs for free each month.
  • PDFPro — free. You are able to edit, convert, and secure PDF files without sign up. Limitation: Uploaded to 3 PDFs a month for free.
  • Sejda — free. It enables you to edit, fill and sign PDF files. You are free to add or delete text. Limitation: Up to 200 pages or 50 Mb and 3 PDFs per hour for free.

Method 2: Basic PDF Editings With Preview App (Mac Only)

Preview is the built-in app for opening PDFs and photos on the Mac. It allows you not only to view the PDF but also to edit any PDF files.

When you open the PDF, go to the Tools panel, you are able to annotate, highlight and underline the texts, add/delete pages, password protect, compress, fill and sign PDF.

It’s as powerful as Acrobat in features, but you do many basic editings to your PDF without downloading any other third-party apps.

Method 3: Edit PDF in Google Docs

Google Drive is a great productivity tool in our daily work. We create a lot of docs and sheets with Google Docs.

Many of you may not know that you can actually use Google Docs to turn a PDF file into an editable doc. Then you can edit the text of the PDF in an easy way.

After you upload a PDF to Google Drive, open it with Google Docs (see the screenshot above). Then you can edit the text.

Meanwhile, the images in your PDF will be removed when it’s turned into a Google doc. Once you finish editing, you can choose to download it as a PDF.

Method 4: Edit PDF in Microsoft Office Word (for Windows Users)

If you are on a Windows PC, you can also use Office Word to open and edit PDF files. Just open a PDF by Microsoft Word, you will find it becomes an editable document.

Now you are free to edit the text and images, pretty much the same experience as editing a normal Word document. After you’re done with editing, you can save it as a PDF.

You can watch the above video tutorial for more, or see this guide from PCWorld for a detailed step-by-step tutorial.

Method 5: Use Standalone PDF Editing Software (Cheaper Than Acrobat)

If you feel Adobe Acrobat is too expensive, there are some good yet cheaper alternatives as well. Their price usually falls between $50 and $150, with a one-time purchase.

We’ve tested a number of them and we’re impressed by their user experience.

You can read our reviews of the best PDF editors for Windows and Mac.

PDFelement (Windows & macOS) is a very powerful PDF editor that has almost all the features that Adobe Acrobat has to offer and it’s much cheaper.

The software suite is packed with dozens of small useful tools that let you edit, convert, combine, and organize PDFs. If you are looking for how to make a fillable pdf form without Acrobat, this is the one we recommend.

After you download it, you can markup, edit the text/images/links, add forms. These features can be easily found in the software and it has a beautiful interface.

There are many great paid features as well that enable you to combine pages, encrypt, watermark, OCR text recognition, etc.

The OCR version (Optical Character Recognition) allows you to turn scanned PDFs into searchable and editable texts. Perpetual license is available for PDFelement, while it also offers a subscription plan.

The app is compatible with Windows, macOS, and iOS.

PDFpen (macOS & iOS) is another great alternative to Acrobat for Mac users. As the name indicates, PDFpen allows you to edit PDFs effortlessly.

With it, you can edit text and images easily and efficiently. It allows you to markup, draw, annotate, add or delete pages, OCR, add a password, etc.

It’s more powerful than the Preview app in PDF editing, and you can use it to complete any basic and advanced PDF editing tasks efficiently.

In addition, the software offers an amazing user interface and makes the editing experience a breeze.

PDFpen is only available for macOS and iOS. The Basic plan costs $74.95 and the Pro version $124.95.

Final Words

PDF has many advantages over other document file types, but it’s not easy to edit or make changes to a PDF file, especially when you’re dealing with a secure PDF.

Adobe Acrobat Pro is a powerful PDF editor, which is available for PC, Mac, and mobile.

But its price tag can scare a lot of people away.

Fortunately, there are several other tools and options that allow you to make changes to your PDF files without Acrobat (or even without downloading any third-party programs).

Hope you find some of the above Acrobat alternatives useful, and if you have any good ways to replace Acrobat in terms of editing PDFs, feel free to leave a comment and let us know.

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  • Yorgos

    Great article! Thanks so much! was very helpful and managed to do my tasks for editing and merging some PDF files. (used the Google Drive option after adding/connecting some extra vailable apps)

  • Cyril

    Nice review. I have a somewhat different use case ~ I have a large library of pdfs which are file-foldered and I would love to just abandon that in favor of kewords/categories in the metadata. Meaning a way to just edit the *metadata*. Would you have any ideas around that?

  • Cameron Aggs

    Thank you Jessica for a great review. It was very helpful!

    • Avatar photo
      AnySoftwareTools Team

      You’re welcome!

  • Miya

    Thanks! You can also try LightPDF.

  • Marty

    Having used Adobe Acrobat for many years in designing and developing interactive PDF forms, I have to admit that at this point in time on account of Adobe’s subscription pricing, I would love to be able to find a decent Acrobat PDF alternative. The only problem is, I have as yet to find an Acrobat PDF alternative that will allow me to add and edit javascripts inside the interactive PDF forms I design, develop and work with. Any comments or suggestions regarding this subject matter are most appreciated.

  • Niel

    Super helpful, Google docs is just what I needed. Thanks!