How to Edit PDF Without Adobe Acrobat

If you don’t have Adobe Acrobat, there are still plenty of ways to edit a PDF. This includes using Microsoft Word, Google Docs, Preview (built-in image/PDF viewer on Mac), or one of the many third-party PDF editing tools that are available to download.

There are many ways to edit a PDF file on PC or Mac, without using Adobe Acrobat Pro.

Whether you are doing it for work or school, there may come a time when you need to edit a PDF. You may need to change the contents, highlight something, or suggest changes.

While Adobe Acrobat Pro might be one of the most common ways to edit a PDF, it isn’t all that cheap to purchase and use. Thankfully, there are other ways to edit a PDF, and this guide is going to take a closer look at a few of them.

Key Takeaways

  • Microsoft Word and Google Docs are two of the easiest ways to edit a PDF. They let you convert the PDF into an editable document, and then save it back as a PDF when you are done with your edits.
  • If you own a Mac, you can use the included Preview image/PDF viewer to make certain edits on PDFs, but you won’t be able to edit existing text.
  • If you go with a third-party tool, make sure to do your homework and choose the right one for your needs. Consider the features they provide, how much they cost to buy or use, and the reviews and reputation that they have.

Method 1: Use Microsoft Word

One of the best and most common ways to edit a PDF without Adobe Acrobat is with Microsoft Word. With Word open, navigate to File > Open, and choose the PDF you want to open. Microsoft Word will then take the PDF, copy it, and create an editable document.

Now you will be able to make changes to the text and other content with ease. Once you are done, go to File > Save As, and then choose PDF from the dropdown menu to save the document as a PDF.

Check out this video tutorial for more:

Method 2: Via Google Docs

Using Google Docs can be another simple way to edit a PDF. The first step is to open up Google Drive, and upload the PDF file you want to edit by going to New > File upload. Next, click on the preview of the PDF and click Open With, and then choose Google Docs.

Google Docs will then automatically turn the PDF into an editable file that you can make changes to. Google Drive features OCR (optical character recognition) built-in, so it sees the text content in the PDF image, extracts it, and makes it editable.

Once you are done making your chosen edits, you can go to File > Download > PDF Document, to download the edited document to a PDF that can be saved and shared as you want.

So while Microsoft Word and Google Docs don’t technically let you edit the PDF itself, they let you edit the content as a document, which can then be downloaded/saved once again as a PDF.

Method 3: Preview App on Mac

If you have a Mac computer, using the Preview app can be a quick, easy, and free way to make changes to a PDF. It lets you suggest changes, respond to questions, leave a signature, highlight sections of the PDF, and more.

Simply open the Preview app, open the PDF you want to edit in the app, and choose the right tool, whether it is a text box, a symbol, a speech bubble, or a highlighter. You have plenty of options, so don’t hesitate to experiment with them to see what you can do.

With Preview on Mac, I can easily make edits to a PDF file in many ways.

While you can’t directly edit the text of a PDF itself in Preview, it provides a free way to collaborate on a PDF and make annotations, which is often all you need to do when editing a PDF.

Method 4: Third-Party Desktop PDF Editing Software

Last but not least, there are a host of third-party PDF editing tools that you can use to fully edit your PDFs. When searching for the right one, there are a few things to consider. First, you need to think about the features they provide and what they let you do.

Not every option will do the exact same thing and be able to make the same changes, so do your research. Another thing to think about is their reputation. Look for a piece of software with a lot of positive reviews and a good reputation, to ensure it is legitimate.

Also, the cost is something to consider. There are many free options, but also some paid options that may provide additional features that you find beneficial.

Method 5: Online PDF Editing Tools

If you only have a couple of PDF files to modify and you don’t want to download any software tools, 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 tools that you can try:

  • Canva — free. Canva is a go-to graphic design tool for many people, but not many know it actually has a PDF editing tool as well.
  • 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.
  • 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.


Here are a few frequently asked questions about PDFs, as well as their answers.

What are PDFs used for?

PDFs can be used for anything from contracts, to invoices, to online brochures, to flyers, and so much more.

What are the benefits of using PDFs?

Some of the benefits of using PDFs over other traditional word documents include accessibility, universal compatibility, customizability, security, and the fact they take up less space.

Final Thoughts

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, but at a high price tag.

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

Whether you need to create a contract for work, or fill out a form for school, the methods in this article can help you fix up any PDF quickly and easily.

Is there another great method or anything else that we should have covered in this guide? If so, let us know in a comment.

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  • joe

    you saved me! i have 20 units online now due to COVID-19, a lot of assignments are in PDF format now. I thought i was going to have to subscribe to adobe but you saved me! thank you!!

  • 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!

  • 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!