The PDF format is a great way to read, especially eBooks. When they were first conceptualized, it was intended to be a document that users couldn’t edit. This is one reason why you see so many open source PDF editor projects being abandoned (like PDFEdit which was updated last in 2012). After all, if you wanted an editable document, there is always Microsoft Word or Google Docs, right?
The fact that Adobe has little documentation available on the topic doesn’t help either. A lot of people are under the impression that PDF is a proprietary format by Adobe, which is not true. It was until 2008 when it was released as open-standard.
When it comes to editing PDF files, Adobe’s Acrobat Pro DC is the industry standard, but it’s quite expensive as well ($15 per month). But fret now, there are still free and open source PDF Editors available for Windows and Mac. Let’s see what they are.
Open Source PDF Editors for Windows
1. Using Word to Convert and Edit
While MS Word is not open source, it’s still is a worthy option, if it’s already installed on your Windows computer. We tend to give far less credit to Microsoft Word then it deserves. You can use Word to convert PDF to Word, edit it and convert it back to PDF on the fly.
Here is how it works, launch Word on your PC. Click the File button and click Open.
Locate the PDF file on your system that you want to edit and open. If you can only see Word files and not PDF files, click on All Files from the drop-down menu on the lower left. By default, Word is set to look for its own kind.
Word will work its magic and open the file in .docx format. If you don’t know what that is, you don’t need to. Just edit the document and when you are done, click the file button again.
This time, you will click Save As as and choose file type as PDF.
The process is fairly simple and doable. You may see a popup during the process asking you to confirm your choice. Click OK in that case. If you don’t have MS Word installed, you can also use Google Docs online, the process is pretty much same.
The problem with Word is that it is inconsistent when it comes to converting from PDF to Word. This is why I went looking for other options.
Also Read: 5 Best PDF Editor Apps For Android
Inkscape is another open source PDF editors but it picks up things where LibreOffice lefts. Inkscape primarily uses vector graphics to open and edit PDF files. This means better performance, more features, and more options to edit images embedded within the files.
Inkscape is available in portable version. Portable versions are directly executable files that you can use to open and use the software without having to install them on your PC.
How to use Inkscape to Edit PDF?
To get started, import your PDF with Inkscape, making sure the “Import text as text” option is selected. After you import it, double-click on the text line, and you can start editing it. Once you have made desired changes simply save the file as pdf. And that’s it.
The UI is more user-friendly compared to LibreOffice, more control over images and graphics, and completely free and light-weight. Where it falls short is speed. The tool is slow which can irk some people.
Download Inkscape (Free)
3. Apache OpenOffice Draw
Apache OpenOffice Draw is similar to Inkscape in that it is a drawing tool that you can use to edit PDF files. It is a graphics editor so you can easily edit images and vector in your PDF.
OpenOffice made the list because it is more stable and comes with additional features. The UI is a lot better. It has a built-in spell checker and offers more editing options.
How to use Apache OpenOffice Draw
After you have installed using the link below, you will have to install the import extension. Now, launch the software, click on Tools-Extension Manager-Add. This should open a popup. Find the extension file on your Windows and double-click to install it.
From here, the steps are same. Click on File and find the PDF file you want to edit to open it.
Download OpenOffice Draw (Free)
Open Source PDF Editors for Mac
1. Formulate Pro
Formulate Pro will allow you to view, edit, and redact PDF files. It comes with cloud support so that you can store your documents online and access them anywhere, anytime.
You can add text (there is an option to change the font as well to match the original copy) sign PDF files, and protect it with passwords as well as permissions. This is a good feature if the file contains sensitive information. It comes with a converter so you can convert files back and forth.
You can add or edit images as well, and there is support for OCR technology. Although the software hasn’t been updated since 2009, it worked fine in our testing.
Download Formulate Pro (Free)
2. LibreOffice Draw
LibreOffice has long been the favorite open source office suite. It is robust, free, and the community is awesome. It works on Windows, Mac, and Linux platform.People who are used to Microsoft suite of apps may not appreciate the UI which is less than stellar, but you don’t get everything in life.
LibreOffice Draw will allow you to edit PDF files easily. You can import, export, add or remove pages, text, and images, and even digitally sign your PDF file. The process remains the same. Click Open and choose the PDF file. I am using it on my Linux powered laptop, but you can also use it on Windows.
What you don’t get is cloud option. Once again, though LibreOffice was working fine for me, some of our users came back frustrated by file types. You see, I mentioned that Adobe has some proprietary add-ons which make it difficult to edit all PDF files.
Download LibreOffice Draw (Free)
Scribus is an open source page layout and PDF editor that is available for not only Mac, but also Windows and Linux platform. You can use it to create and design interactive PDF files. There is a lot of choice when it comes to color management.
Think of it as Adobe InDesign. A really handy tool for desktop publishing. This is what sets it apart from other document management tools available on the Internet. U,nlike some other PDF editors, Scribus developer team remains active.
The UI is fairly easy to understand and mimics that of Adobe. There is support for colors, font types, and images. There is a drag and drop functionality that you can use to move things around and resize them once they are placed inside the page.
Download Scribus (Free)
Best PDF Editor – Web
While PDFescape is not an open source PDF Editor, it’s still a worthy option, as it’s free and can be open from your favorite web browser. There is no messy installation process involved. There is also desktop version, which lets you edit PDF documents without internet connections.
Once you go to the website, you can either create a new PDF document from scratch or edit an existing one by uploading it from the hard drive. Next, to edit a PDF document, you can quickly add text, white out previous content, add images, and digitally sign documents.
The web app is free to use, if the PDF files is less than 10 MB and 100 pages, which is more than sufficient for most users. However, if you decide to remove these restrictions, you can upgrade to pro plan for $2.99 per month.
Wrapping Up: Open Source PDF Editors
MS Word is a good PDF editor for Windows if it is working for you. Otherwise, you can either go for Apache OpenOffice Draw to edit your PDF files. It is a little slow but still better than the ones I reviewed.
For Mac users, Formulate Pro is free and works nicely but if you are looking for more features and functionalities.