Free PDF Editors

4 Free Alternatives to Adobe Acrobat (PDF Editors)

I love my Adobe Acrobat that comes with my Adobe Creative Cloud, but getting Acrobat Standard DC or Acrobat Pro DC can cost you $13~15/month just to edit PDFs. If you need to get the full Adobe Creative Cloud, it’ll set you back $53/month.

And to be quite honest, I rarely use it. But when I DO need it… I REALLY need it. And for something that I rarely use, I don’t know if I want to pay a running subscription of $13~15/month.

As boot-strapped founders or freelancers, we want to keep our costs to a minimum as we ramp up our game. So I want to do my small part in helping out.

Here are some alternatives to Adobe Acrobat that will allow you to manipulate or edit your PDF files for free.

Sejda PDF Editor

Sejda PDF Editor is basically the whole jam in a browser-based editor or Desktop editor (paid). With the free service, you can work on documents up to 200 pages or 50MB, and 3 tasks per hour.

You can add text, edit text, change text style, add images, fill out forms, add or edit links, annotate, and much more. They also provide services to merge, split, delete pages, and compress your PDF files as well.

You can see the whole list of services provided in the screenshot below:


FormSwift is not as robust as Sejda editor, but it does its work if all you want to do is quickly add text, redact or delete parts of the PDF, highlight, or sign your PDF.

You cannot edit text already in the document, but you can highlight and redact it. You can also rearrange pages or make the PDF into a form that can be filled out or signed by someone else. There’s even an option to e-mail the completed form to someone.

Smallpdf PDF Editor

You can compress, convert, merge, edit, and sign PDF using the Smallpdf PDF Editor. However, like FormSwift, you cannot edit the original text of the PDF. They do provide the option to convert the PDF file to a Word file to edit it. They also have a Chrome Extension.

You can lock or unlock a PDF for security, compress, split, or merge the files. You can convert back and forth from Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and JPG to PDF.

The whole list of services available are as below:

PDF Buddy

PDF Buddy allows you to edit, merge, or split PDF files. You can edit up to 3 PDFs for free each month, and can fill out forms, add signatures, white out, and highlight text. As with most of the other PDF editors I’ve introduced, this one also cannot edit pre-existing text.

My Recommendation?

From using all of the tools above for a little while, my #1, with the most robust features for free, is Sejda. The feature that stood out to me is the ability to edit the text already in the PDF, while with other services, you would have to first “white out” the text already there and then overlay new text on top of it.

Manipulate PDF Files

If you are looking to just quickly manipulate your PDF files, like compressing or converting files into PDF, you can check out these services:

Keep in mind that while some like the Combine PDF website claims to delete your files after 1 hour, you don’t REALLY know where your data is stored or who sees them, so I don’t recommend you use these free options for sensitive documents.

Do you have a favorite free alternative to Adobe Acrobat? Let us know in the comments! ?

Hiroko Nishimura
AWS Community Hero. Special Education teacher turned IT Engineer turned Technical Writer. Author "AWS for Non-Engineers" (Manning Publications). Technical Instructor "Introduction to AWS for Non-Engineers" (LinkedIn Learning).

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