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12 Best Free PDF Editors in 2024

PDFs are the standard format for sharing digital documents, but editing PDF files hasn’t always been easy or accessible. Historically, PDF editors were expensive, complex desktop software aimed at professional users.

Fortunately, modern PDF editors are far more user-friendly. With the rise of online free pdf editor apps, capable PDF editing is now within anyone’s reach. While full Acrobat-style functionality still requires paid software, free PDF editors provide ample tools for most users’ basic needs. From annotations and text edits to page manipulation, free editors make it simple to customize and update PDFs, some even let you view and annotate two PDF documents side by side on your iPad making the most of your tablet.

In this article, we highlight the top free PDF editors available in 2023 based on features, ease of use, and value. We hand-tested the most popular options to help you find the best pdf editor free for your needs and experience level. Whether you only occasionally need to tweak PDFs or regularly handle documents in PDF format, a free editor can get the job done.

Read on for our picks of the leading free PDF editors. We also discuss key factors in choosing an editor and the methodology behind our recommendations.

1. PDFescape


Cost: Free

Developer: PDFescape

Features: Edit text and images, merge and split PDFs, add headers/footers, fill out forms, add signatures, redact sensitive info


  • Completely free with no limits on usage or file sizes
  • Intuitive editing interface with a range of tools
  • Password protect and certify PDF files
  • Import/export from Google Drive


  • Lacks some advanced features
  • Slow performance with very large files
  • Contains ads

Summary: As of 2023, PDFescape continues to offer one of the most capable free online PDF editors. It provides a wide range of essential PDF editing tools through an intuitive browser-based interface. Users can freely edit text, images, links, and pages. Additional features include merging and splitting PDFs, adding headers/footers, filling forms, and inserting signatures. PDFescape enables securing PDFs with passwords and certifications. It also provides direct integration with Google Drive for easy file exports. With unlimited free usage and no upgrade prompts, PDFescape remains a top choice for frequent PDF editing needs.

2. Sejda PDF Editor 

Sejda PDF Editor

Cost: Free tier available
Developer: Sejda 

Features: Edit text and images, merge/split/rotate pages, add headers/footers, sign documents


  • Streamlined editing features
  • Fast performance, even with large files
  • Browser-based use
  • Convert PDF to Word or Excel


  • Free version limits monthly usage
  • Lacks advanced features like form filling
  • Must upgrade to paid for full capabilities

Summary: Our second pick for the best pdf editor free title is Sejda PDF Editor. This app provides a fast, lightweight PDF editing experience through its free cloud-based editor in 2023. It delivers core tools like text and image editing, page manipulation, adding headers/footers, and e-signing documents. Sejda also enables PDF to Word/Excel conversion. However, free accounts remain limited to a set number of tasks per month before requiring a paid subscription. Overall, Sejda is best suited for occasional, basic PDF editing work rather than intensive needs. But the browser-based access and clean interface create a capable free offering.

3. OpenOffice Writer 

OpenOffice Writer

Cost: Free
Developer: Apache Software Foundation
Features: Edit text, insert images and shapes, format text and paragraphs


  • Completely free and open source
  • Full-featured word processor for creating PDFs
  • Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux
  • Can export documents to PDF


  • Primarily for word processing, not PDF editing
  • Limited PDF annotation capabilities
  • Clunky interface compared to dedicated editors

Summary: As a free and open-source office suite, OpenOffice Writer continues to serve as a helpful PDF creation tool making it the best free pdf editor for Windows 10 in 2023. It provides a full word processor for writing documents and exporting them as PDFs. Users can edit text, insert images, and apply formatting when building PDFs. But OpenOffice Writer still only offers minimal functionality for editing existing PDFs beyond basic text updates. It lacks annotation capabilities and page manipulation tools. But for quick PDF creation and edits, OpenOffice Writer remains a handy free option.

4. Google Docs


Cost: Free 

Developer: Google 

Features: Edit text, images, and paragraphs; built-in PDF conversion/editing; collaborate on PDFs


  • Integrated with Google Workspace
  • Easy sharing and collaboration


  • Basic editing capabilities only
  • No advanced annotation features

Summary: In 2023, Google Docs retains its seamless integration with Google Drive and Document formats, enabling easy PDF sharing and creation. Users can collaborate on PDF files and make basic text and paragraph edits. However, advanced PDF editing capabilities remain limited. Google Docs works smoothly for lightweight PDF tasks but falls short for intensive design and formatting work. Overall, it provides a convenient free PDF option for Google Workspace users with straightforward needs.

5. LibreOffice Draw


Cost: Free 

Developer: The Document Foundation 

Features: Edit text and images, export slides/drawings to PDF


  • Powerful open-source office suite
  • Good for simple vector/flowchart PDFs


  • Very limited tools for editing existing PDFs
  • Not designed as a full PDF editor

Summary: As a free, open-source alternative to expensive vector graphic software, LibreOffice Draw still empowers users to create illustrations, diagrams, charts, and more. It excels at building new PDF documents from scratch through its deep set of visual design tools. But LibreOffice Draw continues to have very minimal capabilities for editing or manipulating existing PDF files. Users looking for a free vector graphic editor will find value, but PDF editing requires other software.

6. PDF Buddy 

PDF Buddy

Cost: Free
Developer: PDF Buddy
Features: Edit text, annotate, convert PDF to Word/Excel/PPT


  • Easy-to-use web-based editor
  • Robust free plan


  • Must purchase premium for full capabilities
  • Frequent upsells

Summary: PDFBuddy continues to offer one of the most fully-featured free online PDF editors available. It provides robust tools for annotating, editing text/images, filling forms, and converting PDFs to Word, Excel, or PowerPoint formats. PDFBuddy’s straightforward web interface makes PDF editing accessible. However, constant upgrade prompts can be distracting if you don’t purchase a premium plan. But users can still get solid PDF editing functionality without paying, albeit with occasional upsells.

7. Inkscape


Cost: Free 

Developer: Inkscape Team 

Features: Edit vector images/diagrams. Export to PDF.


  • Powerful open-source vector graphics editor


  • Steep learning curve
  • Focused on SVG, not PDF editing

Summary: As a leading free and open source vector graphics editor, Inkscape still excels at creating and manipulating graphics, diagrams, charts, and illustrations as of 2023. It uses the SVG standard natively but can export drawings as PDF files. Inkscape provides tons of professional vector tools but has a steep learning curve. It remains more focused on building new graphics and PDFs rather than editing existing documents. But Inkscape continues to empower free vector graphics work.

8. PDFelement


Cost: Free trial 

Developer: Wondershare
Features: Edit text/images/pages, create fillable forms, convert to/from PDF


  • Robust, full-featured editor


  • Must pay after free trial expires

Summary: PDFelement continues to offer one of the most robust PDF editing suites available through its software. It provides a wide range of advanced PDF editing tools, including text editing, annotation, redaction, form filling, and page manipulation. PDFelement enables converting PDFs to fully editable Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more. It excels at helping users modify, rearrange, protect and collaborate on PDFs. However, the capabilities remain locked behind a paid subscription after a free trial period expires. Users must upgrade to continue accessing the full feature set. But the free trial does allow testing its extensive capabilities firsthand.

9. Nitro PDF Reader 

Nitro PDF Reader

Cost: Free limited version
Developer: Nitro Software Features: Edit, convert, sign PDFs. Fill forms.


  • User-friendly toolbar interface


  • Many key features are only in the paid version

Summary: Nitro PDF Reader remains one of the most user-friendly free PDF reader options . However, its built-in PDF editing capabilities remain limited. Users can make light annotations but must upgrade to premium paid plans to unlock the full suite of editing tools. Nitro provides an excellent free PDF viewing experience but lacks robust editing functionality without paying. It serves better as free reader software rather than a full editor.

10. Foxit PhantomPDF

Foxit PhantomPDF

Cost: Free limited version 

Developer: Foxit
Features: View, annotate PDFs. Light editing.


  • Reliable and trusted free PDF reader


  • Significantly limited editing features for free

Summary: Foxit PhantomPDF is a trusted free PDF viewer and free mobile pdf editor. But free users still only get access to basic PDF annotation capabilities. Full editing features like modifying text and images require upgrading to a paid Foxit subscription. Foxit PhantomPDF works great for free PDF reading and highlighting needs but must be paired with other tools for more advanced editing.

11. WPS Office

WPS Office

Cost: Free 

Developer: Kingsoft 

Features: Create PDFs from documents. Limited editing capabilities.


  • Integrated office suite


  • Minimal PDF-specific functionality

Summary: As a free office suite alternative, WPS Office still enables conveniently converting documents to PDF format as of 2023. However, it still lacks any substantial capabilities for actually manipulating or editing existing PDF files. Users can generate PDFs but must look to dedicated PDF software for editing tools. WPS Office serves well as free document creation software but not as a PDF editor replacement.

12. PDF Candy

PDF candy

Cost: Free

Developer: Icecream Apps 

Features: Edit text and images, merge and split PDFs, convert PDF to Word, Excel, PowerPoint


  • Completely free with no limits on usage or file sizes
  • Easy PDF to Word conversion
  • Intuitive editing interface
  • Password protect and compress PDF files
  • Import/export from Google Drive


  • Lacks some advanced features

Summary: PDF Candy offers a free online PDF editor with robust tools for merging, splitting, compressing, converting PDFs and makes PDF to Word conversion quick and easy. The editing interface is straightforward, allowing users to make basic edits like modifying text and images. PDF Candy provides unlimited usage with no upsells. For hassle-free PDF to Word conversion and basic editing needs, it’s a top-free choice.

Can I edit a PDF permanently for free?

While the above editors allow you to freely modify and annotate PDFs, actually permanently editing and saving over a PDF does require paid software in most cases. Free online PDF editors usually don’t allow saving back to the original file. However, you can use the “Save As” function to export an edited version of the PDF. The original will be untouched.

To permanently modify a PDF’s text or images without losing formatting, you’ll need a premium PDF editing program like Adobe Acrobat or Nitro Pro. But the free options above provide ample functionality for most light PDF editing needs. However if you run into issues like not being able to print a PDF, a free editor may be able to resolve problems by exporting a fresh copy.

How to choose a PDF editor

When selecting the best PDF editor free, here are some key factors to consider:

  • Editing capabilities – Make sure the editor has the tools you need, whether it’s text editing, annotations, form filling, etc.
  • Performance – The editor should be able to handle large file sizes without crashing or slowing down.
  • Ease of use – Look for an intuitive, user-friendly interface that’s easy to navigate.
  • Platform availability – Choose an editor that works on your operating system and preferred devices.
  • Lack of restrictions – Avoid free editors with strict usage limits unless your needs are minimal.
  • Security features – Password protection, redaction tools, and certification can help safeguard sensitive documents.
  • Supported file types – opt for an editor that can handle a range of file types beyond just PDF.

Methodology for choosing the best free PDF editor

To identify the top free PDF editors for this article, we evaluated 12 of the most popular free options. We tested each editor hands-on, looking at features, performance, ease of use, and value. Special attention was paid to core editing tools like annotations, text edits, and page manipulation.

We favored editors that provide robust features without artificial restrictions or constant upgrade nags. Our selections offer a usable free plan, not just a limited trial. Cross-platform support was also ideal when available.

Based on these criteria, PDFescape ranked as the best fully-featured free editor. Sejda PDF Editor provides solid capabilities with the convenience of cloud-based access. For basic PDF creation, OpenOffice Writer excelled as a free, open-source option. While paid editors remain the best for advanced users, these best pdf editor free tools allow anyone to take care of simple PDF editing needs.

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