The Best Online PDF Editors [Free] (and What to Look for in Premium?)

Online PDF editors are now getting very popular thanks to their portability and easy-to-use interfaces. In addition to these, online PDF readers require no software installation and can be used on the go. Plus, these are either free or are priced at very low rates compared to offline PDF editors.

Why PDF editors?

The PDF format for documents is in high demand among users thanks to its portability, straightforwardness, and compatibility. Users, especially students and businesses, prefer using the PDF format for opening, reading, and sharing documents, by virtue of its high compatibility, portability, and ease of use.

It is impossible to find a sector in which PDFs are not used. They find extensive application in a wide range of fields – from law firms and supermarkets to educational institutions.

When Adobe launched PDF format, it wasn’t really possible to edit PDF files except by using their proprietary software Adobe Acrobat. Slowly several other PDF and Adobe Acrobat alternatives started to emerge in the market. Today, there are a number of powerful and efficient PDF editors available for people to use.

Online PDF editors, on the other hand, have started to emerge in the last couple of years due to the advent of new SaaS technologies.

How I chose the best Online PDF editors?

Since there are so many brands growing popular in the market that choosing from them can be quite a confusing task. Before using or purchasing an online PDF editor, you need to have a decent idea of what your requirements are. In this article, I have listed some of the most important features that an ideal online PDF editor must possess.

Proper editing, reading and collaboration features

Your search for the best online PDF editor needs to begin with a very clear goal, to find a tool that completely fulfills your specific needs. In other words, if you happen to work with a group of people who need to communicate and collaborate nearly every day, it is convenient for you to have an online instrument that provides annotation and commenting within the text. Electronic signatures will come in handy if you make deals with partners overseas.

If you have not yet tried working with collaborative tools, you are missing out on some truly valuable opportunities. The best of the PDF editors make it easy to collaborate in real time from any location in the world. In addition to the other editing features, a great tool offers the users access to annotation tools as well. You will be able to leave messages, comments, notes, or remarks on details directly in the file.

Your colleagues will be able to view your comments, as well as comments from other members who have access to the document. You can have fruitful conversations by discussing these comments in real time. It is very convenient and will save you the hassle of having to deal with endless phone calls or emails.

Reviews and Ratings

Although there are potentially several PDF editors which offer various combinations of essential features, you only need to choose one of them. Reviews and ratings from customers will help you a lot in making this decision. For that purpose, you will definitely have to invest a lot of time in going through numerous articles, comments, and blog posts. However, considering how important it is for you to get the full picture, it is definitely worth it.

Peer reviews are especially helpful, because they are written by average users who express their feelings regarding their experience freely. You should observe what a reviewer has to say about fillable PDFs, the software’s features, and what disappoints them the most. If a lot of other customers happen to mention the same issue, you should try to steer clear of that program.

Easier to navigate and learn

An online PDF editor does not need to be sophisticated and complicated in order to be the best of its kind in the market. It simply needs to have a straightforward design and toolbar that attracts the attention of average users and experienced businesspeople alike. You should try to give preference to a program that is easy to understand, so that your employees are able to master it quickly.

Full editing and annotation features

Software intended for editing PDF files should possess essential editing features to be able to perform a diverse range of tasks. You should clearly bear your requirements in mind right from the beginning, as well as other features that may prove to be useful in the future. You should especially pay close attention to the presence of the following features in the concerned software:

  • Add photos, images, and videos.
  • Add text to PDF files.
  • Rotate, delete, or paste pages.
  • Add stamps, signatures, and watermarks.
  • Make the PDF file editable; font, letter size, color of sentences or highlighted parts, etc.
  • Most users prefer to connect their editing tool to Google Docs and modify the PDF file online using a PC, smartphone, or laptop.

OCR capacities

The world has been desperately trying to go green as fast as possible; environment-friendly practices and products are in high demand today. When you choose to use an online editing tool, you make two good decisions simultaneously. First, it is a great tool for converting PDF files into editable Word documents, as well as editing them online. Second, a PDF editor serves as an efficient replacement for thousands of paper-based agreements, contracts, and notebooks in your office. As a result, your department will require less paper and contribute to the noble goal of saving trees.

A reliable PDF editor should be able to connect to a scanner. With the help of this option, users will be able to digitize paper files. You should consider programs that possess built-in OCR (Optical Character Recognition) capabilities. This particular feature plays a crucial role in converting printed material to digital form by allowing you to “extract” text from images. Advanced PDF editors can identify words present in photographs and pictures as well.

Security features

Security is imperative for people who deal with important files, sensitive databases, and other such crucial material. The issue of security is of top priority for everyone who understands the importance of confidentiality while working with classified documents. It might be a bit surprising, but even ordinary PDF editors actually allow you to set passwords to protect essential files from unwanted access.

Support and customer service

It is extremely important for you to consider the app or service that has the best customer support. Suppose you own a business. When you purchase any piece of software, any software – not just a PDF editor, for your company, someway or another you are going to face technical difficulties. Now you cannot hire a dedicated expert for such feeble thing right?

That is why customer support is essential. Every legitimate product comes with a customer support. A great PDF editor is only that which comes with a realtime customer support. But if you are opting for a cheaper alternative email support will do as well.

Make sure to check how the customer support is for that specific app by cross checking the customer support page before buying.


Let us sum up our discussion thus far by looking at some features that a quality PDF editor should possess:

  • Cost that corresponds to the quality and quantity of features it comes with
  • Top-notch compatibility: choose a cross-platform tool
  • High scores from professional reviewers
  • A convenient toolbox to edit PDF files online for free with ease
  • Easy navigation
  • High-level security
  • Built-in OCR option
  • Great customer support

This list is meant to serve as a starting point to help you make the right choice when it comes to the best online PDF editors.

Best PDF Editors [Online and Offline]

Best PDF Editors

The best PDF editors available today are completely free to use. You will be able to use them to edit your PDF files smoothly, without paying any subscription fees. In this article, I have listed my choices of the best online PDF editors in 2021.

What are PDF editors?

PDF is a very commonly used format today, for both academic and recreational purposes. One of their greatest virtues is that their content always remains the same, regardless of the device you view them on and the software you use to open them. This feature makes them an excellent option for sensitive documents which can suffer from the slightest change in formatting or style.

Unfortunately, this also makes editing PDF files a rather tricky business. For that purpose, there exist quite a few free PDF editing software for your aid. With the help of such software, you can modify text and images in PDF files without having to convert them to another format. Also, you will not be required to purchase costly dedicated software.

There is a catch, however – the original creator of the PDF format, Adobe, still has the rights to certain technologies related to it. It charges other software companies a fee for using the PDF format. This explains why programs are generally able to export documents in PDF format, but cannot edit them. As a result, there aren’t many free PDF editors available out there.

You can see why it can be difficult to ascertain what PDF editors you should work with. Thus, I’ve put together the following comprehensive list of the best online PDF editors in 2021. I hope it will help you choose the right software for your use.

1. PDFSam Basic

When you are working with scanned paper documents, your requirements tend to be rather limited. For example, you might just need to separate the pages of a PDF document into multiple documents, or vice versa. At other times, you have to alter the orientation of a document’s pages. In this case, PDFSam Basic is an excellent lightweight desktop app that will serve you very well.

Although you cannot change the actual contents of the document with its help, it can combine and divide them efficiently. It has no intrusive watermarks, and does not give any third party access to your documents either.

2. Xara

Xara PDF editor is a cloud-based, 100% free online tool that can help convert, split, annotate, merge, edit, and share PDFs with ease.

The PDF editor tool magically turns every piece on the PDF into a fully editable format. This can help make advanced edits such as changing the text, replacing images without losing the layout, or changing the colors and fonts of an entire document while keeping a flawless look. It allows you to update any PDF in minutes or take elements from it such as images, text, or graphics and incorporate them into a new document. You can also convert other file formats such as Word, JPEG, or PPT to and from PDF.

Since it’s a cloud-based tool, all the work can be accessed online. That means you can edit or download your files anytime, anywhere, from any device. All you have to do is create a free Xara Cloud account to start using the PDF editor.

3. Sejda

PDF files are often used to store sensitive financial and professional data. Sejda, known for deleting all uploaded files from its servers after five hours, is an ideal PDF editor for working with such documents. It also has a user-friendly interface with just one menu bar. As a result, you will have no trouble finding editing options for adding images, signatures, links, and text to your PDF documents. After editing a document, you can save it in your local hard drive, Google Drive account, or Dropbox account. It is important to mention that Sejda does have some restrictions – you can only carry out a total of three tasks and upload 200 pages or 50 MB of data to the Sejda platform per hour. For casual users, though, this should not be too much of an issue.

4. PDFescape

For editing smaller PDF documents, PDFescape is a great option. It allows you to edit files both online and via its desktop application. The latter, that has more features, is not free to use. However, you needn’t worry because the online version has more than enough PDF editing options to help you out.

For example, it allows you to add clickable URL links to your documents and prepare freehand notes. It also lets you add, annotate, and rotate pages smoothly. Unfortunately, it only allows you to upload documents smaller than 10 MB. That should not be much of an issue, unless you are working with a book-sized document.

5. PDF-XChange Editor

Developed by Tracker Software, the PDF-XChange Editor is an excellent free tool for editing PDF documents. Although it has a somewhat complicated user interface, it also offers plenty of useful features. For example, there is a stamp option for marking documents as “Approved” or “Expired”. However, its most notable element is its built-in Optical Character Recognition (OCR) feature. This allows PDF-XChange to recognize and allow you to edit text even if the original document is a photocopied one.

PDF-XChange lets you reformat text and even convert it to fonts not installed on your computer. It can also split or merge individual PDF files. Unfortunately, the free version adds a small watermark at the bottom of PDF documents that you export. If you don’t mind that, then this is a great option for you.

6. Smallpdf

Smallpdf is a helpful cloud-based free online PDF editor. It has an Edit PDF tool with a user-friendly interface that can add images and text to PDF documents. It also has an e-signing feature and allows you to add comments and highlights to content in PDF documents. Apart from the editor tool, it also lets you convert PDF files to other formats, such as PowerPoint and Word files. You can also merge multiple PDF documents into one larger file, thus conserving space.

Most importantly, Smallpdf is a cloud-based editor. Thus, you will be able to access it from any supported device by visiting its official website. Over there, all you need to do is drag-and-drop a PDF file into your browser to get started. You needn’t pay attention to the “free trial” prompts over there, either. That is only required to install Smallpdf’s desktop version for offline use. Its online version is completely free to use.

Which of these PDF editors is the best?

Each of the PDF editors in the above list has a number of unique pros and cons. You should choose one of them depending on the way you want to edit your PDF files. For example, if you just want to add some more information to a document, you can select a basic editor with text insertion features. However, to make bigger changes, you will have to choose a more powerful PDF editor that can modify the file’s pre-existing content.

Gaurav Tiwari

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