Free Tools to Manage PDF Files

Category: Software

Adobe has taken a lot of flack for its eminently hackable Flash/Shockwave animation file format. But Adobe also gave us the PDF - Portable Document Format. This handy file format was developed in the early 1990s to enable team members to share documents, including inline formatting and images, even though the members did not have the same file-handling software. Read today's issue to find some free tools for creating, editing, managing, redacting, and otherwise slicing and dicing your PDF files...

What Can You Do With PDF Files?

Most people just print or view a PDF file, but they are more versatile than you think. Today, PDF files can have “fillable forms,” allowing you to complete a neatly typeset tax return, insurance claim form, voter’s registration, or other form with boxes for names, addresses, amounts, etc., even when you don’t have a typewriter or word processor. PDFs have a number of other tricks, such as the ability to sum a column of numbers in a form. They can even contain animated or audio content.

Acrobat, the professional software for PDF management and editing is sold by Adobe for a pretty penny. But the PDF format is open-source, so a host of third-party utilities have sprung up. Here are some of the best PDF tools, most of them free.

Not Another PDF Scanner 2 (NAPS2) is designed to replace the typically so-so scanning software that comes bundled with multifunction printers and other scanner devices. Once installed, NAPS2 is free and easy to use. Click Profiles and then New to add your scanner, then edit the settings like Page size and Resolution. Click Scan when you’re ready, and an image of your document will slowly unfurl on the screen until the scan is complete. Now you can Save it in PDF format, print it, or both. An optional OCR (Optical Character Recognition) module converts images of alphanumeric characters into ASCII text.

Free PDF Tools

PDF Multi-Tool extracts images, video, and audio content from PDF files, and saves each bundle of extracted content to an appropriate file (e. G., .jpg, .mp4, etc.) You can export tables of data from a PDF to CSV files, or import table data directly into an Excel spreadsheet. Split a PDF file into multiple parts, or merge multiple files into one PDF. There are many other handy functions in PDF Multi-Tool and its add-ons.

PDFill Free PDF Tools is a similar utility that I like. You can use it to merge, split, reorder, delete, encrypt, decrypt, rotate, crop and reformat PDF pages; add information, header, footer and watermark, to convert images to PDF, PDF to images or PostScript to PDF; delete, flatten and list form fields, and more. PDFill does not add watermarks and is free for personal or commercial use.

More PDF Tools

Foxit Reader is a long-time favorite for simply reading PDFs. It can also save your PDF collection to the cloud - Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive integration is built in - and find the right PDF again when you need it. Like NAPS2, Foxit Reader can scan documents from your scanner to PDF files. You can annotate PDFs with Foxit Reader. It even reads PDF text aloud, a boon to the visually impaired.

Instead of manually printing and redacting documents to remove content, Free PDF Redactor is a free online solution that works right in your browser. Once your PDF document is uploaded, you can draw over the sections of text you want to remove. When finished, save and download the modified PDF document with text and hidden metadata removed. Once downloaded, the temporary file will be removed from their servers leaving no trace behind.

Libre Office Writer does a great job of opening PDF files so they can be edited in a word processor. It can also export any document to PDF format. It's part of the free Libre Office suite that does pretty much everything Microsoft Office does, but for free.

Did you know that Google Drive can convert PDFs to editable text? Yep, that OCR capability is built into Drive. From your Drive, just right-click on the desired file (it can be a PDF or a JPG), then click "Open with > Google Docs." The file will be converted to a Google Doc that can be edited. There are some limitations, though. Bold, italics, font size, font type, and line breaks are usually retained, but lists, tables, columns, footnotes, and endnotes will probably not survive the journey. Also, files larger than 2 MB cannot be converted.

Doro PDF Writer installs as a virtual printer, so you can print or save data to PDF files from any application that you use to print a file. Windows 10 has this feature built into it, but users of older Windows versions have had to struggle with multiple PDF savers/printers. Install Doro and creating PDF files becomes a no-brainer.

Do you have a favorite PDF utility I have not covered? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Free Tools to Manage PDF Files"

Posted by:

13 Jun 2019

I use Nuance PDF Professional which is now called Power PDF. The version I have is several years old but unlike many software producers they don't age it out! I had an earlier edition too but the features I needed, found in the newer one that I got a few years ago made me purchase the newer edition. Yes it's a paid software not free but you can create fillable pdfs (using current pdfs that aren't fillable as available from various sites), convert other text and image forms into pdfs, redact and sign, add clip art, and convert pdfs into editable word documents. And the software license permits loading on several of your own computers. I use it DAILY!

Posted by:

13 Jun 2019

PDF format is a digital version of a love-hate (Love2Hate or Hate2Love) relationship. Until about 5 years ago, I was always searching for and testing almost every offering to handle PDFs.
I find that Foxit PhantomPDF (Busine$$ Edition) seems to play nice with my Microsoft Windows/Office environment. Not that it is the poster-child of the format; as there has been some hackability issues with Foxit, in the past. Among Foxit PhantomPDF's robust features which I was sold off on include its password/certificate protection, along with being able to restrict access and digital signature/cert features. Any document which I need to 'export' out of my PC, is automatically converted to and sent using Foxit Phantom (in just a few clicks), due to PDF' universal compatibility and built-in security/protection.
Most 21st Century PDF software readily handle conversion to/from other document formats but when all else fails, faking your system to “print” to PDF feature (by selecting a directory to print to; rather than selecting a real printer connected to the system) is heaven sent…

Posted by:

13 Jun 2019

I've used the free version of PDF Unlock from for many years to unlock 'secured' PDF files.
When wishing to save a webpage, I use the print command and print to PDF. Occasionally I have a problem with formatting or text recognition but the Bullzip PDF printer [] seems to overcome these issues and produces a normal PDF document.

Posted by:

13 Jun 2019

For basic PDF conversion you do not need to install any additional software if you are running Windows 10.
Windows 10 comes with a built in PDF converter called Microsoft Print to PDF. You simply click the print menu in any program you are using and in the printer list select Microsoft Print to PDF. Your document will be converted to a PDF file and saved in the location you choose.

Posted by:

Jim Przyborowski
13 Jun 2019

I use the free version of PDFSAM (PDF Split and Merge). They have a version that's supposed to work in Linux but I keep getting error messages. Only seems to work properly in Windows, which is one of the few reasons I still use Windows at all.

Posted by:

13 Jun 2019

I have used CutePDF for many years. It's a "PDF printer", and installs as one of your printer devices.

Posted by:

Par Roj
14 Jun 2019

I use It has all you need

Posted by:

14 Jun 2019

Wow, some great PDF programs. I have started using FlexPDF that comes from SoftMaker Office program. Hey, it works and is FREE!

I used Abode Reader for years, but I then was having trouble with it. It was hard to start because it seemed as though all you were doing was "updating" Abode every time you used it.

I have also used FoxIt PDF. It also has worked well for me in just the simplest of ways ~ Reading PDF and not having to update every time it opens. I tried to use Phantom in the FoxIt program. I honestly didn't understand it. I don't create PDFs, I just read them. I do believe this was my whole problem in trying to work with Phantom.

I am using PlexPDF with the SoftMaker Office program, and I am pleased. It is an excellent PDF Reader, which is what I do anyway. There may be more to PlexPDF like editing, creating, and so on. Since I don't know how to do any of those things, I am delighted with just the Reader part.

So far, I have been pleased with SoftMaker Office and what it gives me ~ All of it for FREE. I don't think anyone can beat FREE, especially when it is a good, reliable program that is relatively easy to use. If anyone has used MS Office XP Pro, SoftMaker Office is very similar.

Posted by:

14 Jun 2019

I Have used Foxit, and a few others, mostly with excellent results, but then I discovered Nitro PDF, which is a free program which always works, allows text insertion, and other features, and best of all does not give me any grief while I'm trying to get my deadlines met. I can recommend it very highly after about three years of daily use with no problems!!

Posted by:

14 Jun 2019

One more vote for Nitro PDF. I use the free version which can be a little difficult to find.

Posted by:

15 Jun 2019

Another vote for Nitro PDF free version. I love that I can add text and append other pages.

Posted by:

19 Jun 2019

Do any of these work on Chromebooks?

Posted by:

Thomas J. Dawes
20 Jun 2019

I have used PDF-XChange Viewer for YEARS. A small footprint PDF Viewer and Editor - it has been superseded by PDF-XChange Editor and it Rocks too!

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