The Top 7 Open Source PDF Editors in 2021

Published: 2 months ago

A PDF, or a portable document format, is one of the most universally known file types today. PDF documents are used within emails, when sharing contracts, or even with white papers and press releases. Using PDF documents is commonplace for anyone with access to a computer and the internet. 

Close-up view on white conceptual keyboard - PDF (green key)

If you are searching for an open source PDF editor that provides total flexibility when loading and editing PDF files, Adobe Acrobat may instantly come to mind. However, if you are in search of an Adobe Acrobat alternative, there are plenty of open-source PDF editors to compare and consider. 

The Top 7 Open Source PDF Editors

Whether you create PDF documents for work or if you are in need of an open-source PDF editor to help with editing a file of your own, the list below includes today's top open-source PDF editing solutions. We have cultivated a list of top PDF editors that are not only easily accessible and readily available, but that also include the most features and functionality of all open-source PDF editors available today. 

  1. Inkscape
  2. LibreOffice
  3. PDFsam Basic
  4. Apache OpenOffice Draw
  5. Okular
  6. PDFedit
  7. Skim - iOS

1. Inkscape

If you are looking for an open source PDF editor that is not only useful for editing PDFs, but also other forms of graphics and animations, Inkscape delivers. Inkscape is a free open-source vector, PDF, and graphics editor that is available for the Windows operating system.

With Inkscape, not only is it possible to add and remove text from PDF files, but it is also possible to create additional graphical elements within each of your PDF documents. In addition to traditional editing of text, you can also implement various scripting plugins for additional features and functions, based on your PDF-editing needs. If you enjoy creating graphics or working with large files that incorporate graphics and photos, using Inkscape is highly recommended. Although Inkscape was originally designed with the purpose of editing vectors and other graphics in mind, it has since become a well-known tool for editing and updating PDF documents.

Features

Inkscape offers myriad features that make it a top pick for anyone in search of an open-source PDF editor that is free of charge. Some of the most notable features of Inkscape include: 

  • Edit all areas of a PDF file, not just defined text sections. With Inkscape, you can easily add, remove, and edit images as well as other graphic elements that are included within the PDF document itself.
  • Add various scripting add-ons and plugins to add to the overall functionality and features of your version of Inkscape. 
  • Save your files as both PDF as well as PNG files, depending on your project needs.
  • Inkspace takes up little hard drive space, making it the perfect solution even for notebooks and Chromebook or tablet devices. 

Cons

Although Inkscape is free of charge, there are a few cons or drawbacks to keep in mind, such as:

  • Using Inkscape may require a learning curve. It is not always effortless to get started with Inkscape, especially if you are unfamiliar with programs such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, and even Adobe Acrobat. 
  • Unfortunately, the Inkscape editor is not free of faults and/or programming bugs. Occasionally, users do report that Inkscape encounters issues when it comes to saving pages, often leaving them blank. Saving your PDF manually and saving backup copies of your PDF files is highly advisable when using Inkscape to complete your PDF editing tasks.

Pricing

Inkscape is a completely free open-source PDF editor that is an ideal Adobe Acrobat alternative for those interested in editing PDFs as well as vectors and other graphic formats. 

Draw Freely | Inkscape

2. LibreOffice

LibreOffice is one of the most well-known open source PDF editor solutions available on the market today, for both personal uses as well as for businesses. Using LibreOffice is easy, straightforward, and intuitive -- perfect for individuals who are unfamiliar with editing PDFs or using advanced computer software. With LibreOffice, you can begin editing your PDF files as soon as you download and install the software to your hard drive. 

Features

LibreOffice is one of the most well-known and popular PDF editors available to date, and for good reason. Not only is LibreOffice easily accessible and intuitively designed with non-technical individuals in mind, but it is also available on multiple platforms. You can currently download and install LibreOffice on all Windows, macOS, and Linux computers, providing maximum flexibility for any PDF-editing project or job. Additional features of LibreOffice include:

  • Open a wide range of PDF files and documents with ease, regardless of their creation date, as well as the type of PDF file you are attempting to open.
  • Add your very own digital signature to each of the PDF documents you create and/or edit.
  • Edit a wide range of file formats to export them as PDF files, which is optimal when sending emails and official documents digitally.
  • Manage the number of pages your PDF document has by adding or removing pages while working in LibreOffice. 
  • Whiteout specific or entire sections of a PDF document while editing in LibreOffice.
  • Add sections for images as well as text anywhere inside of a properly loaded PDF document. 

Cons

A few of the drawbacks or cons of using LibreOffice include:

  • It is not always easy to load large or more extensive PDF files and larger PDF projects with LibreOffice.
  • LibreOffice may freeze and/or crash upon attempting to load larger files and/or PDF projects.
  • LibreOffice is limited in the features and functionality it provides. It is not possible to edit or make updates to all areas and elements included in a PDF document when using LibreOffice. 

Pricing

One of the biggest appeals of LibreOffice is that is available free of charge. There is no cost to use LibreOffice, even if you choose to do so commercially or for your own business purposes. 

Home | LibreOffice - Free Office Suite - Based on OpenOffice - Compatible with Microsoft

3. PDFsam Basic

If you are looking for a classic PDF editor that does not require the use of the cloud, consider PDFsam Basic. PDFsam Basic is a free and open source PDF editor that is intuitively designed and easy to use. With PDFsam Basic, you can easily get started with your PDF editing, even if you are new or unfamiliar with the process. PDFsam Basic is extremely versatile and is available for Mac, Linux, and Windows computers.

Without using the cloud, you can safely save and backup all of your PDF documents onto your hard drive and in one secure location. 

Features

The PDFsam Basic editor is extremely easy to use and visually appealing, making it as simple as possible for those unfamiliar with PDFs and PDF editing to get started. Some of the more notable features of PDFsam Basic include:

  • Intuitively designed with a great UI, or user interface
  • Simple and straightforward
  • Optimal for those who are new to using PDF files or editing PDF documents on their own
  • Reorder your PDF pages within seconds and without manually shuffling
  • Rotate pages and save pages in different areas of a document instantly
  • Organize all of the pages included in your PDF file visually, rather than numerically or with guesswork
  • Split pages by bookmarks and by size, based on preferences for your PDF file
  • Delete and/or crop pages as you go
  • Split and merge PDF pages, which is ideal for shortening files and optimizing PDF documents

Cons

When looking for a PDF editor that is right for you, it is important to also compare the cons, or drawbacks of a solution. Some of the cons of using PDFsam Basic include: 

  • All of the features included with PDFsam Basic may be confusing and/or overwhelming to those who consider themselves beginners when it comes to working with PDF documents.
  • PDFsam Basic may not work properly on any device or platform that does not currently have Java.
  • Users report incidents of crashing and malfunctioning, requiring manual saving more often to prevent data loss. 

Pricing

PDFsam Basic is completely free of charge for Windows, Mac, as well as Linux platforms. 

Features in PDFsam Basic, free and open source - PDFsam

4. Apache OpenOffice Draw

Apache OpenOffice Draw works on multiple platforms, including Linux, Windows, as well as macOS. Using Apache OpenOffice Draw is similar to using other word processing programs, such as Microsoft Word. If you are familiar with the setup and layout of Microsoft Word, getting acquainted with Apache OpenOffice Draw will likely be a breeze.

Although Apache OpenOffice Draw is primarily referred to as a graphics creator and/or editor, it can also be extremely useful for editing PDF files, especially when you need to do so in a pinch. 

Features

Apache OpenOffice Draw provides numerous features that help it to stand out, especially for those who are seeking a graphics editor, in addition to a program that can handle PDF editing features. Some of the features that stand out with Apache OpenOffice Draw include:

  • The ability to add your own graphics to any PDF file you open and/or use.
  • It includes a built-in spellchecking service, perfect for adding and editing text within PDF files.
  • Apache OpenOffice Draw works on multiple platforms, including Windows, macOS, as well as Linux for maximum versatility.
  • Apache OpenOffice Draw also includes a variety of editing features that are not always available with alternative open source PDF editors. 

Cons

With every open source PDF editor, Apache OpenOffice Draw also has a few drawbacks, such as:

  • It may not always be easy or possible to open and load large PDF files.
  • When using Excel, your PDF files and any files opened in Apache OpenOffice Draw may be slow. Using additional functions such as Excel inside the Apache OpenOffice Draw software can cause your workflow to slow altogether.
  • It is not foolproof. Because Apache OpenOffice Draw is an open-source PDF editor, it is also vulnerable to errors or issues that may arise out of nowhere. In some cases, the program may malfunction or not load a PDF file properly. 

Pricing

Apache OpenOffice Draw

5. Okular

Okular is another modern open source PDF editor that is reminiscent of other editors such as Microsoft Word as well as Adobe Acrobat. As an Adobe Acrobat alternative, Okular excels. With Ocular, enjoy a very fleshed-out interface that is perfect for writing books, organizing large projects, and editing multiple PDF files or pages within a PDF document simultaneously.

Currently, Okular is available on Windows, Mac, as well as Linux operating systems. 

Features

Some of the more notable features of Okular that stand out are:

  • The ability to utilize all standard PDF editing features and functions
  • Familiar user interface that is similar to standard editing and processing programs, including both Adobe Acrobat and Microsoft Word
  • Create a content section for your PDF file, which is optimal for a large project.
  • Write books and manage PDF books via Okular, as its interface is designed to help with the organization of a PDF project.
  • Cross-platform PDF editor for users of Linux, Windows, as well as Mac devices and computers
  • Custom marker support, ideal for larger projects as well as PDF-based books
  • Edit text as well as other elements of a PDF file with just a few clicks and without extensive programming knowledge 
  • Additional editing features make it easier than ever to ensure your PDF files are just perfect prior to saving and/or exporting the documents.

Cons

Using Okular is great for editing large projects as well as books that are currently saved in PDF format. However, Okular has a few cons and drawbacks, including:

  • The software does not always identify or flag items and editable sections, which may make it difficult to edit all elements of your PDF document.
  • Okular is not always easy to use, especially for anyone who is new to PDF editing or new to PDF organizational tools.
  • Okular may require a learning curve for those who are unfamiliar with traditional readers such as Adobe Acrobat as well as traditional word processing solutions such as Microsoft Word or Microsoft Office. 
  • Okular may occasionally crash or have difficulties with loading larger PDF files, especially if they are improperly formatted or not properly saved. 

Pricing

Using Okular is completely free of charge, for both personal as well as commercial use.

Okular - The Universal PDF Reader (kde.org)

6. PDFedit

If you are looking for a PDF reader in addition to a PDF editor, look no further than PDFedit. PDFedit is a quintessential free and open source PDF editor that is funded by donations only. PDFedit is a cross-platform PDF editor that works on Unix, Windows CE, as well as Windows32/64 operating systems. With PDFedit, simply read, change, and even extract content and specific information you need from a PDF file you open.

Features

Using PDFedit provides an array of features. For those seeking a simplistic PDF editor, consider these features that PDFedit has to offer:

  • Multi-platform support for users on Unix as well as different Windows operating systems
  • Password-protect your PDF files, even if you did not create the original PDF file yourself
  • The PDFedit software itself is extremely lightweight, making it optimal even for notebooks and tablet devices (that allow downloads or run a compatible operating system)
  • Personalize each individual PDF file you open and edit
  • Take advantage of advanced PDF editing features, free of charge

Cons

Some of the cons of using PDFedit include:

  • Not all of the features that come with PDFedit always work, and may vary based on the version of the program you download as well as the type of operating system you are running on your own computer or device.
  • You may receive intermittent error messages without warning or reason, as reported by some users of PDFedit.
  • It is possible that you will also face technical issues when loading, editing, and even saving PDF files, as the software is open-source and always being updated, leaving room for additional bugs and vulnerabilities. 

Pricing

Fortunately, PDFedit is free of charge, making it one of the ideal solutions for editing PDFs for those who are new to PDF editing. 

PDFedit download | SourceForge.net

7. Skim - iOS

It is not always easy to find an open source editor that is strictly available for Mac users. However, Skim is the exception. Skim iOS is available exclusively for Mac and iOS users. It is one of the most popular iOS PDF editors available to date. For Mac users, Skim offers all of the features and functions you didn't realize you needed with their own Adobe Acrobat alternative. 

Features

Although Skim is only available for Mac users with iOS, it has numerous features that help it to stand out from the competition. Some of the most notable features of Skim include:

  • Easily view and edit PDF files on a whim and with ease, even if you have little to no experience with handling or editing PDF files on your own.
  • Highlight content, images, and information that is important to you. Skim includes a one-swipe highlight tool that allows users to quickly highlight information, text, and even graphics within a PDF document.
  • Quickly take snapshots of your PDF files and work. Use snapshots to keep track of changes and updates while having references available to you at all times.  
  • Skim includes smart cropping tools, making it easier than ever to crop your PDF files and project instantaneously. Use smart cropping tools to crop certain sections, graphics, or entire pages of your PDF project.

Cons

As with most open source PDF editors, there are also drawbacks to using Skim, such as:

  • Unfortunately, Skim is only available for Mac. Windows and Linux users are unable to access and use Skim's PDF-editing features at this time. 
  • Skim does not always detect and pick up graphical elements, photos, and images that are included in PDF files. 

Pricing

Skim is free to use for those who are currently using Mac and iOS operating systems. 

Skim | Home (sourceforge.io)

Conclusion

Selecting an open source PDF editor that is right for you will highly depend on the type of PDF file(s) you will be editing as well as the type of edits you need to complete. With all of the options available, it can feel overwhelming and confusing to choose just one PDF editor for the job. We have highlighted some of our favorite features and functions that stand out to use with the open-source PDF editors we have featured below. We hope that our list assists you through the process of finding a PDF editor that truly meets your projects' needs.

If you are only seeking an open source PDF editor to change text quickly without additional features or functions, consider LibreOffice.

If you want the ability to freely edit all areas and elements of a PDF document, including graphical elements, choose Inkscape for your open source PDF editor. 

If you are using Mac or do not have access to a device with the Windows or Linux operating system, turn to Skim.

For a way to password-protect your PDF files and the PDF documents you are working on, consider using PDFedit

To help with managing and editing larger PDF-based projects, such as books and manuals, Okular is one of the best open source PDF editor solutions.

If you are searching for a PDF editor that also includes a vector and graphic editor, look no further than Apache OpenOffice Draw.

If you are looking for a PDF editor that is optimal for splitting and merging PDF files, PDFsam Basic is one of the best solutions available for Windows, Linux, and Mac devices.

We hope that this list of top 7 open source PDF editors has helped you to become more familiar with your choices and the options available to download today. Whether you are interested in making simple edits to a PDF document or if you use PDF files regularly, we hope this list can help you to find a PDF editing solution that delivers all of the features and functionality that you need. 

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