Free PDF editors in the test: It also works without Adobe Acrobat!

If you don’t work with PDF files regularly, it’s not worth investing in paid software like Adobe Acrobat. With the free tools PDF Candy and Sejda PDF Editor, you can create and modify PDFs without spending a dime.

With a free editor you can do most of the everyday tasks on PDF documents. In addition to the desktop tools, there are also online-based tools that can be called up in the web browser. In that case, you don’t have to worry about platform or device compatibility. In addition, free online PDF editors are often much easier to use and are limited to the most important functions.

The reference among PDF editors is Acrobat Pro DC by Adobe. If you’re lucky, your scanner comes with an (older) full version. The software normally costs just under 18 euros per month with a 12-month subscription or around 460 euros once with a 3-year subscription. The price is justified in view of the functions offered. However, private users will only use a fraction of it.

With the two free tools presented here, you can edit PDF files by adding and changing text and images and adding shapes, freehand drawings and notes. However, the options for fonts and sizes, colors, and shapes are almost certainly more limited than in a paid editor. With free programs you usually also create PDFs and convert file formats. You will probably not need more for occasional work with PDFs.

As an extra, some free editors also have form-filling, e-signature, and redacting features. Functions such as password protection and text recognition (OCR), on the other hand, are not available in most free tools.

PDF Candy: Editor’s Pick

The web-based PDF editor currently offers 47 different tools that can be used to reduce, convert, merge, crop, encrypt or sign PDFs.


The web-based PDF editor currently offers 47 different tools that can be used to reduce, convert, merge, crop, encrypt or sign PDFs.

  • Advantages:

    Lots of advanced features, OCR capability, very user friendly

  • Disadvantages:

    Free version limited to one task per hour

  • Price:

    free with restrictions, from around 5 euros per month for the online version, one-time around 118 euros for PDF Candy Web and PDF Candy Desktop

To the manufacturer’s website

With an impressive set of 47 tools (as of June 2022), this editor can handle most PDF tasks. The web-based editor does not combine the individual tools under a uniform interface. On the start page in the browser, click on the respective icon to start the desired tool. PDF Candy’s user interface with its numerous function icons is almost overwhelming. You can use the “All PDF tools” selection menu to change the display to at least three function groups “PDF file management”, “Convert to PDF” and “Convert from PDF”.

The tool selection is impressive. Of course, you get a basic editor that you can use to edit, comment, and annotate text. But you’ll also find tools for inserting watermarks, adding, arranging and splitting pages, extracting images, editing metadata, cropping and resizing pages. And of course you can convert a variety of popular file formats to PDFs and vice versa.

Editor's recommendation: PDF Candy

Submit a file to the PDF Candy server for processing. Files can be moved via drag & drop or added by browsing your drive. Working with the various editing and formatting tools is easy and intuitive. PDF Candy’s numerous file converters, which make up more than half of the tools, are fast and accurately preserve the formatting of the documents. Once the selected task is done, download the new file to your device or save it directly to Google Drive or Dropbox. When you edit multiple files, PDF Candy puts them in a queue.

Basically, there is only one limitation: PDF Candy only allows one task per hour. If you start a second task too early, you will receive a corresponding message with the waiting time. You can only remove this limit with a paid subscription. It costs around five euros a month. Good: There is also a lifetime subscription. This includes access to the web editor and the desktop editor for Windows: costs for this: just under 118 euros.

Nonetheless, PDF Candy is an excellent choice for PDF editing with its rich set of tools and clean user interface.

Seyda PDF Editor

The tasks you do with Sejda range from compressing to merging to signing PDF documents. However, the free version is limited to a maximum of three tasks per day.


The tasks you do with Sejda range from compressing to merging to signing PDF documents. However, the free version is limited to a maximum of three tasks per day.

  • Advantages:

    Online and desktop versions available, handles dozens of PDF tasks, easy-to-use interface

  • Disadvantages:

    Daily usage limits without subscription, limited font options

  • Price:

    Free with restrictions, 59 euros per year for web and desktop version

To the manufacturer’s website

Sejda is offered as both an online tool and a desktop editor – in both a free and paid version. The online tool processes your PDFs in the cloud, while the desktop version does all the work locally on your disks. However, both free versions are limited to three processing tasks per day. Files cannot be larger than 50 MB or contain more than 200 pages. In addition, no more than 30 files and 50 pages can be combined with one file each.

The online and desktop tools are almost identical. The user interface shows an overview with 39 tasks (as of June 2022). You first select the desired action and then upload your document to edit it. Good: A PDF document can also be uploaded directly from Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive or from your PC’s hard drive. Got a link to a PDF file? Sejda can handle that too. Although the operation is intuitive, Sejda provides step-by-step instructions on each task’s page.

The PDF editor has a simple, text-based toolbar. With a few clicks, you can achieve common editing tasks such as adding images and annotating documents. Add text and edit existing text. However, this can be problematic as the online tool has limited font support. At least popular fonts like Helvetica and Times New Roman are among them.

You can bold and italicize text, change font size and color, and easily delete blocks of text. You can also insert images and shapes into documents, create form fields, annotate and redact content, and add signatures. When the task is complete, click the Apply Changes button and download the modified document.

Besides editing, there are dozens of other actions: you can extract, split, merge and combine pages, compress files, convert PDFs to other file formats, watermark and encrypt PDFs, and edit file metadata. OCR is also supported.

Both of the free Sejda tools offer a variety of the same features that you can find in paid PDF editors. The paid subscription of just under 60 euros per year includes unlimited use of the web and desktop tool.

Guide: What functions should a free PDF editor have?

Content editing:

This includes adding and changing text, inserting, resizing and moving images, and rearranging pages in the PDF document. Most free PDF editors allow you to perform these tasks, although there may be a limit to the number of tasks you can perform or the number of documents you can edit each day.

Create, convert and export PDFs:

Often you need to create PDF files from scanned printouts or convert other documents to PDFs. A good free PDF editor will convert common file formats like Word, JPG, and HTML into a PDF file and keep the original formatting. It should also be able to export PDF to other editable formats like Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, HTML or plain text. Important: Hyperlinks, images and other elements of the original files should be preserved.

Check and comment:

Add comments and other annotations to PDF files with many free PDF editors. Typical annotation tools include sticky notes, shapes, and markup options.


A free PDF editor is often sufficient to sign a document. This used to be a premium feature only available in paid desktop programs. There are now more and more free PDF editors that you can use to create electronic signatures and add them to documents.

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