Best Free PDF Tools



A PDF tool comes in handy when you need to deal with PDF files such as to merge or split pages, add a header, footer or watermark, highlight or annotate PDF documents, or convert from other files to PDFs or vice versa. In this review, multipurpose programs offering general features for merging PDF files, splitting or re-ordering pages, etc within a single application are discussed under General Tools. Those designed for a more specific task are grouped under Specific Tools.


General Tools

Specific Tools


Best Free PDF Tools - General

PDFill PDF Tools  

A great set of pdf tools covering most functions.

Our Rating: 
License: Free (Limited features)
Clean and nice user interface, include most features such as merge, split, reorder, rotate, header and footer with page number, watermark, encrypt and decrypt, convert PDF to images or vice versa, convert PostScript to PDF.
Short of features provided by Specific Tools.
Read full review...

PDFTK Builder  

A simple way to merge or reorder selected pages of PDF files in one go

Our Rating: 
License: Free
Merge and reorder pdf pages in one go, supports split, rotate, background stamp, encrypt, etc.
Text watermark not supported, fewer features than PDFill PDF Tools.
Read full review...

PDFsam Basic  

Visually re-order or recompose multiple pages of PDF files.

Our Rating: 
License: Free (Limited features)
Supports visual organizing and re-ordering PDF pages in addition to the direct page number input.
Visual document composer occasionally encountered some errors.
Read full review...

PDF Shuffler  

A small app to merge or split pdf documents, re-arrange, rotate and crop pdf pages

Our Rating: 
License: Free
Easy to re-order, rotate, crop or remove pages, split or merge pdf files in interactive user interface, small size.
Lacking some features available in other pdf tools.
Read full review...

PDF Shaper  

Offers a variety of tools to protect, modify and convert pdf documents

Our Rating: 
License: Free (Limited features)
A collection of useful PDF tools including merge and split PDFs, encrypt and decrypt PDF, extract text and images, convert to and from images, etc.
Convert PDF to Word RTF up to three pages, specifying pages to split PDFs encountered an error when tried. Bundled with an optional toolbar.
Read full review...

jPDF Tweak  

A Swiss Army Knife for PDF files

Our Rating: 
License: Free (Open source)
Support merge, split, reorder, rotate, watermark, format multiple pages, change page numbers, encrypt, add attachments, set viewer preference and metadata.
User interface less intuitive.
Read full review...

Best Free PDF Tools - Specific

The free applications reviewed in this section are helpful for their specific functions mostly not covered by the General Tools.

Edit a PDF File

PDF Import for Apache OpenOffice (formerly Oracle PDF Import Extension) lets you create a hybrid pdf file with OpenOffice Writer. A hybrid pdf file is basically a pdf file containing an embedded odf source file. The beauty of this type of file is that not only can it be viewed with a normal PDF viewer, it can also be opened for full text editing with OpenOffice Writer in 100% layout accuracy. See this article A PDF File Allows Editing in 100% Layout Accuracy for details.

AbleWord, which is a capable word processor, can be used to open pdf file directly and edit small portions of text, add or remove images and so on before saving back to the pdf file. It's free for personal and even commercial use. LibreOffice or OpenOffice Draw is also another free option available for such purpose.

Convert PDF to Text

Some PDF to TXT Converter is a light tool which preserves text and layout while supporting drag and drop, batch conversion and encrypted pdf files.

FreeOCR is a good scan and OCR (Optical Character Recognition) program which lets you extract text from scanned PDF documents. Moreover, images from scanned PDF documents can be selected and placed on the clipboard.

For an online OCR solution, try

Convert PDF to Word/Excel

Free online conversion is available from Nitro PDF for PDF-to-Word Converter and PDF-to-Excel Converter. Choose the file you need, click the "Convert" button and check your inbox for the converted files.

Convert Various Formats to PDF

7-PDF Maker is a powerful tool to convert a wide range of formats to PDF. It can convert to PDF files generated by Word, Excel, Powerpoint, LibreOffice, OpenOffice, StarOffice, Maths and AutoCad, and will also convert images, text or web based files.

If you are using office applications such as LibreOffice or OpenOffice, or word processors such as Jarte, they come with a feature to export files to PDF. Newer versions of Microsoft Office also allow a free add-in for saving documents as PDF.

Whether you choose to use 7-PDF Maker or any of these applications, you should find that clickable hyperlinks and bookmarks are nicely conserved in the converted or exported PDF files, along with the original page layouts.

An alternative approach is to install a virtual PDF printer, such as Bullzip, which will 'print' out PDF files of text or other contents. Note, however, that clickable hyperlinks and bookmarks will not usually be preserved in the resulting PDF file.

If you only need to convert image files to PDF, my favorite is i2pdf. It works even better than the tool "Convert Images to PDF" included in PDFill PDF Tools. Download and unzip i2pdf and run the executable directly (no installation required).

How about converting files to PDF online? 7-PDF Web Portal and some other websites such as Document Converter eXPress also offer online conversion to PDF.

Extract Images from PDF

Some PDF Images Extract is a good choice. You can extract all images from several PDF files by batch or pull images from selected pages in a PDF file. Images can be saved in jpg, bmp, png, tiff, gif or tga formats. It costs no money to use this application, but it is nagware which prompts a dialogue to ask for registration with payment each time you use it.

Annotate PDF Documents

PDF-XChange Viewer enables you to annotate PDF documents. It allows a variety of operations, including highlighting, crossing or underlining text; drawing shapes; stamping and filling out PDF forms with a built-in typewriter; insert, edit or rename bookmarks. Unfortunately some advanced features are available only to the paid-for Pro version.

The good news is that now Foxit Reader has made this particular feature, together with most other basic annotating tools, available for free. If you're looking for an alternative, Foxit Reader is definitely a good choice.

For Linux users, Okular is a good try. It supports annotations, highlighting, drawing lines and shapes, adding textboxes and stamps, and selecting and saving part of a document as text or in an image format.

Create and Edit Bookmarks

JPdfBookmarks allows you to create and edit bookmarks on existing PDF files. You can add bookmarks to quick jump to a certain page of PDF documents, point to another PDF file in the file-system or go a website in a browser.

Bookmarks can be easily renamed or edited. To set a bookmark to jump to a certain paragraph in a page—first browse to that paragraph, then right-click a bookmark, select "Set Destination" then "Replace Current". When completed, save the file as a new PDF file and it's all set.

Make Fillable PDF Forms

PDFescape is a helpful web application which lets you create or fill in PDF forms online, straight from your browser. In addition to creating and editing fillable forms, you can also add text, links and sticky notes, draw basic shapes, and whiteout contents. PDF Escape is now entirely free. If you want to save your work and return later you'll need to register.

Crop PDF Pages

Briss is a cross-platform Java application which makes visual cropping of PDF pages much faster and easier. You just load a pdf file, draw one or more rectangles with a mouse to crop the regions you want from a page and then save them as another file. If you load a PDF file with multiple pages, you can see the odd and even numbered pages overlaid and crop them easily in one go.

Set Viewer Preferences and Metadata

BeCyPDFMetaEdit is a good find. It allows you to edit most metadata such as title, subject and author of your PDF files, and customize viewer preferences, slide show page transitions, page labels, etc. Other than the GUI version, it also has a command version for batch processing with parameters explained in the help file supporting most of the application functionality.

"Tweak PDF" is another choice with a simple user interface, but it lacks a slideshow setting and some other features. The program is portable and available for download at Portable Freeware. It has been scanned clean on VirusTotal. (NB: The link to the developer's homepage is not provided here as it has a bad WOT rating upon checking).

Compare Two PDF Files

DiffPDF is a portable open-source application for you to compare two PDF files and see their differences in words, characters or appearance. To compare PDF files, select two different PDF documents via the File #1 and File #2 buttons then click Compare. You can also save your comparison result as a PDF file. The program runs on multi platforms including Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.

Recover Forgotten Password

Try PDFCrak which runs on Linux or DOS (the version for DOS is available for download here). The only supported usage of this software is to recover passwords and/or content that you own but have lost access to as stated in the FAQ.

Booklet Printing

Gimposition (or Govert's Simple Imposition Tool) allows you to re-order and reformat pages of your PDF document to prepare for booklet printing with a foldmark, 2-up printing with page separation lines, or place two equal copies side by side with cutmarks on a top page. No installation is required, just unzip the download, run the executable. It's straightforward, fast and easy to use. See also this review.

Other Functions

To add attachments to a PDF, try "PDF Bundle" available for download at Softpedia. The program has been scanned clean on VirusTotal. (NB: The link to the developer's homepage is not provided here as it has a bad WOT rating upon checking).

To compress a PDF file, try this portable application Free PDF Compressor (last free version 1.12), or follow this method mentioned in our Freeware Forum.



The following free applications offer particular functions, some of which are available in the main reviews. They were brought up in comments here or noted from other sources. I am listing them here with brief descriptions and links to the related sites for ease of reference.

  • PDFedit, a free PDF editor with GUI interface, allows for complete editing of PDF documents and changing raw PDF objects. It's currently a beta and not easy to use for average users.
  • Sheel Khanna's PDFTools allows users to join multiple PDFs, split or re-arrange a PDF, encrypt or decrypt and stamp a pdf. It also includes a tool to convert XML to a PDF file.
  • Gios PDF Splitter And Merger allows merging and splitting of documents with drag and drop features.
  • GUI for PDFTK Another GUI for the multi-platform PDFTK for merging and splitting pdf files, as well as various other  functions.
  • PdfMerge allows merging and splitting of documents with bookmark import.
  • Free PDF to Word Doc Converter  converts pdf to doc.
  • Free PDF to Word Converter converts pdf to doc or rtf.
  • SpeedPDF Stamp adds an image as watermark.
  • SpeedPDF Page Numberer allows adding page numbers with variable formats.
  • Freeware pdf Unlocker allows removal of PDF restrictions on printing, editing and copying text.

Related Products and Links

You might want to check out these articles too:



This category is maintained by volunteer editor Jojo Yee. Registered members can contact the editor with comments or suggestions by clicking here.
You can visit the Google+ profile page of Jojo Yee here.

Back to the top of the article.


Please rate this article: 

Your rating: None
Average: 4.3 (151 votes)


Looks like Nitro PDF-to-Word and PDF-to-Excel are no longer free. I've used them both successfully in the past, but now the screen is asking for a password. I've never set up an account there and there is no "Forgot ID / Password" help available. From looking at the site, it seems like the previously free version is now their Cloud product and requires a monthly or annual subscription. Their whole product can be downloaded as a free trial valid for 14 days.

If I've got this wrong please tell me. I could use the help!

It's free Ehorwitz1 for their online conversion services only as covered in this article. I've not tried their desktop version which is trialware.

Today, I found that your download link for PDFill PDF Tools goes to a page for downloading the entire PDFill package, "including the evaluation copy of PDFill PDF Editor (the free evaluation version will watermark edited PDF files), the FREE PDF Tools and the FREE PDF and Image Writer." From that page, it takes one more click to reach the link for downloading only PDFill PDF Tools; the latter page is at the URL that you give for the developer's home page.

Thanks for pointing out ichabod. The download link has now been fixed.

BTW if anyone interested in editing PDF files, can try "AbleWord" for free. It is small and useful application. Editing PDF file is as simple as editing Word file.


I downloaded AbleWord to do some work on a bunch of PDFs. Now, all my Word docs are Able Word docs. Is there a way to convert them back to Word. Preferably one that doesn't involve opening them one at a time and saving them in Word? Please?

AbleWord uses MS Word as the default file type for saving so no conversions are needed. If you've associated doc or docx files with AbleWord to open the files, try to replace it with another default program to open with. See also this guide at our site: How to Manage Windows File Associations the Really Easy Way

@ Scallionboy
On the "AbleWord" GETTING STARTED web page is an image of the AbleWord SaveAs dialog
* remove "~"
* replace "+" with "/"

There are no dedicated AbleWord file types on the filetypes list.

I don't understand what you mean by AbleWord document, what is the file type affix ?

I would like to thank you for mentioning AbleWord. I have been searching for an alternative Windows "Word" processor for many months.
- the real bonus with AbleWord is the conversion to PDF + editing + PDF to Word
- and AbleWord is free !
- as yet to download and try it

I wonder, if when you have really tested these softwares, and giving some details / features, but you have not given any information "how good or effective the applications are in use". I'm not intrested just on trivia, but the effectiveness of each application.

So is it possible, that you publish some ratio(s) between a 20 - 2 000 kB's Excel or Word file and a created pdf-file for all introduced pdf-converter(s), for example.

Hi to all...

I'm wondering why isn't Foxit PDF Reader included in the review. The new version is a complete PDF suite which includes reader / printer / creator % writer. This is a much desired update from the previous versions. It's fast with enough features and options even for the advanced user. I've been experimenting with it and I can't find anything negative to say about it. As a matter of fact, I've set it as my default and I am quit satisfied with it's performance. I would suggest that you give Foxit a try >>> .... Please let me know what you think ... thanks and enjoy...

Rather than a tool, it is more of a PDF Reader, and therefore, it is listed in the Best Free Pdf Reader category.

Okay.... I understand and I did check out the review here at Gizmo's and it's highly rated and the review is very explicate. Thanks...

PDFill PDF Tools has a 64-bit version available on its download page. So in the quick selection guide for PDFill PDF Tools, 32 bit but 64 bit compatible should be changed.

Do let me know if I missed something.

Update: added AbleWord.

Just trying 7-PDF Maker 1.4.2
No Open Candy but it did take over all zip-related file formats without asking.

UnityPDF: Merge, split, divide, rotate, extract, etc.

Two oversights:
1) either a PDF printer is not addressed or I missed it? This is a mission critical function for me
2) Was PDF xChange omitted because they have not kept their free package completely up-to-date with modern OS versions?

PDF-XChange Editor (free) replaced PDF-XChange Viewer.
IMHO (free) Editor is vastly better than Viewer
- Viewer is no longer developed

The thought of shelling out for commercial [PDF-XChange Editor] is a hard decision I have not taken yet. But then PDF-XChange forum is very active for all -- free users and paid.

Cons: Settings from Viewer to Editor are not transferable.
Cons: Unfortunately Viewer and Editor only print from MS-Internet Explorer.

I have given up on PDF24PDF as printer (from web pages) so often the result is a blank page.
Firefox/Palemoon addon [Print pages to PDF] does a reasonable job including capturing bookmarks, but it does split images and tables between pages.

PdfXchange Viewer is still being developed. If you look at the site's download page, you will find latest versions of both editor and viewer... 5.5.311, released on the same date.

Pdf-XChange Viewer is no longer developed.
- from the developer Tracker Software forum thread "Is Viewer still developed or not ?" 19-Jan-2015 by bawldiggle
- Tracker Software are only rectifying any security risks, but not improving or extending Viewer features

PDF-XChange Editor is available in a free version offering similar features as Viewer ... plus more. And a lot more free features than free Adobe Reader.
Only let down is that virtual printing is only available through paid version of Editor and then only in Internet Explorer. Free Editor has a few disabled features but the big plus over older Viewer is the bookmarking feature in free Editor.

One feature I cannot find in a PDF Tool is a reliable virtual PDF printer
that maintains bookmarks and links. So many only create an image on the PDF result. No links nor bookmarks. And so many PDF Printers print a blank PDF of emails and web-pages.

I just tried free CutePDF -- bundled with 3 lots of adware.
- CutePDFs no longer supply an "uninstaller" with the free version
- took me 2 hours to uninstall, clean the Win7 Registry and locate buried files and remove printer drivers.
- virtual printing was only an image on PDF.
- Ancient version of GhostScript 8.15 is installed immediately CutePDF is installed

Softpedia lists PDF-XChange Editor as Demo, because there is a critical feature limitation. 1. Watermark on output 2. Nag screen.

I have tried many PDF tools (whatever "Tools" actually means? is very subjective). As is "critical features" subjective.
IME the apps that promise *everything* for free come with a downside. Adware etc. PDF-XChange free EDITOR does have create-a-new-PDF-features and edit-existing-PDF-contents-features ... disabled.
VIEWER is totally free (but it is superseded by EDITOR) and has hangover disabled features.
I prefer VIEWER because the toolbar size is better suited to 40cm (15½") laptop.
- Tracker have added toolbar sizing to their wish list.
All I want to do is add comments and highlight text, in existing PDFs.
- such objects are overlaid on the PDF, so they can be edited/moved/deleted, without destroying the original PDF.
- EDITOR and VIEWER do that very well

To create a PDF I use a collection of apps/programs.
Open-source AbleWord (not Abiword) can create/save DOCs as PDF, convert PDF to DOC, add images (no other bells and whistles, but it works)
- unfortunately AbleWord does not recognise EDITOR/VIEWER layers of comments/hi-lites, but it does if the shapes are "Flattened" (more in Watermarks)
- I have found free online PDF creation very weak, fuzzy fonts and washed out images.
With both free EDITOR and free VIEWER installed I have never had a nag screen in 2 years of free VIEWER and 1 year of free EDITOR. (See "Free vs Trial versions")
** Watermarks (the very intrusive black circular image) in top-left + top-right of every page.
In a few instances in free EDITOR (and free VIEWER) watermarks are created.
- so far I have discovered ...

** Flattening (feature):- will create black watermarks
- "flattening" embeds ALL comments (stamps, text, hi-lites) into the PDF document.
- to remove the temptation, "Flatten" can be dragged from the "Edit(?)" menu in Customize mode.

** Selecting any comment/object with double click appears to create the "watermarks"
- I am not an expert on this one but there is a thread on the Tracker forum outlining how it works.
To edit text in a comment, click once inside the shape -- wait for the shape selection to register -- then click once over the text contents, don't be in a hurry to get-to-editing text, and don't double click words to select

** "Stamps" can be used to insert images. If custom "Stamps" are moved -- the black watermarks are created.
- I don't know about built-in stamps

Mouse handling appears to be the culprit, even the slightest movement of the mouse while double-clicking will trigger watermarks.
FREE vs TRIAL versions
I am currently using v5.5.308.2 (build 19-Jun-2014) installed 2-July-2014 ... ZIP download
- current version is 5.5.312.1 (build 16-Feb-2015)
IME safest down load is the ZIP version (32bit/64bit) at ... ... ZIP version
- (I wonder if MSI version is what you used ?) possibly auto installs as trial ?

To create PDF I use, open-source, AbleWord (not Abiword) FREE !
- save document as PDF or DOC,
- converting PDF to DOC all content is an image
- create new DOC and saveas DOC then SaveAs PDF when done
- use free PDF-XChange Editor > Document > OCR ... to help build a searchable PDF in AbleWord and Snipping Tool (in Win7) to copy paste images into the new DOC before converting DOC to PDF
- downside of AbleWord is no help, no forum ...

[Moderator's note: Direct link to file edited out. Not allowed as per site rules.]

Thanks for this.. wasn't aware of this. BTW, the link you posted does not work... even after replacing the - with .

Gizmos will not allow me to post URLs !
Your submission has triggered the spam filter and will not be accepted.

remove "~"
replace "+" with "/" forward slash
- I checked it and it works

Thank you, it worked. And thanks for the information again. Now I know why they have been releasing updates for PdfXchange Viewer.
They are covered TommyBoy. Please follow the links given below. 1) PDF printers are reviewed in this article Best Free PDF Writer Software. 2) PDF-XChange Viewer is reviewed under this paragraph Annotate PDF Documents.

They often do, but not always. In this case, I confirmed with Universal Extractor that there are no CNET components. (Of course, the fact that does that sometimes has WOT and other implications.)

The truly intrepid could also look at that installer and roll their own version of it from the real installer by deleting unwanted components.

Agree with you Arithmomaniac. This particular download from CNET does not contain a wrapper like others do. As far as I can see, CNET has two types of download buttons shown below. The one with the "CNET Installer Enabled" needs extra caution as it may end up installing other software that users do not need. We recommend other better download sites such as if they host the same applications.     
Ah, thanks for the information. I thought CNET Secure Download meant it came with the wrapped download. I don't download from CNET now, but in this case, I guess it's okay, since I checked, and did not find Pdfill Pdf Tools as a separate download on download sites like Softpedia. It has the full package of Pdfill.