Best Free PDF Tools - General

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Introduction

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 article, multipurpose programs offering general features for merging PDF files, splitting or re-ordering pages, etc., within a single application are reviewed in the section below, while the PDF tools that are designed for a more specific task are reviewed in this section Best Free PDF Tools - Specific.

 

Best Free PDF Tools - General

PDFill PDF Tools  

A great set of pdf tools covering most functions.


Our Rating: 
5
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: 
4
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: 
4
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: 
4
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: 
4
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: 
3
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

See also more PDF tools that are reviewed in this secion Best Free PDF Tools - Specific

 

Related Products and Links

You might want to check out these articles too:

 

Editor

This category is maintained by volunteer editor Jojo Yee. Registered members can contact the editor with comments or suggestions by clicking here.

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Comments

a great add to this list is PDFWrench.com : theyre a free pdf merge tool

Just discovered "PDF Reader by Xodo", a Microsoft app that is a free download. It does it all, and it works on a desktop PC with Win 10.

While looking for a pdf to word converter after PDF Shaper stopped RTF conversion, I tried a couple of links under "Other" here.

Free PDF to Word Converter link looks sketchy. A couple pages were blocked by uBlock Origin and then I was offered a download of something else.

Free PDF to Word Doc Converter is a valid link and download, but has not been updated since January, 2012, and did not work on my Windows 10 64bit system. It loaded fine, but when I pressed the button to convert nothing happened. May just be me IDK

I did find version 8.3 of PDF Shaper (released in May, 2018 and superseded in October, 2019) as the last free version to still convert to RTF. So I am going to stick with that as I have found it pretty reliable.

From all the software listed here, I would call PDFescape the best one. By no means, a great number of editing features is restricted for free version yet else is enough to work around. For a case I need to add fillable fields or something, I have this thing, that works with all the common forms like w9 and else. If one doesn't have it purchased, it would be easier option to buy PDFescape for such purposes

Hi there! You can also include LightPDF. This free online tool has a lot to offer. it comes with converter, editor and many more. Actually, I am using this tool for a couple of month and it is very helpful. Thanks with this tool. https://lightpdf.com/

After following the link to DiffPDF (it looks wonderful for comparing PDF file content) it appears to now be a commercial product ($150). No doubt it found a lucrative niche market in the legal document arena.

Is there any link to the last free open-source version, or to any recommended alternative? Thanks!

Thanks harpo2448 for your kind feedback. I've now updated the link to the last free portable version. Check it out if it works for you.

Is there a tool for easily creating mirror margins when printing pdf documents?

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.

Thanks

HELP!!!
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
h~t~t~p:++www.ableword.net+quickstart.html
* 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 >>> http://www.foxitsoftware.com/Secure_PDF_Reader/ .... 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: http://www.unitypdf.com/ 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
tracker-software-com/forum3/viewtopic.php?f=35&t=23042&p=89101#p89119

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.
----------
NAG SCREEN
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")
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WATERMARKS
** 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 ...
http://www.tracker-software.com/product/pdf-xchange-editor ... ZIP version
- (I wonder if MSI version is what you used ?) possibly auto installs as trial ?

----------
CREATE PDF
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.]

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