Best Free PDF Tools - General



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: 
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...

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...

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...

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

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:



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

Back to the top of the article.

Please rate this article: 

Your rating: None
Average: 4.3 (158 votes)


3 years later, an update with my experience:

Summary: PDF-XChange Editor Portable was able to edit text and save without a watermark.

I downloaded PDF-XChange Editor Portable today from PortableApps.

It ran the installer, and installed to a local usb folder. Not sure how portable it actually was.

I was able to edit text, but not lines, shapes, images, etc. If I did edit those paid-only features, it warned me, it would save with a watermark. I just edited text and it saved with no watermark, and I used FoxIt Reader to search for the changed text and the old text was no longer found.

{Moderator's note: Direct links to file removed. 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.
Not recommended, since CNET uses its own wrapper with the download, which is what we advise our users to avoid.
Thanks for the info Arithmomaniac.

I regularly merge a lot of PDFs into various files and have found PDF Redirect to be the easiest to use, mainly because of the thumbnail views of the files being merged.

Also, it keeps the list of files after merging. If you need to change one of the files, or add or delete files, it's easy to regenerate the merge.

This program apparently hasn't been updated for a while (I could suggest features) but it's surely worth an honorable mention.

Irfanview with the plugins and with Ghostscript installed can also merge PDFs.

Checking if your source PDF contains searchable text or imaged text may help.

please answer me which of these allows one to change the style of all text in a pdf in one move for printing.

@innn, this needs to modify the font properties of text in a pdf file using a pdf editor which is usually not free. Another way is to convert a pdf file to another file format for editing. See also: How to Modify Font Properties of the Text in a PDF A PDF File Allows Editing in 100% Layout Accuracy

Was searching twitter for tools and came across this awesome free PDF to Word converter called Convertii! Maybe it's worth adding to the list?

Excellent review!

Not sure if it's been pointed out yet or not, but you can "watermark" in PDFTK Builder. It's more cumbersome than toolkits that come with watermarking standard.

What I did to watermark was create a Word doc with the watermark I wanted and formatted it appropriately with line weights, font size, location on the document. Save it as a pdf.

Open up PDFTK Builder and select the Background/Stamp tab. Choose the Source PDF Document (the one to put the watermark in) then choose the Background or Stamp PDF Page (the watermark created in Word). Choose background or stamp then save it.

Like I said, more cumbersome than it has to be, but it can be done.


Some days ago I stumbled upon yet another freeware PDF tool that imo deserves its place on this page: PDF Shaper from Glorylogic (
Key features:
- extract text, images of other objects from single or multiple PDFs
- convert PDF to Word RTF or image, or convert image to PDF
- extract pages from PDF and save them as separate PDF files
- combine several PDF files into single PDF
- encrypt and decrypt PDF with password, set user permissions
- sign PDF or rotate pages
- nice and clean user interface

Thanks Geert for a good suggestion. PDF Shaper has now been included in this article, with a note on a bundled component as highlighted by MC.
Thank you for the suggestion Geert. :) Like a lot of the software in this category, PDF Shaper is bundled with unwanted components so users need to take care during the installation process to avoid these. MC - Site Manager.

Some PDF is not free.

It only extracted 5 pages then quit unless I purchased it.


Just downloaded and installed "PDF Creator". No sign of "Open Candy"
BUT ...
10MB download turned into a 46MB installation. Cloud sourced "updates". BS!!
My custom install folder was nominated as "C:\Programs2"
PDF Creator installed in correct folder
PDF Architect -- dumped secretly installed in "C:\Program Files"
Photo Notifier and Animation Creator -- secretly installed in "C:\Program Files"

Not worth the 46MB when I can get free "PDF-XChange at 22MB without any secrecy.

All touted "PDF Architect" features are only available with more downloads.
ie, Create, Convert, Insert, Review, Secure and Sign, Forms.
So what is PDF Creator providing.
The last tab on "PDF Architect" is "Activate/Register" ... activation = $$$
I will be trialing another freebie from those discussed on this blog
I do not like being lied to.

I pay/donate for programs that are up front and honest.

I have stopped using PdfCreator for these reasons. Earlier, I used to use it because it was from Sourceforge, and it was free. But, later on, PdfCreator started to become increasingly bloated with bundled extras. It's not worth using anymore. I have switched to DoPdf since then. Haven't used PdfCreator since a few years now. It's a shame what they do to a good software.

The installer for PDFsam is now bundled with OpenCandy. The first paragraph on the download page says: "The downloads may include advertisement offers to finance further development, read here why." If you click on the words "read here" and then scroll down to the paragraph that says: "I don’t care, give me my free beer!" and click on the words "found here" you will be taken to Sourceforge where you can download an OpenCandy-free version, which also happens to be a portable version of PDFsam (Zip file, no installation required). Love PDFsam, works great! Thanks for the great article!

Many thanks for the useful info CB. It's now updated in the review.
I tried to download this, the installer has opencandy.

FYI: DigiSigner is not freeware as far as I can tell. There is a trial.

Good info PaulJRichardson. Apparently the latest version has turned commercial but you might want to check out the last free version which is still available for download from third party websites. One of them is shown at the Quick Selection Guide.