How to Edit PDFs (Including Editing Scanned PDFs)

The PDF format is now one of the most common ways in which businesses distribute pertinent information regarding various aspects of their operation. This could be in the form of white papers, case studies, tutorials, financial and other reports, operation manuals, and so on. The problem with PDF is that it requires a PDF editor in order to make any changes to the information inside, whether that’s text, images, links, media, or any combination of those content types.

In fact, there are far more tools available to read or view a PDF file than there are to edit one; for example, even browsers like Google Chrome can act as PDF readers. The challenge is to find a way to edit PDF so the information can be altered while staying true to the layout, fonts, and other attributes.

Using a PDF editor (such as the professional Adobe Acrobat or popular PDFelement) is certainly the best method, especially with PDFs containing complex layouts, but there are also some workaround methods to achieve this. Read on to learn more about how to edit PDFs, including editing a scanned PDF document.

Method 1: Use Google Docs

Google Docs is a versatile product from the G Suite family of cloud-based document management tools. Not only does it offer several add-ons to help you edit PDFs but it can also convert a PDF into its native Docs format and allow you to edit the file. Of course, you’ll need to convert the file back to PDF when you download it, but Docs has you covered there as well.

Here’s what you need to do in order to edit a PDF document using Google Docs:

1) Log in to your Google account on a PC or Mac and open the Google Drive app.
2) Click on the New button on the top left side of your screen under the Drive logo.
3) Choose File Upload as the action option.

4) Navigate to your PDF file and double-click to upload the document into Drive.

5) You will now see the PDF file in your Drive files. Right-click the file and choose Open With and then Google Docs. If you can’t find the file because you already have a lot of PDFs in that location, simply look inside the Recents folder on the left-side navigation pane and open the file with Google Docs.

6) The file will be converted into the Docs format and open in a new tab. Alternatively, you’ll be able to see a new file in the same folder and with the same name but as a different file type, indicating that Docs has created a native version of the PDF file. Double-click to open it.
7) Edit the file as you would normally edit a Docs file. When you’re done, click on File → Download → PDF Document and select the target location to save it.

Method 2: Use MS Word

Microsoft Word also has a PDF conversion utility built into it, which is why you can save a Word document as a PDF file. For our process, we’ll do the reverse, which means converting a PDF to .doc or .docx and opening it for editing inside the Word application. Here are the steps:

1) Launch MS Word and click on File → Open.
2) Navigate to and select your PDF in File Explorer. Confirm with OK to open.

3) A copy of the file will be converted into Word and displayed in the application window, ready for editing. The original file will be as it is so don’t worry about losing it. You’ll see an alert message where you need to click OK to confirm the conversion.
4) Once you finish editing, click on Save As… and select PDF as the output file; save it to the desired location. Make sure you give it a different name from the original or it will overwrite the PDF you used as the source file.

Method 3: Use an Online PDF Editor

There are tons of free PDF editors online where you don’t need to download anything or even pay a fee. Most will force a watermark on your output file, which might not be useful to you; however, there are a few like PDF Pro that will let you make edits on top of the existing content and download the resulting file as a PDF without adding a watermark.

The only problem with this process is that you only have 3 credits before you get locked out of the editing feature. Still, it’s a reasonably good way to do a one-off edit every now and then. Here’s how to edit PDFs on the PDF Pro website:

1) Go to the PDF Pro website at this URL.

2) You can now either click the green button to upload your file or simply drag and drop it into the web page.

3) Once it’s uploaded, it will show you a list. Select the uploaded file and click on Open PDF on the right side.

4) After a few seconds of loading, you’ll see your PDF file on the screen. Click on Edit in the top toolbar options and wait for the file to reload in Edit mode.

5) While you can’t edit the existing text, you can hit the Erase option, white-out the existing text, and then use the Text option in the toolbar to write over it. The challenge here is to match the font and size so it looks like an edit to the existing text.

6) When you’re done, simply click the Export button at the top. You’ll see that the file name has been appended; you can keep it as it is or change it, then save the file to your chosen folder location.

With all of these methods, you’ll notice one problem or another. In the case of Docs and Word, you might see alignment and layout differences; with online tools, unless they’re premium utilities, you generally won’t be able to edit existing content, merely overlay new content after masking it with the eraser tool. In all these cases, the resulting output might not be useable or shareable. So, what’s to be done?

The proper solution would be to use a PDF editor that can quickly deal with the issue by letting you edit the content directly and saving the file. To that end, we’ve highlighted PDFelement, which offers a Standard and Pro version for Windows and Mac. And the best part is that you can directly edit text and images in PDF files with the iOS or Android app as well, giving you a tremendous amount of flexibility.

Method 4: PDFelement (Standard and Pro)

PDFelement offers a wide range of features for editing, annotations, converting, form management, creation, protecting, signing, sharing, and optimizing PDF files. The edit feature is very simple and intuitive, and you’ll be done in a matter of minutes instead of having to find workarounds that, let’s admit it, don’t really work out! There are two types of editing described here: the first one is a simple edit done using the Standard version; the second is performing OCR on a scanned document and making it editable. So here goes:

Edit Type 1: Edit PDF with PDFelement Standard

1) Install and launch PDFelement Standard for Windows or Mac based on the OS you’re running.

2) Click the Open File option, navigate to your PDF, and open the document. Alternatively, you can click the Edit PDF module in the main software window to achieve the same result.
3) In the row of tabs at the very top, click on Edit. This will show you a whole set of editing tools for text, images, and other elements of the PDF.

4) Click the element you want to edit and make whatever changes you need to. You’ll notice that an intuitive tool panel slides in from the side to give you exactly what you need to alter the properties of that content element.

5) After making the changes, simply click on File → Save to preserve your changes. The original file has now been edited to your specifications and saved in the same location. That prevents duplication of files and confusion around versions.

Edit Type 2: Perform OCR on Scanned PDF and Edit It with PDFelement Pro

1) The only difference here is a matter of one extra click and the fact that this action requires the free plugin that comes with PDFelement Pro. When a document that’s been scanned is opened with PDFelement Pro, the software will detect that and offer to perform OCR.

2) Click on the Perform OCR button and select the option to make it editable.

3) Wait for the OCR plugin to do its job. When it’s done, you can simply follow Steps 3, 4, and 5 from Edit Type 1 above.

Based on your specific requirement, one of these four ways to edit a PDF should serve the purpose. Of course, using PDFelement is the best way to go if you want to save time and get the job done right, but the choices are there for you.

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