Introduction:
Despite the fact that users are accustomed to paying for commercial PDF editors like Adobe Acrobat, Foxit PDF, and SwifDoo PDF, there are other types of PDF editors that allow you to edit a PDF with no cost: open source PDF editor.

Akin to commercial PDF editors, open source PDF editors allow users to add, convert, annotate, as well as password-protect your PDF documents. Take a look at this list of selected top open source PDF editors available on Windows, Mac and Linux. Enjoy!

summary

Before we go any deeper, the table below summarizes the highlights and basic information of the mentioned open source PDF editor.

product-comparison

LibreOffice

Libre Office is a trustworthy open source PDF reader widely recommended by Reddit netizens and accepted by millions of users globally, including certain governmental sectors. This freeware comprises the most multi-functional Office suite: Writer (word processing), Calc (spreadsheets); Impress (presentations); Draw (vector graphics and flowcharts); Base (databases); and Math (formula editing).

With multiple tools available, it seeks to improve working efficiency. It works well with Windows, Mac, and Linux, with the file size of 298 MB. Let’s explore how to edit a PDF with LibreOffice Draw.

libreoffice-interface

LibreOffice Draw enables user to:

  1. Add, copy, paste, and highlight text to or from the current PDF;
  2. Insert image, chart, table and media into the PDF;
  3. Adjust the alignment and spacing;
  4. Change the page orientation, margin, indent, font size, color;
  5. Add multiple shapes to pages;
  6. Insert or delete pages from the PDF document.

The editor only lists the most impressive features, and LibreOffice is definitely worth a try if you are looking for a free open source PDF editor. Personally, when testing this freeware, it feels like I'm using Microsoft Word to apply certain changes to an editable file format rather than a hard-to-edit PDF document.  

However, as someone on Reddit has mentioned, LibreOffice is an incredible free open source PDF editor, but it also corrupts the original formatting. According to our test results (see the above image), the text box was slightly deviated from the center.

Pros

  • It supports multiple Microsoft Office formats, including Excel, PowerPoint, Word.
  • Users can add annotations to a PDF file
  • Automatic detection for existing PDF layouts and elements
  • Feature-rich tools;

Cons

  • Limited exporting options available;
  • No cloud storage choice;
  • Complex user interface requiring steep learning curve;

To sum it up, LibreOffice Draw can be regarded as an amazing PDF editor without registration or payment. Its open source lets you maintain and upgrade the software anytime. On condition that you may need an open source PDF editor on your Android or iOS device, you can try Collabora, a professional PDF tool based on LibreOffice.

PDFsam Basic

Don’t be fooled by the name “Basic”, PDFsam is actually a powerful free open source PDF management tool. Different from LibreOffice Draw, PDFsam is a good PDF merger and splitter. PDFsam provides three different modules, namely Basic, Enhanced and Visual. Every module has its own features, and PDFsam Enhanced is their PDF editor. Let’s take a closer look at how they differentiate from each other:

pdfsam-enhanced

PDFsam Basic (free): Rotate; split (by file size or bookmarks); mix; extract (single page or specific page range); and merge PDF files (including bookmarks, forms, and table of contents);

pdfsam-enhanced

pdfsam-basicPDFsam Enhanced (partially free): View (PDF, ePub, and .cbr/.cbz file); create PDF (from images, scanner, or MS Office files); convert (MS Office formats, HTML, RTF, images, and TXT); edit (add, cut, copy and paste text); add watermark, header, footer; annotate PDF; fillable PDF forms; secure PDF documents; and OCR (for recognizing characters)  

PDFsam Visual (free for two weeks): Compress; reorganize and combine PDF pages; convert images to PDF; convert PDF to grayscale; delete pages; password protect PDF; and crop PDF documents.

Pros

  • Compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux
  • Has a clean user-interface;
  • Different versions for meetingdifferent needs;
  • Multiple related features;

Cons

  • Long installation process;
  • It lacks customer support;

PDFedit

PDFedit is a free and lightweight open source PDF editor. To be honest, the first impression this PDF freeware gives is a rather old product, developed several years ago. Although the design does not follow trends, it is intuitive enough and users can easily navigate to what they may need. This PDF editor lets users read, change and extract information from a PDF file. In addition, this tool is compatible with Windows 7/8/10.

With PDFedit, users can access the following features:

  1. Insert text, link and images;
  2. Change color, font, font size of the inserted text, and how the inserted text displays;
  3. Add and remove highlight, and change the color of the highlighted area;
  4. Convert the current PDF to a text file;
  5. Search
  6. Snapshot
  7. Add bookmarks and comments to the PDF;

pdfedit-ui

Pros

  • Small file size
  • Simple user interface and easy to navigate

Cons

  • Limited features
  • Occasional crashes for no reasons
  • No recent update as the latest version released in 2014

Okular

Strongly recommended by Reddit netizens, we decided to give Okular a try, and the truth is that this free open source PDF editor performs way better than my expectation. This freeware is a universal PDF document viewer developed by KDE.  

With a minimalist design style, Okular is compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux, which is convenient for cross-platform users. Take a look at the following to see how Okular can benefit you:

  1. Add bookmark;
  2. Table/area selection;
  3. Select text on current page or whole document for copying;
  4. Speak selected text and whole document;
  5. Add and delete annotation;
  6. Add sticky/pop-up note;
  7. Overview view mode for continuous reading.

okular-ui

As described earlier, Okular is a PDF reader. Perhaps Okular isn’t an eligible PDF editor since users cannot edit text on the PDF, but personally, this freeware is an amazing and powerful open source PDF reader and annotator. Even more so, Okular is safe to download because the stable release of it is available on Microsoft Store. If there is any problem using this open source PDF reader, please refer to its instructional handbook

Pros

  • Organized layout ;
  • Multiple annotating tools;
  • Different view modes to meet diversified PDF reading needs

Cons

  • Limited editing features

Apache OpenOffice Draw

Different from the above mentioned PDF editors, Apache enables users to edit presentations, spreadsheets and Word documents. What’s more, users are able to draw charts & graphs, add shapes, and edit databases with sits graphics-based editor.

 apache-interface

With Apache OpenOffice, you can easily edit PDF, DOCX, DOC, HTML, and TEXT documents. But before you open a PDF document using Apache OpenOffice, you need to download an extension PDF Import (for Apache OpenOffice) and then add it to the software. That is to say, the open source PDF editor cannot directly edit a PDF without the help of a plug-in. It can help users to:

  1. Add text, and change style, line spacing as well as alignment;
  2. Add images, shapes and objects to the PDF;
  3. Select and replace text;
  4. Highlight text and reorder PDF pages;
  5. Change the position and size of the PDF

Pros

  • Lots of options in editing PDF documents;
  • Ability to create diagrams;
  • Compatibility with different file formats;
  • Built-in spell-checker.

Cons

  • Difficulty in opening a PDF document;
  • Slow performance when it comes to large files.
  • Possibility of corrupting the original formatting

Wrapping Up

During our review, we have screened out softwares having less relevance to PDF editing, such as InkScape, a vector graphics editor. Among all listed products, LibreOffice is the most comprehensive open source PDF editor. But as we have said before, every open source program has its own unique features. Users should take into account their actual needs for a PDF editor.

Common FAQ about 5 Top Open Source PDF Editors in 2021

Q:What is open source software?

Open source software is software with source code that allows anyone to inspect and modify. Open source is a type of licensing agreement that allows users to freely modify a work, use said work in new ways, integrate the work into a larger project or derive a new book based on the original.

This idea originates from the tech community. They want the knowledge is widely shared so that the entire community benefits from this mode, which is conducive to the development of technology.

Q:Is there any free PDF editor?

Open source means every user can access for FREE. Of course, there are certain free commercial PDF editors out there, like SwifDoo PDF for example. Each registered user can use SwifDoo PDF's basic features, a lightweight but useful PDF editor.

Roche

Roche has been an active PDF user for 6 years and tried different types of professional PDF tools (both online and desktop version) since at his bachelor degree. Now, Roche works as a columnist for SwifDoo PDF over the course of the last one year, and provides useful and practical solutions pertaining to various PDF topics for users from different features.

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