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Ever been frustrated by a PDF file? It’s funny how the PDF file format is so prevalently used, yet for most of us, it causes a lot of undue stress. Reading a PDF The 6 Best PDF Readers For Windows The 6 Best PDF Readers For Windows Most people don’t stop to think about the PDF reader they install – they just install Adobe Reader. Adobe's PDF Reader isn’t the only option, though – there are quite a few high-quality, free PDF... Read More is easy enough. Creating and editing a PDF file 4 Methods To Create & Edit PDF Files For Free 4 Methods To Create & Edit PDF Files For Free Out of all the common file types found in our computing world, PDF is probably one of the most restrictive ones, while at the same time being available for everyone to use (primarily to read).... Read More is a big harder since the process isn’t as straightforward as it could be. But if you want to do anything more than that, you may find yourself stuck.

Fortunately, the Web is full of awesome little tools that can help you alter PDF files without breaking a sweat. We won’t be covering any of the common PDF tasks, like creating, editing, or printing. Rather, let’s look at lesser known PDF tasks that may come in handy for you.

Jotti Malware Scan

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Are you diligent with your PC security habits? It’s a known truth that viruses and malware can hide inside common file formats such as EXE and ZIP, but many people overlook the fact that PDFs can also be malicious. All it takes is for you to open an infected PDF with an unsecure reader. Sounds annoying, doesn’t it?

That’s where Jotti shines. Upload your file to the website and it’ll scan through the file with 20+ different malware scanners, looking for any potential threats hiding within. The process is simple enough that it only takes a few seconds, making it fast and convenient to use for every PDF you ever encounter.

Online OCR

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Suppose you want to extract a passage of text from a PDF file. Some readers can handle that with ease, but sometimes, for one reason or another, text extraction can be a real nuisance.

One option is to use an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) tool, which scans each letter in the file and converts it into text – it sounds similar to directly converting a PDF into DOCX Three Free Tools That Convert PDF Files To Word Documents Three Free Tools That Convert PDF Files To Word Documents The PDF and DOC file formats are the bread-and-butter of modern documents. Chances are good that any specific document, be it an eBook, a study guide or a user manual, will be available in one... Read More but it’s a slightly different process.

With Online OCR, you simply upload the file (5 MB max size), select the language of the file, and select an output format (TXT, DOCX, or XLSX). The result is a file that’s stripped of most extraneous details, leaving nothing but text.

Without an account, only the first page of the PDF will be scanned. If you register a free account, you get a few more features: multi-page text extractions, extra output formats, extra recognition languages, and more. By default over 40 languages are supported, including Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

If Online OCR isn’t enough for your needs, you may find better luck with these three free OCR tools The 3 Best Free OCR Tools to Convert Your Files Back Into Editable Documents The 3 Best Free OCR Tools to Convert Your Files Back Into Editable Documents Believe it or not, some people still print documents to physical pieces of paper. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software takes those printed documents and converts them right back into machine-readable text. We've found some of... Read More instead.

Diff Now

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Have you ever had two versions of the same file and wondered what exactly changed between the two? Inspired by the DIFF utility on Unix systems, Diff Now is a web tool that lets you upload two files and compare the differences between them on a line-by-line basis. Differences are categorized as Added, Deleted, and Changed text.

In addition to PDF files, the tool also supports Microsoft documents, source code for dozens of languages, and even some archive formats.

HTML to PDF

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There are many tools out there for saving a webpage locally Never Lose That Webpage Again: 6 Ways To Read It Later On Any Platform Never Lose That Webpage Again: 6 Ways To Read It Later On Any Platform Few things are more frustrating than needing a bookmark only to find there's nothing you can do to visit it. Rest assured, however, because there's a handy solution. Read More so that you never lose it, even when the webpage itself goes down. However, one fast and simple way to do that is to use HTML to PDF, an online tool that takes a URL and converts it into a downloadable PDF.

It’s a primitive tool with few options, but it definitely has its uses. You can tell it to save the page in Portrait or Landscape mode, load or ignore images on the page, include or ignore the page’s background, run or ignore JavaScript on the page before converting, and even convert everything to grayscale in case you want to print sans color.

Unfortunately, this tool may be blocked on some networks for its ability to act as a web proxy and avoid certain web filters. (If a certain site is blocked, HTML to PDF could be used to download the page and see what’s on it.)

PDF Protect

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If you need to quickly limit access to a PDF, PDF Protect makes it easy to encrypt files with a password. What’s great about this tool is that the protection isn’t limited to simple password-protection; you can set varying permission levels to limit what users can do with the file.

Can users insert, delete, or rotate pages? Should users be able to copy or edit text and images in the file? Do you want to limit printing quality? Should the file’s metadata be encrypted? It only takes a few seconds to set up these options. PDF protection has never been this easy.

PDF Unlock

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PDF Unlock claims to “remove passwords and restrictions from secured PDF files,” though that may be a bit misleading depending on what you want. If you have a password-protected or otherwise restricted PDF file, PDF Unlock will remove those passwords and restrictions from the file but you’ll need the proper passwords to do it.

If you’re looking for a tool that will blindly strip away restrictions without needing the passwords at all, this is NOT the tool you want. In other words, it will revert a protected PDF into an unprotected PDF as long as you have the clearance to do so. Don’t get me wrong, though: this is still a nifty tool to know and it removes the nuisance of repeatedly keying in a password.

PDF Compress

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This last tool is one that will save you a lot of hard drive space over time. PDF Compress takes an uploaded PDF, performs a number of optimizations on it, then offers the compressed version back to you for free download.

If you’re wondering about its effectiveness, just know that it reduced one of the PDF ebooks in my library from 1.5 MB to 1.0 MB for a savings of 33%. The tool will save more space on image-heavy PDFs than text-heavy PDFs, though it will save you space either way.

Did you find these helpful? How often do you tinker around with PDFs? Will you be using these online tools in the future? If you know of any others that are similar, please share them with us in the comments below!

  1. Luka
    October 24, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    Very helpful article

  2. Scarlet
    January 19, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    http://PDFCompressor.com is much better then any other tools.

  3. Veron
    November 13, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    One more tool that is worth mentioning: jpg2pdf.com

  4. Max
    October 19, 2014 at 11:25 am

    Some more tools:
    pdfcompressor.com - it's much better than one mentioned in the article
    pdf2doc.com - good handling of tables

  5. Steve
    August 10, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    I rely on FoxIt Reader for most tasks, including editing, forms, printing to PDF, etc. I also must have PDFBinder to "bind" several files together into one. If all you want to do is Save as PDF (a/k/a Print to PDF) then CutePDF is a must. All 3 of these are free.

  6. Keith
    July 20, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    The easiest way that I've found to turn a web page into a PDF is to use Firefox's 'Print Edit' addon to trim the fat off of a page, then 'print' it to PDFCreator. You can get both Firefox and PDFCreator at ninite.com. (...as well as a *lot* of other software. Check it out!)

  7. Craig
    July 19, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    Or, God forbid, you just actually buy a copy of Acrobat. It can do everything listed above in MUCH higher quality because it can handle real Postscript. Further, you don't run the risk of snooping due to uploading potentially sensitive PDF files to unknown servers run by unknown people. If you need to protect your PDF file, sending it to a random site seems like a bad idea.

    • Rob
      July 19, 2014 at 8:11 pm

      Most people arent' going to buy a copy Craig...they may pirate one though.

    • JayBee
      August 4, 2014 at 2:52 pm

      Acrobat simply isn't worth the price for people who don't need all the bells and whistles. Better that people buy a simpler low-cost/free app that does only what they need rather than pirate a premium one.

  8. Catyeye
    July 19, 2014 at 1:13 am

    Joel "editing a PDF file is a big harder" or a "bit" harder

  9. Adam T
    July 19, 2014 at 12:01 am

    Another Nz Photo ? :P

  10. Jim Alix
    July 18, 2014 at 9:00 pm

    I often use PDF-XChange Viewer (free, Tracker Software) to type and draw on PDFs (think of otherwise non-interactive forms.) If I don't want the next user to be able to change my additions, I print the PDF to PDF (using Bullzip) and send the copy.

  11. Brian
    July 18, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    There is a program I use called PDFTKBuilder. It is a portable app that allows you to join, split, rotate, and stamp PDFs. It allows multiple security options as well.

  12. Bill
    July 18, 2014 at 9:35 am

    The missing feature of these PDF manipulation sites is privacy. I work with PDF bills, statements, letters, etc. I would never trust these sites with this information.

    • Craig
      July 19, 2014 at 7:41 pm

      Then buy Adobe Acrobat. It astounds me how cheap people are when it comes to software.

    • Bill
      July 19, 2014 at 11:53 pm

      @Craig I use Nitro PDF. They claim to fulfil all of the functions of Adobe Acrobat, but obviously aren't anywhere near as expensive.

    • QuirkyGal
      July 21, 2014 at 3:44 am

      I love, love, love FoxIt Phantom Business. I work in the legal field and we are heavy PDF users, editors, and creators. Best Acrobat replacement I've found to date and runs about $80-90 on the overstock or buy type websites. Most folks would be fine with the standard version but if you need to Bate stamp, redact, or create secure forms/docs the business version is what you need.

    • Joel L
      July 21, 2014 at 10:23 pm

      Unfortunately, yeah, privacy is a big issue when interfacing with ANY website. As mentioned by others, offline tools are probably best suited for that.

  13. Marcus M
    July 18, 2014 at 8:25 am

    For {any document} to PDF I use Bullzip PDF printer.

  14. Patricia
    July 18, 2014 at 7:36 am

    There's a really useful tool for splitting pdf files into more than one document - for example if you scanned three separate unrelated items together, you can split the file into three.

    http://www.splitpdf.com/

    • A41202813GMAIL
      July 18, 2014 at 3:09 pm

      If You Use The CHROME Print Option, You Can Redirect The Output To Another PDF File.

      This Way, You Can Split One Or Several Contiguous Pages.

      Cheers.

    • Joel L
      July 21, 2014 at 10:22 pm

      Very useful. I can't believe I missed it as it's made by the same creators behind a lot of the PDF tools mentioned in the article. Thanks!

  15. Tinkicker
    July 18, 2014 at 12:49 am

    HTML to PDF looks very interesting...some ways of saving webpages will only save as an HTML file.

  16. GrocerJack
    July 17, 2014 at 7:01 pm

    K2pdfopt found at: http://www.willus.com/k2pdfopt/ will format pdf's (and more) for easier reading on a Kindle - or other device. Really great software - and free.

    • Joel L
      July 21, 2014 at 10:22 pm

      Oh, now that's handy. Legible PDFs on Kindle is a huge boon!

  17. Shawn D
    July 17, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    For PDF conversion (to or from) I use zamzar.com. Works pretty good.

    For OCR I just upload the PDF to Google Docs and convert it. This is handy if you use the Google Drive scanning function in the mobile app to scan to a PDF and then convert it online later.

    • Joel L
      July 21, 2014 at 10:21 pm

      Zamzar looks quite nice! I don't like that it asks for an email to send the converted file rather than offering a straight download. That's the only downside, imo. Thanks for sharing!

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