Mac Productivity Windows

The Best Free PDF Tools for Offices Running Windows or Mac

Joel Lee 10-10-2017

While all-in-one PDF suites that can do everything exist, they can cost quite a bit. For example, Nitro Pro is $160, PDF Studio is $90, and Adobe Acrobat Pro DC will set you back $15 per month. If you’d rather not pay a single cent, then we have some good and bad news for you.


The good news? Free PDF tools abound The 6 Best PDF Readers for Windows in 2019 The best PDF readers don't cost any money. Read our roundup of feature-rich PDF viewers that out perform even Adobe Reader. Read More and many of them deliver acceptable results. The bad news? You’ll have to collect several different tools and assemble your own “PDF suite” a la carte (if you want the very best results).

In this article, you’ll find Windows and Mac recommendations for the best tool to use for the following specific PDF use-cases: viewing, annotating/editing, signing, merging, and splitting.

For Viewing PDFs

Windows: SumatraPDF

The Best Free PDF Tools for Offices Running Windows or Mac pdf read sumatra

I switched to SumatraPDF years ago and have never looked back, and for one main reason: it’s the fastest and most lightweight PDF viewer I’ve ever used. Even on an ancient laptop that’s breathing its last breaths, SumatraPDF is blazing fast while providing accurate PDF rendering.

But it’s only a PDF viewer. It does not have capabilities for editing, signing, annotating, or otherwise changing PDF documents. In addition to PDF, SumatraPDF can view EPUB, MOBI, XPS, CBR, and several other formats.


Not happy with SumatraPDF? Check out these other lightweight PDF viewers for Windows 4 Very Light Alternatives to Adobe Reader Are you still using Adobe Reader for PDF documents? It's time to move on to an alternative PDF reader that is lightweight, launches quickly, and yet keeps your documents save. Read More .

Mac: Skim

The Best Free PDF Tools for Offices Running Windows or Mac pdf app mac skim

Preview is the PDF viewer of choice for most Mac users, and to be fair, Preview certainly can get the job done — and the fact that you don’t have to install anything to use it is a bonus. But if you want a faster PDF viewer with better usability, consider using Skim.

Skim was originally designed for viewing scientific papers in PDF form, but it has since evolved into a general purpose viewer. It’s extremely fast, lightweight, and easy to navigate (even for huge documents with many pages and images). Note that the site looks outdated, but the app is still being updated.


Don’t like Skim or Preview? Check out these alternative Mac apps for reading PDFs 4 Best Free Mac Preview Alternatives for Reading PDFs If you're looking for a free Preview replacement for your PDF reading habit, here are the best free options out there. Read More .

For Annotating/Editing PDFs

Windows: PDF-XChange Editor

The Best Free PDF Tools for Offices Running Windows or Mac pdf edit xchange

PDF-XChange Editor is one of the only free tools that allows true editing of text in PDF documents. However, you can only edit text. Editing any other content type (e.g. lines, shapes, images, etc.) is a paid feature.

Indeed, PDF-XChange Editor isn’t completely free. If you utilize any of the paid features, which are marked with an [x] icon in the menus, your PDF will be stamped with a non-revertable watermark as soon as you save! Removing the watermark requires a paid license, which costs $43.50.


Paid features include inserting or deleting pages, replacing pages, editing forms, headers and footers, anything involving bookmarks, and more. However, other notable free features include text box notes, highlighting, sticky notes, and drawing lines and shapes.

Mac: Preview

The Best Free PDF Tools for Offices Running Windows or Mac pdf app mac preview

Unfortunately, we did not find any reputable free tools that can truly edit PDFs on Mac — only tools that can annotate and fill out documents. The best free tool we found is Mac’s default app, Preview.

Preview’s annotation options include highlighting, text box notes, drawn shapes, and embedded document notes (only viewable when the PDF is opened using Preview). It can also fill out most PDF forms, including text fields and checkboxes. But if it can’t, you can just use a text box note instead.


For Signing PDFs

Windows and Mac: Foxit Reader

The Best Free PDF Tools for Offices Running Windows or Mac pdf sign foxit

Foxit Reader is a free PDF app that offers five ways to protect a PDF document:

  1. PDF Sign: Hand-drawn signatures to verify authenticity.
  2. DocuSign: Electronic signatures using DocuSign eSignatures.
  3. Sign & Certify: Digital text signatures embedded on document pages.

In addition, Foxit Reader also offers a Validation feature (which checks if a PDF document adheres to ISO standards, thus ensuring it will be usable at any point in the future) and a Time Stamp feature (which uses a third-party service to verify that signatures were signed at a particular time).

Foxit Reader is seen as bloated by some, but we recommend keeping it around just for these signature and security features. Still don’t want to use it? Check out these other methods for signing PDF documents 8 Ways To Sign A PDF From Windows, Mac & Mobile Platforms When you get that contract via email, what do you do? You have to print the last page, sign it, scan it, and email it back — surely MakeUseOf, there must be a better way? Read More .

For Merging PDFs

Windows and Mac: PDFsam

The Best Free PDF Tools for Offices Running Windows or Mac pdf merge windows mac

Formerly known as PDF Split and Merge, PDFsam is the best way to merge multiple PDF documents into one. It’s open source and completely free for personal use, and it works on any platform that supports the Java Runtime Environment — that means Windows, Mac, Linux, and more.

You can select any number of input PDFs, and you can designate which pages you want to merge for each PDF. If the PDFs have bookmarks or outlines, you can decide to keep, merge, or discard them. You can also create a Table of Contents for the resulting PDF. It’s all quite easy.

Other nifty features include mixing PDFs (combining documents by alternating pages), rotating PDFs (applied to all pages), extracting PDFs (creating a new document using only certain pages from a source PDF), and splitting PDFs (but we recommend using the method below for this).

For Splitting PDFs

Windows and Mac: Web Browser

These days, you do NOT need a dedicated tool for splitting PDFs. Your web browser, as long as you’re using one of the mainstream ones, is equipped with a simple feature that can handle this for you with full flexibility.

The Best Free PDF Tools for Offices Running Windows or Mac pdf split windows

On Windows 10, open any PDF in any web browser:

  1. Print the PDF document (keyboard shortcut Ctrl + P).
  2. Change the destination to Microsoft Print to PDF.
  3. Select which pages you want to keep. Want to split a 10-page document in half? Go with 1-5 or 6-10, for example. Want only certain pages? You might go with 3,6,8. You can also combine them, like 1-3,6-8,10.
  4. Click Print.

The Best Free PDF Tools for Offices Running Windows or Mac pdf split mac

On Mac, open any PDF in any web browser:

  1. Print the PDF document (keyboard shortcut Command + P).
  2. Change Pages to Range and input which pages you want to split off.
  3. In the lower-left corner, click the PDF menu and select Save as PDF.
  4. Give a name to the resulting PDF and click Save.

Unfortunately, Mac’s print-to-PDF option isn’t as flexible as Windows 10, but it’s good enough for simple splitting. If you need more complex functionality, consider using PDFsam (mentioned above).

A Few More PDF Tips

We’ve covered several other PDF-related tips in the past, including how to extract images from PDFs How to Extract Images From a PDF and Use Them Anywhere PDF files can be containers for embedded images. We show you how to extract images from a PDF file and save them to your desktop. Read More , all the cool things you can do with PDFs on Google Drive 10 Tips to Do More With Your PDF Files on Google Drive Google Drive is a full-featured office suite. Some of its key features include the PDF capabilities built into the cloud app. Read More , and ways to convert PDF documents (into images 6 Ways to Convert a PDF to a JPG Image Read More and into Word documents How to Convert PDF to Word for Free PDF to Word converters are a dime a dozen. We have compiled the 5 best ones you can get for free, for both on- and more secure offline use. Read More ).

If you’re making PDFs of your own, be sure to keep these tips for reader-friendly PDFs Make Your PDF Files More Accessible & Reader Friendly with these Tips Any good PDF needs to be accessible to communicate ideas — follow these tips to make sure your document hits the target. Read More  in mind. Nothing worse than trying to read a poorly-formatted document!

What are your favorite PDF tools? Are there any we missed? Share them with us in the comments below!

Related topics: PDF, PDF Editor, Preview App.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. as
    November 2, 2017 at 7:06 pm

    Why not mention Master PDF. It is free for personal use only on linux but it is a full pdf editing app. For windows it ads watermark on save.

  2. Dick Ames
    October 11, 2017 at 4:42 am

    I am looking for a PDF app that can delete pages from a scanned document. I clip articles out of old car magazines to digitize via scanner. I frequently end up with an 8 page clipping with 2 pages of ads in the middle. I would like to find a tool that can open the resulting PDF and remove the useless pages. Any suggestions?

    • ReadandShare
      October 13, 2017 at 3:59 pm

      Try the free PDF24. You can add, delete, rearrange pages either within the same file or combining different files. Also, very easy to use as pages are displayed graphically.