You don’t have to install software just to fill in or edit a PDF.
If you’re stuck on a computer that doesn’t let you set up your own tools and is lacking a program like Adobe Reader, which comes with simple form filling and signature features, you can turn to online solutions for all your PDF editing needs.
Here are six simple ways you can edit PDFs online, right in your browser. No downloading required.
1. Google Drive
You can accomplish a lot with PDFs right in Google Drive! We wrote a roundup of 10 PDF tips with Google Drive.
One notable Google Drive PDF feature is Optical Character Recognition (OCR). When you have a PDF where the text was saved as an image, you typically can’t search it. However, if you save it in Google Docs, it becomes searchable.
In my test, it got rid of the image that was in the document, and stripped the text of their color and fonts.
You could use it to scan photographs of receipts, handwritten notes, and other paper items into PDF format with the Google Drive mobile Android App. Google Drive will also get rid of the background, and make sure that the PDF it saves is high-contrast and easy to read.
Google Drive also lets you connect to a host of other online apps from the Chrome App Store to give you other PDF editing abilities.
2. Nitro’s PDF Converters
If all you need is your Word doc to or from PDF, or a PDF to Excel or Powerpoint, you have got to check out Nitro’s suite of online converters.
All you have to do is click on the drop down to choose what file type you’re converting to or from, select and upload the file for converting, and enter your email address. Nitro will convert the file and email it straight to your inbox. It couldn’t be easier.
We first wrote about PDFescape back in 2008, and it has evolved a lot since then.
Aside from user interface improvements, it has received a variety of new features. You can now highlight, draw, and add text, images links, and annotations of all kinds.
You can also add a few types of form fields like checkboxes, radio buttons, and text boxes for people to fill in. You’ll have to make sure to draw rectangles around the form fields though to make it clear that they’re interactive spaces upon download.
PDFescape also lets you easily modify the document as a whole, letting you move, rotate, crop, and add extra pages from other PDF documents.
Additionally, PDFescape no longer adds a watermark logo to the forms you save – hooray!
4. Online2PDF Converter
If you just need to make quick changes to a PDF document as a whole, there’s a good chance Online2PDF will do what you need it to.
Online2PDF will let you convert a wide variety of files back and forth between PDF, including other kinds of documents, images, MSOffice documents, OpenDocuments, and website XPS files.
Occasionally, you might need to combine different files into a PDF. Rather than convert spreadsheets, docs, and slides each into PDF and then combine those into a single PDF, Online2PDF lets you convert and merge up to 20 different files together in one fell swoop.
You can also use Online2PDF to change your document’s page composition, rearrange the order, add, remove, or split files. It’s a quick and easy way to, say, combine a resumé, cover letter, and portfolio sample into one file for a prospective employer, for example.
As for more unique features, you can rely on Online2PDF to remove password protection from PDFs, add headers and footers, and compress PDFs to reduce file size.
PDFfiller’s main offering is to make it easy for you to fill in PDFs. You can add text, checkmarks, Xs, circles, dates, pictures, and even add e-signatures easily.
One of the coolest aspects of PDFfiller are the many ways it lets you sign a document. You can draw it on a touchscreen, use your mouse, type it as text, photograph a signature with your webcam, or upload an image.
I tested the webcam function, and it works great. You sign a sheet of paper and hold it up to the camera, align it in a blue rectangle space, and it captures it. Then it automatically strips away the background.
You can then change the brightness and contrast, and edit your signature as needed to make sure your signature appears the way you like it.
No longer will you have to deal with the hassle of printing out pdf forms, signing, and scanning the whole thing back just to get a signature on it. Brilliant.
PDFfiller also has an extensive array of ways you can import documents to it. You can upload documents, import PDFs from a URL, connect it to 3rd party cloud services like Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, or OneDrive.
If you’re on a computer that doesn’t have Microsoft Office installed and you need to work with any Microsoft Office files, you can get a lot done with Office Online. You can work with a variety of filetypes, including PDFs.
Like many services, Office Online will let you download files to PDF format.
Office Online will also let you open converted copies of PDF files in Word for editing, too. What’s unique here is you can edit the content of the original file, unlike other services that just let you add to it or fill in forms.
I tested it with a PDF of mine. Word Online warns that the layouts sometimes change, and like it said, it doesn’t necessarily hit the mark adequately.
Office Online has no trouble with layout when things flow from top to bottom, but it doesn’t necessarily parse parts that sit side-by-side. It gets colors and images right. However, it doesn’t have all the fonts that could possibly be in the PDF, so that might change.
Office Online seems to try to choose fonts that look similar to the original, which works for documents where the font wasn’t very important. It doesn’t really work at all if you’ve chosen your font carefully though for a graphic or layout design. You’ll really just have to try it yourself to see if it handles your PDF well enough.
What’s Your PDF Challenge?
PDFs are kind of a tricky file type: they’re designed to render properly everywhere, and they’re not supposed to be easy to edit. However, we all need to edit them from time to time.
Fortunately, you can choose from plenty of ways to edit PDFs on your Android or iPhone. You can even find some PDF editing tricks right in Chrome’s built-in PDF viewer. For documents that contain sensitive data, you should look for a desktop PDF editor.
What annoys you about working with PDFs? Which workarounds have you found? Comment below to let us know about your favorite, under-appreciated software that helps you out with them – we’d love to hear about it.