Portable Document Format (PDF) is a great tool when you want to send a document electronically that you don’t want the recipient to edit.
But what about when you’re on the receiving end of a PDF that you need to change, such as an online form or application?
Those blank grey fields stare back at you, mocking your attempts to click on them.
Before you resort to printing the document and filling it in by hand, check out these great tools to outsmart the PDF editing restrictions and allow you to master those gray boxes once and for all.
For easy and quick edits, try PDFEscape.com. This handy online PDF editor lets you insert text notes, fill in forms and even create new forms boxes. Just click on “Click Here to Use PDFescape Now Free” and follow the steps to upload your PDF — you don’t have to download any software onto your computer.
Choose the “Start using unregistered” option if you just have one document to edit, or register to save files and access them multiple times. Once you’ve uploaded the PDF from your computer, select the edit options on the top left side of your screen. Here you can add text, use whiteout, add images or links, create a form field, or add lines. When you’re done, download and save or print your edited document.
The main drawback to PDFEscape is privacy; you’re basically uploading your files to someone else’s server. If you’re editing sensitive PDFs, consider something more secure, such as PDF-XChange Viewer. You can download PDF-Xchange from tracker-software.com. Just click on “Get Free PDF-Xchange Viewer NOW!”
After you download and install the program, you can elect to make it your default PDF viewer.
If you do, simply click on any PDF file to open the program. If you decline to set it as your default PDF viewer, open the program and drag and drop a file into it, or right click a PDF, choose “Open With,” and select PDF-Xchange Viewer.
Under “Tools” you’ll see “Comment and Markup Tools.” If you want to fill out a form, choose the typewriter tool and click anywhere on the PDF that you’d like to add text. From this menu you can highlight, add text boxes and annotate the document.
With these programs you’re still a bit limited. You’re basically just writing on the document, but what if you want to edit the actual text in the PDF?
I couldn’t find a free product that allows this, but Nitro Pro is a full-featured program that lets you do just about anything to a PDF, including editing text or converting scanned documents into editable PDFs.
Start by downloading the trial version from nitropdf.com, and then open a PDF file. Click the giant edit button and double click the text you want to change.
You can annotate, add images, add pages and manipulate the PDF in just about any way imaginable. You can even export the document to Microsoft Word or Excel for major revisions.
One of the coolest options in Nitro Pro is to scan a document (which creates a PDF file) and then use the program to convert it into an editable document.
This Optical Character Recognition technology has a bevy of great uses. For example, if you need to make changes to a lengthy contract, you can now edit the text without requiring hand-written strikethrough. If you have a brochure with outdated information, you can change the portion you need without having to pay the creator to make you a new one.
All this functionality comes at a price: The full version of Nitro Pro is US$120. However, Adobe charges over $400 for a comparable product.
Andrea Eldridge is CEO of Nerds on Call, a company based in Redding, Calif., that offers on-site computer and home theater set-up and repair. Contact her at www.callnerds.com/andrea