What free software/app is there to edit pdf files on Mac OS X?

Specifically I am looking to edit an existing PDF file and re-save it in PDF format.

  • 4
    Are you aware that you can create a PDF file from any document you can print in OS X? If that's not sufficient, what additional features do you need in your PDF files?
    – calum_b
    Jun 20, 2011 at 19:07
  • 6
    I have one pdf file I want to edit it and save it back in pdf.
    – unk1102
    Jun 20, 2011 at 19:19
  • Hmm, okay... I'm not aware of any free software for OS X that will allow you to directly edit PDFs. smilesoftware.com/PDFpen is probably the cheapest/best-known option, but that costs $60. If you don't need to maintain the resolution independence of the original document, you could edit it in a free graphics application like GIMP and save it back out as a PDF bitmap, but I guess that's not what you want...
    – calum_b
    Jun 20, 2011 at 19:25
  • 1
    @Umesh Kacha I recognize English may not be your first language, but this is not "creating" pdfs. This is editing pdfs. You may want to edit your question.
    – ghoppe
    Jun 20, 2011 at 20:01
  • +1 for PDFpen. Besides that, there's only Acrobat Pro.
    – René
    Jun 20, 2011 at 20:08

9 Answers 9


For simple tasks like fixing typos, OpenOffice (free, ~161MB) or LibreOffice (also free, ~272 MB) do the job.

Note: there is a paid version of LibreOffice (called LibreOffice Vanilla), which is available from App Store:

LibreOffice Vanilla is based directly on the LibreOffice source code from The Document Foundation. It is recommended for users who want the convenience of installing from the App Store and getting automatic updates, compared to manually downloading and installing from The Document Foundation.

  • 3
    I had no idea LibreOffice could edit PDFs - just tried and it worked, awesome!
    – Bryan
    Jun 13, 2017 at 20:52
  • I could do this in LibreOffice, but OpenOffice just opened the PDF as gibberish text.
    – Vincent
    Jul 29, 2019 at 20:38
  • this should be the accepted answer. LibreOffice does great job
    – Olegdater
    Jan 3, 2021 at 14:13
  • Does it create a new Office document, roughly based on the layout of the original PDF, or does it actually allow editing of any kind of PDF?
    – benwiggy
    Feb 22, 2022 at 14:29
  • I think it creates an office doc that is similar to the original pdf, but at least in my test (Libre Office 7.4.2 MacOS) the result was visually similar; there seemed to be very small differences in spacing between some special characters that you only saw when directly switching between documents. Also the size of the resulting pdf was similar to the original pdf size.
    – Dietrich
    Nov 7, 2022 at 13:31

PDF creation is built into Mac OS X.

Open the app you want to create a PDF from and choose "File > Print" or "Cmd+P" and choose "PDF > Save as PDF..." from the dropdown in the bottom left of the panel.

You can then use the Preview app to rotate, crop, combine files, and more.

  • 5
    While this will create basic PDFs, you can't employ advanced PDF features like layers (to name but one) if you do it this way, hence my comment on the original question.
    – calum_b
    Jun 20, 2011 at 19:22
  • 4
    I don't see any way to edit an existing PDF using this method? "Specifically I am looking to edit an existing PDF file and re-save it" May 11, 2018 at 5:48

Have you had a look at Inkscape? It's a free, open source drawing tool. It allows importing of .PDF files and can save to .PDF as well.


Apple's built-in Preview application (free) alone sufficient to make small changes in PDF documents. When you double click on any PDF file, it opens, by default, in Preview. You can use Preview app to merge, split, mark up, annotate, and sign PDF files. Preview is the easiest solution to view, create and edit PDF documents on Mac.

With long documents or for complex editing tasks, third-party PDF editors like PDFPen or this one (cheap alternative to PDFPen) are the best bet.

  • Can you edit text?
    – User
    Nov 29, 2018 at 0:00
  • Preview only annotates; It adds a layer, it doesn't allow editing the original document.
    – Greg
    Dec 31, 2019 at 21:07
  • Personally I found Apple's built-in Preview application to be better for quick and simple editing, providing you save the file after changes. LibreOffice is nice but waaaay too much (and remarkably clunky) if I just simply want to click a checkbox on a PDF.
    – C.D.
    Jun 28, 2022 at 2:36

I can't recommend any free solution since I don't use them, but want to second PDFPen as the best in class at any price. It looks like SamucoPDF is the least expensive app in the app store currently, but it has mixed reviews on the text editing.

If you really have more time than money, you might check out Stanza Desktop or Calibre both of which offer to accept PDF as input into file formats that are easier to edit with TextEdit or another editor you may have accessible. Once you've edited, you can print to pdf since the OS provides that to any app that can print.

  • Why don't you use the built-in PDF Creation? Does the PDFPen offer something more? In iPad, I use Readdle product called PDF Expert that I like very much, it has a search over all documents and all kind of note-taking/modification/etc but no idea about Mac -products. PDFPen is also for iPad but odd that never heard about it.
    – hhh
    Oct 25, 2012 at 23:12
  • 3
    The specifics here are to edit existing PDF and I feel PDFpen is one of the best solutions for that use case. Preview doesn't edit files in a meaningful manner. You can mark up things, draw on them, add a signature, but not really edit, merge or change things like a word processor can. Clearly print to PDF is the best option if you just want to make a PDF, and Preview can merge two or more documents into one, but editing requires additional software.
    – bmike
    Oct 25, 2012 at 23:26

PDF Studio does allow to edit text content and will work for minor text edits such as changing a few words or lines, changing font, size, color... The PDF format was not designed for Word processing and content editing is very tricky. It is usually recommended to go back to the original file (Word, Excel, etc..), to work with it and save it back to PDF. If you don't have access to the original file and need to do a lot of editing, including text reflow, wrapping, etc... you should probably bite the bullet and pay for Adobe Acrobat.


There's also PDF Buddy, an online PDF editor that's really easy to use. It's a great alternative if you're not happy with Preview- especially on Snow Leopard where the Preview app is very limited.

(Disclosure: I'm a co-founder of PDF Buddy)

  • I couldn't get this tool to simply edit the existing text… it kept creating pop-up boxes above the text I wanted to edit.
    – Vincent
    Jul 29, 2019 at 20:47

The best solution is indeed, Preview... It's built into Mac OSX and is the easiest to use if you want to create/edit/view PDF files.

Thanks Apple for thinking this through! :)

  • Preview doesn't edit, it annotates. There's a big difference as annotation only adds a layer to the document, whereas editing lets us work with and edit the existing document.
    – Greg
    Dec 31, 2019 at 21:06
  • Yeah, I've learnt that the hard way too lately. While Preview can effectively 'fill up' PDF documents, commonly forms, and it can delete pages, insert pages, etc, it can't actually edit the content of pages. You're right. Jan 3, 2020 at 19:25

You can just use Apple's Preview application, built-in in Mac OS X.

If you need more advanced features, I recommend Skim.

  • Preview doesn't edit, it annotates.
    – Greg
    Dec 31, 2019 at 21:06

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