Tech Savvy Tips and Tricks: Edit and Merge PDFs

Lesson 6: Edit and Merge PDFs


Edit and merge PDFs with these free online tools

Adobe PDF documents are one of the most commonly used file types today. If you've ever downloaded a printable form or document from the Web, such as an IRS tax form, there's a good chance it was a PDF file. You may already have Adobe Reader on your computer for viewing PDFs. One reason they're so popular is that they can help to preserve document formatting, which means PDFs look exactly the same on any device. And unlike other file types, such as Microsoft Word documents, most PDFs are intended for viewing, not editing.

However, there may be times when you need to make small edits to PDF files, such as adding a comment or highlighting text. Or perhaps you need to combine separate PDFs into a single file. For example, you might want to combine your cover letter and resume into a single PDF to make sure they stay together. Adobe Reader doesn't have any editing capabilities, and other PDF editing software may require a paid subscription.

If you can't afford PDF editing software, or if you just don't need all of the features it offers, there are many free online tools you can use for simple PDF editing. However, many of these tools also display misleading advertisements or ask you to sign up or pay for services you don't really need. We've done our best to weed though these sites to bring you a short list of the most reliable and trustworthy tools.


If you want to make simple annotations to a PDF, such as highlighting text or adding comments, DocHub is one of our favorite tools. It also allows you to add text to documents, which means you can use it to fill out PDF forms. However, you cannot edit or remove any existing text from the file. Do note that you will have to create an account to use these features.

Office Online

If you need to edit the actual text of a PDF file, we recommend Microsoft's Office Online suite. Office Online is a free, simplified version of Microsoft Office that you can access from any web browser. One of its best features is the option to convert a PDF to a Word document.

selecting Convert from the Word Online dialog box

You can then make changes to the actual text of the PDF, add and delete entire pages, and more. When you're done, you can download the file—Office Online can convert it back to a PDF if you prefer. Note that the formatting of the PDF may not always be preserved if you're converting a long or complex document. In our experience, however, we've found this tool to be the most reliable way to actually edit the text of a PDF file online.


SmallPDF is really powerful tool. For example, you can upload multiple PDF files and then download a combined version as a single PDF file. You can also break up a larger PDF file into multiple documents, compress to make your PDF files smaller, and even convert a PDF to a Microsoft Word document (or vice versa). There are limitations for how many documents you can upload and after the maximum is reached, you may be prompted to sign up for a paid subscription plan.

showing some of SmallPDF's online tools