How Do I Choose the Best Open Source PDF Editor?

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  • Written By: Alex Newth
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2019
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When you need to edit a portable document format (PDF), you need a special editing program that can work with the format, whether it's a commercial program or an open source PDF editor. Features to look for when trying to chose the best PDF editor software — open source or commercial — include merging and splitting tools and the ability to edit every aspect of the PDF. Many PDFs use coding to achieve special effects, and a feature that allows this also may be helpful to you. When looking at open source programs, you should check the rules of the particular program to see what you can and cannot do with the PDF editor.

If you ever work with multiple PDF files at once, then it may be better to merge all the files to make printing and organizing easier; this is done with a merge tool. If there is a page you want to isolate — or subtract — from a PDF, then a splitting tool may be helpful. Both of these tools are used often, especially if you create or edit reports, and may be beneficial to have in your chosen open source PDF editor.


Most open source PDF editor programs can edit text easily, but some have trouble with image PDFs. When an image is created for a PDF, it normally consists of several other images layered on top of one another; for example, the logo, background and decorative elements will be several different images placed together to look like one image. Some PDF editors can edit the separate elements independent of the others, while some PDF editors can only edit the image as a whole. If you are looking for simple image editing, then the latter may be better, but it is not really suitable for advanced image editing.

An open source program gives you an open source license that allows you to change aspects of the program, but each license is different. Some licenses allow you to sell a modified version of the open source PDF editor, while others will not allow you to share the modified source code. You should check the license agreement to ensure it matches your preferences or requirements.

While PDFs are often printed, they also are often viewed on a computer, which gives them some benefits. If coding is added to a PDF, it may allow the PDF to have special effects on the computer, such as advanced form controls, allowing you to open a website in the PDF or create an image gallery. To do this, the open source PDF editor must have a tool that allows you to enter coding.


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