The Top 5 Free PDF Editors for 2021: Reviewed

By: Jav Zeb Iqbal.
Last Updated: March, 1, 2020.

Portable Document Format usually shortened as PDF is proverbial to companies, entrepreneurs, scholars, students and people from nearly every walk of the life, who prefer resorting their mattering records by adopting them electronically. PDF is being employed as the most ordinarily chosen document format which also appears as a charm when it comes to managing the document on a vast array of devices.

There could be diverse situations where one needs a well-grounded application to edit the document in a portable format, and that might include a spot where you are in need to sign a “Service Level Agreement” or an undertaking with a firm you have just got hired for or to update an already published electronic book.

PDF files are radically the image of text, the users upon receiving such data read or see them on their computing devices. Nonetheless, one requires dedicated software to edit them. Moreover, the creation of PDF files also demands a professional tool. Hence, the top 5 free PDF editors would worth visiting.

1Icecream PDF Editor: Since PDF files are broadly in usage and are harmonious with almost every system, therefore they are considered best for sharing the data. Numerous PDF editing programs enable the user to make changes or add new things to their documents, wistfully not all of them are free, notwithstanding Icecream PDF editor is one the finest and costless program developed and provided to the tech users who have to deal with the PDF files every now and then.

The program accompanies a hardy set of tools and state-of-the-art features that are just right for a freeware application. Using this program one can add text, notations, change the font size, colour or highlight it, include comments, sticky notes and whatnot. The comments and explanatory notes are highly useful, as the creator can add information or any significant bits along to keep the recipient aware of any changes etc.

Using Icecream PDF editor the users can draw on the PDF document, add the shapes, annotations, objects or mark the text; stamps can be included too. Moreover, one can also customise stamps. It allows the users to add the watermark again the user can create their own watermark prior adding it to the files, later the document’s properties can be changed using this program.

Often the PDF files are password protected for their safety as mostly the crucial documents are shared in this format so to avoid any intruder from making unnecessary changes these files are protected using a passcode. Thus, with the Icecream PDF editor the users can protect the PDF files or can even unlock them too (Files can only be unlocked if the individual is familiar with the password). Over and above, this software is proficient and intelligent enough to keep track of the changes made recently, the entire editing history can be accessed so that the user may stay informed of the previous revisions, so far so good!.

There is an option for screen sizes the user can either use single, double or even the full-screen mode for a better view, also its multi-tab function allows to edit the files side by side. It offers way more than a standard PDF editor and that too for free in conjunction with this it can be used offline also, what else one can look for in a PDF editor?


  • Supports only Windows OS.
  • Expects the right amount of RAM.
  • Missing an option to create signatures.


Moving onwards, the PDF Candy editor serves as an online companion service by the same brand “Icecream APPS”. This assistance has caught the sight as once again it is wholly free to use but does not beat Icecream PDF editor, as it can be used online only while the other one works offline too. Moreover, a few of the PDF Candy features are available offline but again “a very few”, the users won’t be able to make most of it without the internet connection.

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Comparable to its offline variant the platform protects the PDF files and can unlock them, arrange and reorder the pages, assign page number, add header or footer and include the watermark as well. PDF Candy editor may compress the PDF file; this is an ideal feature as the extensive data can be compressed this way and shared around without taking long, conjointly the recipient won’t face any issues while downloading it.

Almost all the features that are included in this service are very much alike to those that in the ice-cream PDF editor, which is why it stands just a number below the top-rated PDF editor (The Icecream PDF editor). The service might be available online only but it does not welcome any adds at all, the users will not get the annoying windows or prompts popping up out of nowhere.

2Sejda: Sejda is another free online PDF editing service (available for desktop as well), it is one of the prime platforms serving the purpose and does really well with what its made for. With its unique set of the tools and cutting-edge features, it hits on the nail, using it one can either create a PDF file from scratch or edit the existing one. The files can be loaded directly from the system, or one can simply grab them from GoogleDrive or Dropbox, its simple drag & drop option makes this easier for the rookies. Fill or sign the PDF files, add text, shapes or images to the file. Furthermore, there is a “Whiteout feature” available that can conceal the text or anything undesired, howbeit, it does not correctly bury the content instead just adds a white rectangle on it. Using its tools one can create signatures, the user will just add their name, choose among the options given or draw the signatures directly using the stylus or trackpad, apart from that an image containing the signature can be included.

Sejda supports cloud-sharing and files can be saved and accessed for later use, everything will remain secure, and the documents will be absolutely kept under strict supervision. Additionally, what makes it is a piece of cake is, nothing is complicated and does not require any expertise to operate. However, it does not allow to edit or work with files with more than 200 pages plus it only approves to edit three files per hour, which can be a major downside for the frequent PDF users, mainly the reason why it did not make to the top position among alternatives.

By the same token, it automatically deletes the file after 5 hours (if it has not been saved), so the users have to pay attention to it and save the file time to time while working on it as once lost it can be found again. The main reason behind the automatic deletion of files after a limited time period might be because a large amount of data is saved on the cloud storage and there’s always a need to free up some space on the cloud.


  • Can not edit a file with more than 200 pages
  • Allows to edit three files per hour
  • Automatically deletes the file after 5 hours if not saved

3PDFescape: PDFescape is another free online PDF editing service, it helps to edit PDF files and can even create basic forms which indeed is rare to find in any PDF editor that is absolutely free. Since it is a web app it is compatible with all the popular web browsers, users can simply use it on any type of browser, and it will work in the same manner everywhere.

Along with the creation of basic forms, it also allows filling the charts using its excellent set of tools; one can upload the file directly from the system or fetch it from the internet. Moreover, it can be shared too. Wistfully only the registered users can share the PDF documents, there’s no harm in getting registered plus it does not cost any bucks. This service also includes the whiteout feature, plus the users can add text, change the font, increase the size, also, it welcomes to add the media files to PDF documents. There are several shapes available that can be included in with the rest of things, withal, the arrows can be used to point at anything, simply click on the text to point towards and that’s all. It is an eminently simple tool, it has all that a PDF editor requires to have but as it is a free version it supports add, and to get rid of them the users will have to move on to the premium edition.

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Overall, the look and feel are way too dull and seem a bit old, which indeed makes things boring, despite the fact, the layout is utterly user-friendly, there are three separate tabs including “insert, annotate and page” carrying their respective tools. The Insert tab contains everything that has to do with the creation of a PDF file or form. Also, there is a freehand writing option available in there, which is quite cool. There is also a Link button that allows adding links, then comes the annotate tab which will enable to add sticky notes to the file, highlight the text or even underline it and so on. The page tab basically can be called the page manager; it allows to delete the page, rotate, append, crop or even move it.

The users will have to make the selection of the numbers of pages for a new file at the beginning and later on the completion, one can either save, print or download the PDF. One more thing that holds immense importance is that the user must stay aware of the fact that PDFescape can only edit a file that is less than 10MB in size and does not contain pages above 100. This is the major setback and the reason why its way down in the list among the competitors, moreover there is no file compression option available.


  • Dull layout
  • Does not edit a file bigger than 10MB
  • Won’t work for Documents with 100+ pages

4Apower PDF: Apower PDF editor is an eminently facile and easy-to-use PDF editing application like JotForm, what makes it different from the other tools listed above is; that this one requires a download prior being used. Once downloaded the user will be able to see the options are so obvious and the layout is eminently uncluttered, howbeit it shows the trial version message on the bottom right, but once the user is registered it vanishes. One can either choose to edit PDF, create PDFs or combine them; however one can choose to create a PDF file from the options visible on the top left corner of the main screen.

As soon as one clicks to create a PDF the program shows up with the blank page settings, makes selections according to the needs and gets going. Like the other PDF editors, this tool also allows to add text, change the font increase the size and more. Withal, with the help of this software, the users can fill forms, add comments to the PDF files, include signatures, manage the pages and much more.

Apower PDF is proficient enough that it can convert the PDF files to the other formats including Bitmap, JPEG, PNG, GIF and a few more, but there is no option to reverse this action. It may be able to provide the conversion facilities but mind that, the top two tools have a long tabulation of the file formats whether one would like to convert PDF or from PDF to any other format. Notwithstanding, users can add images, watermark, or graphics, highlight the text, etc.

The platform apart from being a PDF editor serves as the PDF reader too, so one can not only take advantage of its editing facilities but can read PDF books or other files on it too. The PDF reader passes the single page as well as the two-page view; also the page can be rotated for a better illustration and reading experience. This software enables the users to use the hot-keys to perform several functions in the program, which is definitely a time-saving feature. All in all, it is a clean, compact editing tool with the modern layout and gives high-quality final results, above all it is secure, it can protect the document by locking it and can open a locked file too.

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  • Can not compress PDF
  • Limited file conversion formats
  • Requires a download

5Smallpdf: Smallpdf Proficiently edits the PDF files, merges them converts them to the other file formats and can even switch the other files to the PDF formats. It is quite a handy tool and does not compromise on the quality no matter what, this PDF editor is capable of editing the PDF files by allowing its users to make changes to the text, add text, shapes, use the freehand writing tool and write using a stylus, mouse or trackpad. Moreover, the editing tools also include annotations, add comments or notes to the PDF documents. Furthermore, it can merge the PDF files and can reverse the action by splitting the PDFs and can even save every single page separately. Esignature can be included in the files with the help of “esign” feature which is available in the service; it is an eminently useful tool as it makes it easier to sign the documents online.

Smallpdf allows to grab the files from Dropbox or GoogleDrive and then edit them on its web service, howbeit, it also enables to obtain the data from the system it is running on.

It can unlock the PDF files too, one can just upload the password-protected file, and it can be unlocked pretty quickly. However, this entirely depends on the fact of whether the file has strong encryption or not, if yes then it will be a hard job. Similarly, this web app is capable of protecting PDF files using the password. What setbacks the tech users is that only two files can be compressed per hours, correspondingly it can just convert two files an hour, withal when the user is converting a large file it may take a while. On the other hand, it will retain the quality of the content after both conversion and compression


  • Can not create PDFs from scratch
  • Limited editing options

Essentially, all influential companies and brands in the IT industry settle for PDFs to mainly and efficiently expand their merchandise over the internet while forwarding the invoices, presentations, product specification charts, contracts, TOS, SLAs, and ebooks, etc. Well! Deciding a certain PDF editing application supplemented by all basic and trustworthy document safety features could be a restless task to go through, but we hope the list here would be helpful and adequate to justify the top-ranked apps conformed to host the PDFs, quite interactively.

Author’s Bio

Jav Zeb is a young and spirited British author with an expertise in the tutorial writing and product reviewing. She has completed AAT from London School of Business and Finance, Birmingham. Interests: Drawing, Painting, Blog Writing, Interior Decor, and Reading. Living in: Erdington, Birmingham, West Midlands, UK. You may reach her at [email protected].



Last Updated By on March 1st, 2021 in Reviews

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