Aug 17

If you’ve ever been given a pdf file that you want to edit, or a pdf form that you need to complete and return electronically, you’ll realise that it’s not obvious how to edit a pdf file in OS X.  Here’s how to edit a pdf file using the built in Preview App that comes free with OS X.

For full pdf editing capabilities (for example adding paragraphs of text, moving pictures around on a page etc) you need to get some fully blown pdf editing software like Adobe Illustrator or Adobe Acrobat Professional. But these cost hundreds of dollars. The good news is that ‘Preview’, the built in OS X pdf reader app, has some basic pdf editing abilities built in!

If you double click on any pdf file in OSX it will open in an application called Preview.  Preview has a hidden “Annotations Toolbar’ that will allow you to edit the pdf file.  You can’t change what’s already in the pdf document, but you can add your own text and graphics.

Here’s how to use the Annotations Toolbar.

CONTINUE READING >

81 Responses to “How to edit a pdf document on a mac”

  1. Susan Sims says:

    To markup, fill in forms, and save PDF standard files (that can then be read by any PDF reader), you can also use PDF Studio by Qoppa Software. We are happy to note that half of our users are on Macs.

    • CeciliaBonnie says:

      Why not use an app, I have used a PDF Editor Pro for Mac on Amacsoft. It’s perfect, you can add, modify or delete text in PDF files, whatever you want.

    • Sandy says:

      Just out of curiosity (I’ve got Acrobat Pro), does Skim allow you to change the font/type size of annotations? That’s really the only think stopping Preview from being a good solution in situations like this.

      Another, more involved option is to use something like Pages combined with PDFLab. PDFLab can automatically export the pages of a PDF file as separate PDF documents, then you can drag each page into a Pages document (treating it like an image, and stretching it to fill each page), and then just add standard text boxes for your annotations in Pages.

  2. admin says:

    Yes there are lots of commercial options out there – I was just reviewing this as a free one.

  3. Paul says:

    Not only that, but in Lion you can also sign documents with your signature using the PDF annotation feature:

    1) Open Preview.app under Lion, Click the Annotations button and select the option “Create Signature From Face-Time Camera…”

    2) Make your signature on a piece of unlined paper and hold it up to your FaceTime camera so that it aligns with the blue line. Click ‘Accept’ when you like the preview.

    3) Once you’ve accepted the signature, you can easily drag it into place anywhere on the PDF you’re trying to sign.

    4) Need to sign more documents? The signature you just entered is now readily accessible as a signature from a drop-down within Preview

  4. Rey says:

    This tutorial is very helpful for me filling PDF applications in.
    Great! :)

  5. Andrew says:

    Warning! Drawing a white rectangle on top of content will not destroy the content. This is a very insecure and sloppy way to modify PDF files.

    • Jim Demers says:

      To save your “sloppy” edits, click on the “Print” command, then hit the “PDF” button. This brings up a menu where you can select “Save as PDF”. This “prints” the image to a new pdf file, obliterating any content you’ve covered up.

      • Linas Lee says:

        Jim, this will not help if you want to cover the text.. Try to select, copy it and paste it to the MSWord. You will find there all covered texts. It looks like it doesn’t flatten the existing layers, so you still able to copy what’s behind. The only chance – is to export it to jpg or other format..

  6. Mrtuga says:

    Nice! Thx!
    Greetings from Portugal!

  7. Conn says:

    My question is too simple: I have a FILE that I want to make a Document, which I can attach to a message. A file will not attach, I find.

  8. Maxim says:

    How to I get rid of the shadow effect when adding a rectangle?

  9. jael says:

    do you know how to remove arrows I’ve already drawn? tks

  10. Mary says:

    What a horrific experience–I love my mac, but I had to go to the office and use the PC It’s too complicated! And, it didn’t work. Was going to convert my office to mac, but after spending 3 days on this and missing a deadline, guess that’s not an option!

  11. Thomas says:

    Sounds nice, but so far I can not get it to work:(

    You inform to:
    “…double click on any pdf file in OSX it will open in an application called preview”.

    If I double click on a PDF in “Finder” (cannot find OSX) it opens up in Adobe Reader.

    Please help.

    • Wayne says:

      Right click and select ‘Open with’ then Preview.

      Sometimes Acrobat Reader when it get’s installed over-rides the defaults.

      • Thomas says:

        Hi Wayne,
        Thanks for your reply. Unfortunately when I right click and select “open with” I get the option to choose between Adobe Reader, Billedfremviser (translates to Picture Viewer) , Safari or Other, but not “Preview” as you mention.

        I have looked under “Other”, but I do find anything called “Preview”.’

        Where to find it?

        Thanks,
        Thomas

  12. Thomas says:

    Hi Wayne,
    Thanks for your reply. Unfortunately when I right click and select “open with” I get the option to choose between Adobe Reader, Billedfremviser (translates to Picture Viewer) , Safari or Other, but not “Preview” as you mention.

    I have looked under “Other”, but I do find anything called “Preview”.’

    Where to find it?

    Thanks,
    Thomas

    • Sheryl says:

      Hi Thomas,
      In your Finder under Applications there is a program called Preview. Double click to open the program. Then, go to File/Open. It will then open in Preview and you can go on from there.

  13. Toby Montezuma says:

    Ah! A lifesaver! I needed to change like 3 tiny things in a document someone sent me-and now I could. Sooooo many thanks, domo arigato, danke schoen

  14. Yoshuan says:

    Thanks, I’ve been working on changing my own compositions to pdf format on finale but for some reasong, it got rid of the page numbers. so this was perfect to add the lil number. thanks.

  15. Pam says:

    You mentioned we can add graphics to a PDF. How is this done?

  16. Jeffrey says:

    My 10.8.3 Mac’s preview does not have a “show annotations toolbar” menu item, only a greyed-out “show edit toolbar” item. The item sounds good, but its inaccessability is a task-killer. Any idea on how to get the menu item to activate?

  17. Yarin says:

    Just want to point out that another option for free PDF editing is to use PDF Buddy online PDF editor (https://www.pdfbuddy.com). In most cases it’s actually easier to use than Mac Preview and it has a number of capabilities Preview doesn’t.

    (Full disclosure: I’m a co-founder of PDF Buddy)

  18. Michael says:

    About half of the pdf files I’ve downloaded will not open later. I get error message 14, the file is corrupted. My Mac is OSX 10.84. My mouse has no “right click” function like I see mentioned here. I’ve always kept my Adobe Reader program updated whenever I get the message to do so.

  19. Jenny says:

    Thanks great help not pulling hair out any more

  20. alexander samuel says:

    I also recommend PDF Pen Pro ( http://www.pdf-file-converter.com/pdf-editor-for-mac/ ) – gives you most of the functionality of Adobe Acrobat that most users need for a fraction of the cost. The also do a standard edition as well that is a little cheaper.

    • Wayne says:

      Yes there are lots of paid solutions that do this better, as a google search will show. I was trying to offer a free solution using preview.

  21. Ken Miller says:

    hm…I have the same problem before. then this pdf editor guide helped me:
    http://forum.cultofmac.com/discussion/44781/how-to-edit-pdf-file-on-mac

  22. Shaquane Jordan says:

    Thankyou so much for writing this arcticle. I’ve been trying to figure out how to fill out this form for work that was a pdf for like a few hours until i stumbled across this article. This was truly helpful and saved me money!

  23. Brilliant, just what I was after. Is there anything preview can’t do? You can also reorder pages, delete pages and merge pages from different pdf documents.

  24. Roxanne says:

    I’ve managed to edit my PDF file and saved a copy to my desktop, now when I send it through mail, it appears blank.

  25. Edwin says:

    Wayne, your info. did not describe how to change a font. Yes, I see how the font table opens after typing Apple-T, but then what? how do you change the font?

  26. Betsy says:

    This helped me so much. Thanks so much!

  27. Trina says:

    Thanks alot for this!

  28. sandy says:

    oh, boy….Thanks! I had been using Skitch to attach notes for my workflow, which I deal with PDFS daily! Thanks a ton!

    • Minrrouslly says:

      pdf files are not editable in iWork (Number, Pages and Keynote). You can import pdf files, portions of pdfs, scale, and mask them but you cannot change the actual contents. If you created the pdf you should modify the contents of the program you used to pront the pdf. If the pdf is from somewhere else then you are out of luck.

      I’ve tried Amacsoft PDF eidtor pro for Mac app,
      http://www.imoresoft.com/pdf-editor.html it works!

  29. Julia says:

    Thanks for that… v helpful, but I am still struggling, text seems to delete itself randomly and jump about everytime I try to move to the next line of the form, argh! Am I doing something wrong? Is there an easier way?!!

  30. Connie says:

    Maybe my MAC OS is different. When I open a PDF I do not have VIEW GO TOOLS etc. Instead I see the Apple icon at the far left followed by SAFARI File Edit View. When I look under VIEW there isn’t anything there that saids ‘SHOW ANNOTATIONS’. Your BAR and my BAR are not the same. How do or is it possible to see what you see? Thank you.

  31. Wayne says:

    Connie, that means you are looking at the file in the Safari application, not Preview application. Somewhere along the line you must have chosen to open pdf files in Safari instead of Preview.

    You will need to ”ight click’ (control click) on the pdf file and select ‘Open With’ and select ‘Preview’. Then follow instructions as above.

  32. Colleen says:

    In my version of preview I have a button next to the search field in Preview that looks like a pencil – when i click on this it gives me the toolbar.

    Wayne – THANK YOU! This will save me so much printing/scanning

  33. Michael Dodge says:

    This fix does not seem to work on Yosemiti

    • Mach1 says:

      It looks like in Yosemiti one can
      -in Preview toolbar – select ‘View’ -‘Show Markup Toolbar’
      I think this is a fantastic tool!!

  34. Caroline Edge says:

    Hi! This is a great help. My only problem now is that the text that I enter is formatted to appear central whereas i would like it to be left aligned or even justified. Is there a way of doing this?
    Thx!

  35. Edith says:

    The pdf document came up in Preview, but there is no “show annotations” on the toolbar. What now?

  36. Bryan says:

    Echo Edith’s comment above: no “show annotations”

  37. Pauline says:

    Hi ok, fantastic. Did all of the above on preview to add some text to a business card which was sent to me via pdf. I saved it. Happy days, it looks great when I reopen the pdf and is now there but…when i go to upload it to Vistaprint its not showing the edited image only original. What am I doing wrong guys?

  38. Jonathan says:

    I can edit and add. But when I want to print, the document comes as it where originally. How can I print it with the edited text I just did?

    • Wayne says:

      That’s strange it should print with the edited version, Anyone else had this problem?

    • Suhas says:

      Hi, Me too had a Same problem while printing the edited version of pdf, However the solution i figured it out that i exported the said pdf into word and then printed.
      It fixed !

  39. Cathy says:

    Wayne, thanks for this.
    Is it possible to use the editing features in this way, ie, strike through, highlight, etc? Or can we only use comment boxes?

    Also, can u tell me how to print? When I try to print a 4-pg document, it all goes onto one page. I can’t figure out how to print it like a regular 4-page doc.
    Thanks in advance :)

  40. ID says:

    Nice! Helped a lot, saved me about $30 for a minor change

  41. Roman says:

    Super! I did not know the Preview app could do this! The menu option is called “Show Markup Toolbar” in my case.

    Thanks!

  42. Sunny says:

    VERY helpful, thank you so much for posting this simple solution to filling in pdf’s.

  43. Judi says:

    I opened my pdf in Preview. I opened the annotations toolbar, however nothing appears at the bottom of the window so I cannot add the rectangle. Now what?

  44. Abir El Shaban says:

    Thank you! This is really helpful…
    Regards
    Abir

  45. Hoku says:

    Thank you for sharing this, it was the only site that provided helpful information FREE and with visuals so the directions were easier to understand.

  46. Gerry says:

    Thank you so much – this worked great!

  47. Shirah Bell says:

    I find I am not able to edit or annotate PDF documents that I have gotten from scanning pages from paper or books in Preview (on my macbook pro). Can anyone tell me what is happening there, and recommend how to edit/annotate pages in PDF format that have come from my scanner? I would love to use Preview to do this, but if I have to use other (inexpensive) software to do it that also would be OK.
    Thanks very much,
    Shirah

  48. karen says:

    I did all the above and then saved the additions by exporting. now i have opened the document and the comments are unable to be viewed just yellow note squares. How can I revive the comments?

  49. riddly says:

    or download acrobat pro for a load of easy and useful tools…. http://download.cnet.com/Adobe-Acrobat-DC-Pro/3000-18497_4-10769318.html

  50. Kim DeMotte says:

    My white broad borders print out black…wth?

  51. Bud says:

    I have a 2010 MacBook running OSX El Capitan. So I tried your instructions on editing a PDF (Acrobat) and when I clicked 2x on the document, Preview did not open. Am I doing something wrong. HELP.

    • Wayne says:

      It should open, but if it doesn’t, you could try right click and ‘Open with Preview’
      Or you could go into the Applications folder on your computer and find Preview and drag the PDF file onto the preview app icon,
      Or you could choose ‘Open’ from the ‘File’ menu in the Preview application.

  52. Wu Ming says:

    Hi,

    I appreciate your taking the time to put these instructions online. However, they don’t work for me, either– in fact so far all the instructions I’ve found on how online to comment on a .pdf tell me to click on a menu item that does not exist and does not show up when I look at the .pdf in front of me. I have tested all the possibilities in Mac’s Preview and in the .pdf’s toolbars.

    For example, you say that if I go to View in Preview, I will see “Show Annotations Toolbar.” It’s not there.

    I have a 2013 Macbook running Yosemite.

    • Wayne says:

      You are correct, thank you for this.
      It looks like Apple have changed “annotations toolbar” to “markup toolbar” in Yosemite and El Capitan.

  53. Apollonia says:

    Thanks, it was a little tedious, but good.

  54. Dean says:

    I have been filling in a lot of forms in PDF using the preview app. I find it very useful and easy to use. From time to time I have needed to strike through some of the text and now and again I have needed to change my mind on some of the text being struck through. Does anyone know how to undo the strike through? If it cant be done its good to know but if it can be done then that would be better. Thanks for your help in advance.

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