There are a limited number of free PDF editing tools for Mac that allow you to do basic editing, rotating, re-ordering, combining, converting and compressing PDFs without having to pay.
Most PDF editing software nowadays require a subscription although there are some PDF editing software that are available for a one time purchase too.
Adobe Acrobat Pro is by far the best PDF editor for Mac and can be used for free during the trial period but if you need a permanently free solution, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
Here we’ve looked at all of the Mac PDF editing software that are free forever with no catches.
If you want a proper PDF editor, you can also try a free trial of any of the best PDF editors for Mac, all of which offer a fully functional free trial for a limited period.
They all work on Intel Macs as well as the latest Apple Silicon M1/M2/M3 chip Macs and the most recent versions of macOS including Sonoma and Ventura.
What We Looked For In The Best Free PDF Editors For Mac
The best PDF editing software allow you to not only view PDFs but edit, annotate, convert and do pretty much anything you can with other document formats.
This is what makes them different from PDF readers such as Adobe Reader which can only view PDFs and allow simple PDF editing such as filling in forms.
Of course, you won’t get all the full functionality of a paid PDF editor in a free PDF editing solution and you’ll find most of them are very limited in functionality.
However, we looked for free PDF editing software for Mac that could do at least the following:
- Read, create, edit, and organize PDFs
- Combine multiple PDFs into one document
- Convert PDFs to another format such as from PDF to Word for use in Microsoft Office
- Secure documents by encrypting or password protecting PDFs
What most free PDF editors do not allow unless you upgrade the the paid version are usually the following types of things:
- Collaborate on and approve PDFs
- Digitize paper documents and perform OCR scans
- Compare PDFs and other documents in different formats
- Sign PDFs
- Automate digitization of files to go paperless and manage documents
- Create PDF forms that can be filled-in
Is There A Free PDF Program in macOS?
However, neither Adobe Acrobat Reader or Preview allow you to to fully edit PDFs other than to fill in forms and do basic edits.
The Safari web browser also allows you to open PDFs in your browser window but does not allow you to do anything else to it.
Are These Free PDF Software Secure?
No PDF editor can guarantee 100% security of your data but most free PDF editors are offline desktop apps which at least keeps them off the Cloud.
Free online PDF editors such as PDF Candy use encryption to protect your data but because you are uploading files to servers in the Cloud, there’s always going to be a risk that your data could be compromised if there was a hack.
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Best Free PDF Software For Mac
With this in mind, here are the best free PDF editors for Mac of 2023.
1. PDF Candy
The one thing that stands Candy out from the rest of the pack is that it also supports OCR scanning in the free version.
Normally, you only get OCR scanning in paid PDF editing software and while Candy can scan and extract text from a PDF, it won’t actually allow you to edit it in the document.
Instead, it extracts the text and exports it to a text, Word or RTF format document which you can then edit.
There are 44 tools in PDF Candy that you can use for free including PDF editor, convertor and OCR scanner.
Other tools include rearranging pages, adding watermarks, password protecting PDF files, editing metadata in a PDF, splitting PDFs and extracting images.
One you’ve finished editing the PDF online with PDF Candy, you can download it onto your Mac’s desktop.
You can start using PDF Candy for free now.
- Includes OCR scanning for free
- Nothing to download or install
- Lots of PDF tools
- Easy to use
- OCR only for text dumps
- Editing tools are limited
- No desktop app
Preview is a free desktop image viewer in macOS which allows you to do basic PDF editing, signing and merging of PDF pages on a Mac.
Preview can add text in text boxes, fill in forms and change the size or font of text.
The latest versions of macOS Sonoma onwards also support OCR scanning in Preview. Simply upload a photo of some text or a page from a magazine and Preview will automatically recognize the text.
To edit a PDF on a Mac for free using Preview, follow these instructions.
- Click once on the PDF you want to edit on your Mac.
- Press the Spacebar and a preview of the document will appear on your screen in QuickLook. Click on the Open with Preview button to start editing the PDF. You can also double click on the PDF and it should automatically open in Preview unless you’ve set another program like Adobe Acrobat to open PDFs by default.
- Click on the Pencil icon and the Markup Toolbar will appear. If it doesn’t, in the top menu go to View > Show Markup Toolbar.
The Markup Toolbar allows you to make various edits to PDF such as highlight text or pictures, cut and paste items into a PDF.
You can see all of the functions of the Markup Toolbar below.
You can read more about how to edit PDFs for free on a Mac with Preview here.
- Free in macOS
- Works on Mac desktops
- Can OCR scan text in Sonoma or above
- Password protect PDFs
- Limited editing tools
- No online collaboration tools
3. Adobe Acrobat Reader
Adobe Acrobat Reader is by far the most widely used free PDF Reader on both Mac and Windows PCs and it allows a certain amount of PDF editing for free on a Mac.
For filling in forms or editing text boxes Adobe Reader is fine. You can also annotate or highlight documents and add comments for review.
There are stamp tools for Approved, Confidential, Revised and Sign Here and you can also draw on documents with a pencil tool.
However, if you need more power than this, you’ll need to get Adobe Acrobat Pro which is by far the best PDF editor for Mac on the market which is no surprise since Adobe invented the PDF format.
Although it’s subscription only, you can also buy Adobe Acrobat Pro as a one time purchase too.
- Made by Adobe who invented PDF
- Lots of PDF editing features
- Includes stamping of documents
- Mac desktop app
- Very secure
- Some features require subscription
- Nowhere near as powerful as Adobe Acrobat Pro
LibreOffice is a free alternative to Microsoft Office for Mac and allows you to open and edit PDFs for free.
You can open and edit PDFs in LibreOffice using the “Draw” app which is mainly designed for image editing.
You may find that the formatting gets messed-up when you open PDF files in LibreOffice Draw though with objects and text boxes in the wrong position.
LibreOffice Draw also allows you to create PDFs from scratch and convert Word documents to PDF.
LibreOffice is one of the more limited free PDF editors for Mac but it is a desktop app if you prefer something that doesn’t just work in a browser or store PDFs in the Cloud.
You can download LibreOffice for Mac for free to try it for yourself.
- Offers a full office suite
- Allows you to edit PDF text and images
- Allows you to create PDFs
- Mac desktop app
- No support as open source
- No way to add signatures
- Limited PDF editing tools
Skim is an open source free PDF reader that allows you to do basic editing of PDFs such as annotations, adding comments and form filling.
Skim is designed for academic more as a note taking software than a PDF editor but for adding notes to PDFs and bookmarking pages, it’s a free and easy solution.
Skim is quite dated but it does have a Mac desktop app which also works on the latest Apple Silicon M1, M2 and M3 Macs via Rosetta.
You can download Skim for free to test it for yourself.
- Free to use
- Mac desktop app
- Very dated
- Very limited PDF editing options