How to easily edit PDFs on Mac

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You can’t escape them — PDFs are everywhere, especially in the workplace. Although convenient to read, PDFs can be tricky to deal with if you just need to make quick changes to the text, sign a form, or send a file through a size-restrictive platform.

With a default PDF reader like Preview on the Mac, finding a certain word in the PDF is difficult and editing a document can be almost out of the question. Without knowing which tools to use, it will be very hard to make changes to a PDF document. Fortunately, there are plenty of PDF apps to help you get the editing job done.

You can use PDF Search to search for specific document, information, facts, or figures. This would come in particularly handy if your PDFs are very long. To pore through your PDF in batches or to scan through long files, open the app and type in a search word or phrase in the search bar. Even if you misspell a word, PDF Search’s artificial intelligence feature will make an effort to understand what you mean and help you find exactly what you’re looking for.

PDF Search

Tools to Edit PDF Documents

By now, if you don’t know how to modify a PDF document, you may be left behind. Good news is taking control of your PDF files is not rocket science — whether they be for home or work, you just need the right set of tools in place to cover your everyday requirements.

To help you alter PDF documents, there are a few apps with such useful features as adding comments, filling and signing agreements for your business, removing sensitive information, and compressing large files to allow for easier sharing. Stop agonizing over how to edit PDFs and try a few of the powerful applications mentioned below. You may want to redact your PDF documents, like edit typos or add different images, but how do you go about doing so? 

Apple provides every Mac with Preview, a free program that allows you to read and edit PDF files (add and highlight text, combine PDF documents and transfer pages from one PDF to another, add a signature and comments). 

Edit and mark up PDFs with Preview

The experience of editing images with Preview is pretty intuitive. We’ve created a quick guidance for you to instantly find what you’re looking for.

Add text and notes

Open the PDF in Preview and try to add text by clicking on the target text field. If it doesn’t work, you’ll have to add a new text or note field:

  1. Select Tools > Annotate > Text/Note.
  2. Click on the text/note box that appears in your document and start typing.
  3. Close the box by clicking outside it. You can move the note/text field anywhere via drag and drop.
  4. To customize fonts or color of text, select View > Show Markup Toolbar > A.

Highlight text in a PDF

To activate the highlight mode in Preview, select the Highlight button in the top right corner. Click on the down arrow next to the Highlight button to change color, or choose an option to underline or strikethrough.

When switched on, highlights will be applied to any text you click on. You can switch it off by clicking on the same Highlight button.

To view notes and highlights in the PDF, select View > Highlights and Notes.

Combine multiple PDFs

  1. To merge PDF files, open one PDF in Preview.
  2. Select View > Thumbnails to see the thumbnails of all pages.
  3. Click on Edit > Insert > Page from file and open another PDF.
  4. Choose destination and save the updated file as PDF.

Rotate, delete, rearrange pages, and renumber pages inside a PDF

You can cut pages out or change the order of pages in a few steps via thumbnails:

  1. Open a document in Preview.
  2. Navigate to View > Thumbnails.
  3. To rotate, click on a page thumbnail > Tools > Rotate Left or Right.
  4. To delete pages in a PDF, select thumbnail > Tools > Delete to remove a page from your PDF.
  5. Rearrange by dragging pages around in the sidebar.

To change page numbering, you can use PDFpen editor. When you open a file, go to Edit > Headers, Footers, Page numbers > Insert. From there, you can customize the position and format of page numbers as well as define a starting page.

Reorder and renumber PDF pages

Split PDF files

To separate pages in a scanned PDF, simply drag the page you want to remove from the thumbnails pane to desktop. If needed, you can combine those pages into a separate PDF file afterwards.

Reduce PDF size

You can compress your PDF in Preview while exporting the doc. Once you’re done with editing, select File > Export. Click on Quartz Filter to open the pop-up menu > Reduce File Size.

Apart from Preview, you can use a scanning application like Prizmo app to create easily searchable PDF files out of paper-based images like brochures, books, or posters. This app lets you scan and recognize any photo documents to make them editable. You can even take a photo of a physical document on your phone, and finish editing on your Mac.

To make corrections or rewrite some text within the original file with editable text blocks, try PDFpen. Also you can use it to highlight, draw, scribble on the document.

Edit any PDF on a Mac

To correct text with PDFpen:

  1. Open the desired PDF document within the application
  2. Highlight the text within the PDF and click Correct Text
  3. Erase the current text and type the desired changes

PDF editor for Mac

To insert and edit an image in PDF: 

  1. Click on 'Insert' icon and choose an image you want to add
  2. Move and/or resize the image by dragging it around inside the PDF
  3. Double clicking an image lets you adjust it or add some effects
  4. You can also delete pictures and drop new ones

Edit images in PDF

You can also edit images by converting them into PDFs with Prizmo. With powerful OCR, Prizmo app instantly captures text and makes it fluid and editable. 

To create a PDF from an image with Prizmo, use the following steps:

  1. Click the plus icon in Prizmo
  2. Find your source in the drop-down menu
  3. Select an image that you’d like to convert to PDF and click Add
  4. Click Recognize in the top right corner or toggle Text mode in View.
  5. Editable text will appear on the right side of the window.
Recognize images to edit like PDFs

Add comments and annotations to a PDF

To help yourself with extra notes or annotations, you can add comments directly onto a PDF. Comments can be useful to readers when you want to provide extra information about certain parts of the document.

To add text using Preview app:

  1. Place your cursor where you want to insert text.
  2. Go to “Tools,” click on “Annotate,” select “Text,” and start typing.
  3. To change the font, size, or color, go to “View,” click on “Show Markup Toolbar,” and press A.
  4. You also can move the text box anywhere on the document.

A regular PDF viewer app won’t let you attach comments to specific areas on a PDF, so you need to use an editor like PDFpen to do that. This app allows to add comments to PDF files with highlights, sticky notes, a freehand drawing. Annotations are useful because you can embed them into the file without being too distracting for a reader. You can also use the markup tools to add shapes around important areas of the PDF and underline things to remember.

To comment and make notes on PDF:

  1. Click on the Comment (cmd+8) or on the Notes (cmd+7) on the PDFpen’s menu bar
  2. Tap on the area of the document where you want the comment or note to appear
  3. Type in the comment or note area field
  4. Drag the comment or note text box to the desired area on the document

How to add comments and notes to a pdf

Fill and sign PDF forms (e-sign)

Printing documents just to sign them and scan them back can be frustrating and time-consuming. Many of us don’t even have printers anymore. But luckily with e-signatures, there’s no need for all that.

Now you can easily add your signature to digital forms and documents in macOS. Whether you're looking to have a new client sign an agreement, a tenancy contract, or any other PDF form, e-signature will save you time (and ink).

To sign a document using PDFpen:

  1. Scan your signature and save it as an image file
  2. OR draw your signature right on a PDF with your trackpad, magic mouse, etc.
  3. Drag, resize and correct position the signature inside your PDF file.

How do I add a signature to a PDF

To sign your PDF file with Preview app:

  1. Open the document you want to sign
  2. In main menu go to Tools > Annotate > Signature > Manage signatures 
  3. To create signature tap to Click Here to Begin, draw your signature on the trackpad, press any key when finish, and then Done
  4. You can also scan your handwritten signature - write it on a piece of paper, hold to be visible to the camera, and Preview will draw a virtual signature.
  5. Choose the signature created to insert it into the document. Drag, resize and correct position of your sign like a regular image

Sign PDFs via Preview app

Redact sensitive information from PDFs

Many of the PDF files on your computer may contain sensitive or personal information, leaving you at risk of becoming a victim to identity theft. For example, a PDF form could contain your tax information, credit card numbers, or other personal details that you don’t want to share with third parties.

This is where PDF redaction comes in handy. Without an appropriate PDF editor like PDFpen, it can be very difficult to remove parts of the text you want to hide from a document. Redaction can remove a word or an entire line of text with a black box or empty white space.

Of course, if you don’t want to use software to redact your PDF, you can always take a black marker to cross out any information from a printed sheet. To make your life easier, use the following steps to redact sensitive information.

To redact an entire section of a document:

  1. Within PDFpen, click Tools and select the rectangle tool
  2. Select the area of the text you want to redact
  3. Click Format and Redact Text-Block

To redact selected text:

  1. Under Tools select Text Tools
  2. Select the text you want to redact
  3. Click Format and Redact Text – Block

Compress and share a PDF

If you don’t have a strong or reliable internet connection, it can be hard to send large PDF files to friends or colleagues. In order to upload large PDF files onto the cloud, send via email, or add them into size-restricted forms, you’ll need an app like PDF Squeezer to help you compress the PDF file while keeping the original quality. You can rest easy that this process won’t convert your PDF into a ZIP file.

To shrink your PDF resumes, applications, or visa-related documents for the web, use the following steps:

  1. Open PDF Squeezer
  2. Drag the PDF file you want to compress into the “Drop Your Files Here” section
  3. At the drop-down menu, select your preferred dpi and image quality
  4. Click Save

Edit PDF file size

With a built-in feature to send your PDF files to friends, clients, or colleagues, it makes sharing your compressed documents super easy. Click Share to send your file via text, email, or other options.


So with the use of a few apps, you’ll easily be able to create, search, and share PDFs all while saving time and frustration by being able to directly make changes to your documents, add notes, or remove personal information with redaction. Best of all, Setapp can help you do all of the above and features every app you can use to increase your PDF productivity. You can try the apps mentioned here at no cost along with over 130 other high-quality macOS apps.

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