Does anyone know about a good(free would be great) PDF editor?

I am trying to edit/translate an "Instructions Manual" PDF for a certain product. I need to edit the text in the PDF in order to translate it to another language.

The only workaround I found is to open the PDF in Illustrator(page by page). But I'm sure there is another way.

I am looking to purchase some software to do this if I cannot find a great free product.

I found a plugin for InDesign that allows me to import PDFs,

  • do you know about it?
  • Have you tried it ?
  • Is it working for InDesign CS5?
  • Does it Import all the pages in the PDF ?
  • Is it free?
  • can you provide a link to it please.

If not...

  • Would Adobe Acrobat Pro do the job ?
  • What is the best PDF editor you know of ?
  • lol so many question in 1 :D
    – Jack
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 11:51
  • 2
    There is a lot in this question, and normally it would be closed, but I think it is a result of not understanding what can and cannot be done with a PDF. I'm leaving this open. Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 12:36

6 Answers 6


If you need to make anything more than a very minor change to a PDF, you need to go to the layouts that was used to create the PDF in the first place. PDFs don't work with objects in the layouts that page layout applications do.

Otherwise, if you need to edit a PDF, then Acrobat Professional is absolutely the way to go. It is designed specifically to edit PDFs. But, again, I cannot stress enough that doing so will take you only so far. You really need to get the layouts, edit there, and output a new PDF.

  • By "layouts" you mean the source file? Like an InDesign file or whatever is the source. ? If so... I do not have it.... sadly.. Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 13:03
  • 1
    Yes. Layouts = source file. If you own the content, then I suggest having it rekeyed and re-done. Editing a PDF is an unpredictable action that really doesn't help over the long term. Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 13:07
  • I downloaded a trial version of Adobe Acrobat Pro. I can now edit most of the PDF except the text that I do not have the font. The problem is that I cannot edit the text boxes/areas where a font that I don't have on my system Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 13:12
  • 2
    OK. So i need to redo the whole document from stratch... Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 13:19
  • 1
    You got it. I work for a publishing company and even with our vast resources, we still have the same problem and perform the same solution. Good luck! Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 13:22

There is nothing out there to match PDF2ID from Recosoft. It converts a PDF into an InDesign document so accurately, and so well (i.e., the document is well structured, styled, accurately parsed and laid out), that it's scary. The resulting INDD almost never requires touch-up, and if you get this kind of work even once or twice a year it's well worth the price.

It's fantastic product. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn't swear by it. They have a free trial, too, so you can test it on your specific project before you buy.


PDF is not designed for editing, although there are tools that can bodge it. For anything more, you will need to get the document into an editable format. In the worst case you may have to cut the text and paste into InDesign and then recreate the document.

The translation is also quite unlikely to copyfit exactly into the original layout, so you may need to re-jig the layout as well. This brings you back to getting the orignal, or having to reconstruct it by cutting stuff from the PDF and reconstructing the layout in InDesign. This is likely to be a time consuming process, so it is best avoided if possible.

Bonus points if you get a PDF that is locked to prevent end-user tooling from doing this, although Acrobat Pro lets you work around it.

Long story short: get the original artwork if at all possible. Otherwise you're probably up for a manual reconstruction job. Make sure the client understands that this will cost extra if the original editable document cannot be obtained.


If you have InDesign or QuarkXPress. The best software to use to bring in PDF documents into an editable format is PDF2DTP from Markzware. You can find it: www.markzware.com/products/pdf2dtp. I'm not sure if they have a running demo of it, but I gave it a shot and it works great! I've used recosoft's PDF2ID, as Alan mentioned, converter for many years before PDF2DTP but there are somethings that the PDF2ID converter doesn't capture.

I have since 'converted' into a Markzware user and don't see myself changing that anytime in the future.

Hope that helps.


Yes, PDF2DTP from Markzware and for whom I represent, will do the trick for you:

PDF to InDesign Tutorial with PDF2DTP from Markzware - YouTube


What I have done is use Abbyy Finereader to OCR a scanned document and output it in another format. Just for curiosity I remade a book from OCR in order for it to have the exact same layout as the original and I feel it worked.

I ended up redoing the layout in Indesign, but I must say it was a time consuming process.

Abby Finereader can produce office formats which have a fair bit of the layout and fonts, but well, I wouldn't say the output is "identical". However than you can import that in a desktop publishing app and refine the layout.

If you don't want it to be identical, but just want to keep the structure of the headings, tables, images etc, this is not to bad.

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