It’s no secret that the PDF file format is probably the second most popular one right after DOC and DOCX. And for a good reason – unlike Microsoft’s offering, PDFs can be opened on just about any device while keeping their original formatting completely intact.
They are also much easier to encrypt than most other files, which is super important in a business setting where even a minor trade secret leak could spell a PR disaster. Oh, and converting any file to the Acrobat-invented format tends to noticeably shrink its size!
However, PDFs do share one universal problem – they are really tough to edit! And while Apple Mac users have long enjoyed access to native PDF editor tools, the Windows user base is still out of luck. Or is it? Join us as we explore ways you can create PDFs from scratch and customize them to your liking using nothing but free tools. Let’s begin!
How to edit PDFs for free using Microsoft Office
Making a PDF from scratch
If you have bought a current Windows license, you might logically think that you are also entitled to a full Microsoft Office license. Unfortunately, this is not the case as it is sold separately. Don’t fret, however, as there’s still a way you can edit Word documents and convert them to PDF completely free of charge, without needing a specific PDF editor for Windows. Below, we’ll illustrate the process as seen on Windows 10, but it should be a similar affair in Windows 11 as well.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Create a new DOCX file on your local machine and name it appropriately. For this example, we’ll be naming it “Free PDF”. We know – super original.
- Launch the web Office suite. If you don’t see it on your desktop, simply hit the Windows key + “R” to activate the search bar, then type in “Office”.
3.On the home screen, click “Upload” on your top right and select your file, then wait a bit as the app transfers your file to the cloud. Once the process is complete, the file will open as a new tab in your browser of choice.
4.You should now be able to make changes to your file. Once you’ve added all the content and ironed out the formatting, simply go to “File”, then save the document as a PDF. Congratulations – you’ve just made your first document without using a dedicated PDF edit tool!
Quick tip: Upon upload, your file will be stored in your free Microsoft OneDrive account. If you need to reopen the file for whatever reason, for instance, to edit a paragraph, you will need to do so from OneDrive as opening it in Office will launch the native Microsoft Word app. To reopen your file correctly, simply load up OneDrive and find it under “My files”.
Converting a Word file to a PDF
If you simply want to convert an existing DOC or DOCX file to a PDF, you don’t have to go through all of the steps we’ve just mentioned above. Instead, all you have to do is take advantage of Word’s built-in Print to PDF option. Don’t worry, though – you won’t be actually printing anything!
Here is how it works:
- Open your DOC or DOCX file directly within Word. If prompted to purchase a license, choose “Skip sign in for now”.
2.Navigate to “File” and choose “Print” from the available options.
3.From the list of available devices, choose “Microsoft Print to PDF”, then simply click on “Print” to save your file in a PDF format.
That’s all there is to it!
How to create a free PDF using Google Docs
If you don’t have a Microsoft Office license and can’t be bothered with uploading files to OneDrive, you can create a Google account instead. This will give you instant access to Google Workspace – a free cloud-based office suite that is nearly just as powerful as Microsoft’s offering and also doubles as a free PDF text editor… sort of.
Here is how to make your first Google Doc:
- Navigate to Google Drive and sign in with your credentials.
- Once you’re logged into Drive, right-click on an empty area and choose “Google Docs” → “Blank document”.
3. Name your file and make the necessary changes. Once you’re done, simply go to “File” → “Download” → “PDF Document” and your file will be converted to a PDF.
Quick tip: if you simply want to convert an existing file to a PDF, all you need to do is drag and drop the file directly within Google Drive and then skip straight to Step Three.
How to customize images with Paint 3D
Besides being a useful app for quickly sketching down ideas, Microsoft Paint 3D can be handy in many other ways, and that includes image editing. In fact, Paint 3D offers probably one of the easiest ways to crop an image in Windows.
Here is what you need to do to crop your images in seconds:
- Open the image that you want to crop by right-clicking it and choosing “Edit with Paint 3D”.
Alternatively, you can take a snapshot of your screen by pressing “Print Screen” and then pasting what you’ve just captured directly within Paint 3D with the Ctrl + V key combination.
2. Once the image is loaded, click on “Crop” in the top left corner and adjust the white circles surrounding the image until you’re satisfied with the result, then click “Done” to save your newly cropped image.
3. You can further customize your image by inserting various 2D and 3D objects, placing stickers, adding text, applying various filters and effects, and much more. In the example below, we’ve added a bit of text to go along with our chosen image.
4. Once you’re done, simply go to “Menu” → “Save as” → “Image”.
That’s it – you can now directly drag and drop your image within your DOCX or Google Docs file. This method allows you to add as many images as you would like, which you can then export along with all the other texts and formatting options into a single slick PDF.
Looming deadlines? Consider a third-party option
While the PDF editor-free methods outlined above will no doubt take you to the finish line, they are not exactly the most efficient. And while that’s probably fine if you have lots of time on your hands and just need to create a PDF or two for your personal project, these workarounds can quickly fall apart if you try to apply them in a fast-paced office environment.
Imagine for a moment that a client wishes you to revise several PDF files that you’ve spent so much time painstakingly crafting using these free methods. This would require you to go through each original file, make the desired changes, and then save it as a new PDF. And if you happen to accidentally delete some of the original files as you go back and forth between conversions, you’ll be in trouble as you would have to recreate them from scratch.
Talk about a waste of time and effort!
This is where a dedicated PDF editor, such as PDF Extra by MobiSystems, might be a more well-suited option. Okay, so what are the advantages of the PDF editor? We’re glad you asked! Here are just a couple of examples of how investing in pro-tier PDF software can pay out in the long run:
- Create new PDFs or edit any aspect of your existing PDFs all from one place;
- Instantly add or remove pages and rearrange them via simple drag & drop controls;
- Insert comments, highlight texts, and attach files directly within your PDF;
- Store and share PDFs more easily by compressing them and merging them together.
This is just a small glimpse of what you can expect when you opt for proprietary software that is developed from the ground up to provide the most efficient PDF editing workflow possible. With PDF Extra by your side, you can greatly optimize your workflow and save precious time, which you can then invest into your business to drive its value even higher.
That being said, the free alternatives that we’ve listed here are perfectly suitable for everyday users who don’t work with hundreds of PDF files on a daily basis and just want to convert their upcoming novel or share a quick sketch or two of their new restaurant menu with friends. However, if you’re working in a professional setting, these powerful editor features will no doubt come in handy and make your life simpler and your clients happier.