7 Ways to Work With PDF Files

Sign PDFs, fill out forms, view the PDF, edit or create a PDF, and more

PDF displayed on a tablet on a desk with glasses and a cup of coffee

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PDF is a popular file format, so you've probably come across it at one point or another. Maybe you found a PDF file online that you need to open or edit, or maybe you want to make your own PDF to share with someone else.

Below are the resources you need to do all sorts of things to a PDF: read it, make your own, edit the text or images, sign the PDF, convert it, add a password, and more.

Open PDF Files: Read the PDF Online or Offline

pdf document page icon illustration

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The most basic task when dealing with a PDF is opening it. You can open PDF files online from your web browser or offline from your desktop.

You might want to open a PDF file online if you're looking through several PDFs and you don't want to download each of them. A really quick way to open a PDF file online is with the free PDF viewer from Softgateon.net or PDF Pro.

The other option is to download a PDF reader that lets you open PDFs on your Windows or Mac computer. There are several free PDF readers you can choose from, such as SumatraPDF.

Most PDF readers include built-in support to search for text within the PDF, too.

If you want to showcase a PDF on your website so that your visitors can view it without having to deal with a PDF reader, learn how to add a PDF to your website, but be sure to make the link point to an online version of the PDF, such as one hosted on your Google Drive.

Edit PDF Files: Sign the PDF, Fill Out Forms, Make Your Own PDF

Pencil illustration

PDF openers let you read the file, but a PDF editor is needed if you plan to make any changes to it. Some PDF readers also function as a PDF editor, but there's no need to guess when we have a list of the best free PDF editors.

If you already have Microsoft Word on your computer, you can even use that as a PDF editor.

All PDF editors are different but most of them let you do all sorts of things, like create fillable forms, make a line where someone should sign the PDF, highlight text, block out items, change the PDF text, add images, make a new PDF from scratch, and more.

Some, but not all, PDF editors cover PDF splitting, too, so that you can make a separate file from each page of the PDF or remove pages from the document. Extracting images from a PDF is another similar feature included in some PDF editors.

Create PDF Files: Make a New PDF From Another File

PDF export file signs

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Lots of PDF editors (see the link above) also function as PDF makers where you can create a PDF from scratch, but another way to consider a PDF creator is as a tool that lets you convert a different file into the PDF format.

For example, if you want to make a PDF from a web page or save an image to the PDF format, you can print it to PDF ("print" here just means to save).

Convert PDF Files: Make the PDF an Image or Another File Format

PDF conversion illustration

Another task involving PDFs is converting them to other formats. It's sometimes said that there's no need to convert PDFs because they might lose their formatting and it could be harder for someone else to open them. However, if you need to, you can convert the PDF to JPG, a Word format, or something else.

A document file converter like Zamzar is one option for converting a PDF to a different format. It's ideal because it runs entirely online, so you don't need to download the conversion software to use it.

Some PDF conversion tools let you compress the PDF, too. Learn how to make a PDF smaller for details on doing that.

Secure PDF Files: Make a Password Protected PDF

Security illustration of a lock in front of computer code

PDFs are completely open by default, but you can password protect the PDF with a document open password to prevent someone from opening it unless they can enter the correct password.

Some PDF security software programs let you make a PDF owner password, too, which lets you define restrictions such as to prevent the PDF from being printed, stop the content from being copied, disable editing, stop the user from filling out forms, and more.

Crack PDF Files: What You Need If You Forget the PDF Password

Binary with the word hacked in red

A PDF password cracker/remover/recovery tool attempts to remove the password or figure it out for you if you forgot it. This type of PDF tool is necessary for those times you made a PDF years ago but can't for the life of you remember what you set it as.

PDFCrack is one example of a PDF password recovery tool that can crack owner and user passwords through brute force or by running through a word list.

Find PDF Files: How to Search for PDFs Online

PDF displayed on a computer screen

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PDFs are all over the place. As you can see with the other tips on this page, you can make your own and even host it on your website, so how do you find PDFs other people have made?

One of the best ways to find PDF files online is with a web search engine. For example, you can find files online with Google Search by using the filetype option, like this:

healthy tips filetype:pdf