How to Write on a PDF

Annotate, comment, and mark up any PDF easily

What to Know

  • In Windows, Microsoft Edge offers a basic PDF editor. On a Mac, Preview provides the same functionality.
  • With iOS, use Markup in the Safari menu. With Android, use Microsoft OneDrive.

This article will look at the different programs you can use to write on a PDF and fill out forms. The tools you need are likely already on your computer.

Can You Write on a PDF?

There are multiple ways and types of software to allow you to write on, annotate, and otherwise make notes on a PDF. Depending on your operating system, some of those methods may already be available on your computer.

How to Write on a PDF in Windows

If you have Windows 10 or 11, you most likely already have a basic PDF editor on board. Microsoft Edge offers simple PDF functionality, including writing text notes, highlighting text, and drawing on the document. 

  1. Open the Windows menu and look for Microsoft Edge. If it’s not available for your computer, you can download Edge for free from Microsoft’s official website.

  2. Open your PDF in Microsoft Edge. If your PDF is on the web, you can just put the web link into the browser bar, and it will open the PDF automatically. Open Windows Explorer and search for your PDF if it's on your desktop.

    If you’ve downloaded the PDF from the internet recently using Edge, press Ctrl+J in Edge. This keyboard shortcut will open your downloads menu, and you can open the PDF directly.

  3. At the top of the screen, you'll see the PDF editing tools underneath the browser bar. Add Text allows you to create a text box and type in text. You can change the text's size, color, and spacing while in the Add Text tool.

    Add text to a PDF file in Microsoft Edge
  4. To write on a PDF in freehand, like signing a document, select the Draw tool. This tool lets you draw with your finger on a touchpad or sign with a mouse. Next to the Draw Tool on the bar is a dropdown menu that lets you choose line color and thickness.

    Draw and a freehand signature on a PDF in Microsoft Edge

    The Draw tool engages when you click on the PDF and only disengages when you click for a second time. Be sure to perform that second click, or you may see extra lines.

  5. To remove your freehand drawing, choose the Erase tool and click on it, then move your mouse or swipe on the touchpad. It will erase the entire thing.

  6. To highlight text, click on the Highlight tool. Like the Draw tool, there’s a dropdown menu that lets you choose color and line thickness. You can also toggle whether or not you want to highlight only text. You can remove a highlight by right-clicking on it and selecting Highlight > None.

  7. To annotate a PDF, highlight the text you want to make a note on, right-click on the area you want to make a note on, and select Add Comment. Then click the checkmark to add the note. If you’ve added a note to a highlighted area, the comment will be at the beginning of that highlighted section. If you haven’t highlighted anything, it will be automatically placed on the document.

    An annotation on a PDF in Microsoft Edge

    These annotations create a tooltip, text that appears when a mouse hovers over it. If multiple people annotate a document, it will be hard to read; adding comments will be a cleaner reading experience.

How Can I Write on a PDF on a Mac?

For Mac users, the best tool to write on a PDF is the Preview app which comes pre-installed on macOS. While it's more generally known as a basic image editor, it's a pretty competent PDF editor.

Do you have simple needs? Here's how to sign a PDF using Preview on a Mac.

  1. Open the PDF in Preview. If you haven’t set an alternative tool, double-clicking on the PDF in the Finder or your desktop will open it in Preview automatically.

  2. Select the Markup Tool in the toolbar on top of the PDF, in the upper right-hand corner. It resembles a marker pointing up inside a circle.

    Markup tool on a PDF in Preview on a Mac
  3. A second toolbar will open. To draw on a document freehand, look for the Sketch or Draw tools, which resemble wavy lines. Sketch tools draw a simple line and try to guess at the shape you’re attempting to draw. The Draw tool will create a lighter or thicker line depending on how hard you press the trackpad.

    Sketch tool on a PDF in Preview Markup Toolbar on a Mac
  4. To add text, click on the Text tool. You can write text in a box anywhere and drag it on the document.

    Text tool on Markup Toolbar Preview on a Mac
  5. To add a signature, click the Sign tool. You can save your signature in Preview and automatically load it.

    Sign tool on a PDF in Preview on a Mac

How Can I Write on a PDF on an iPhone?

The iPhone and iPad also have built in PDF editing functions, in this case found in Safari.

  1. Navigate to the PDF in Safari and tap the box with the arrow coming out of it. Scroll down the menu that opens and select Markup.

  2. The PDF will load with tools at the bottom; a Pen, Highlighter, Pencil, Eraser, Lasso, and Ruler. Perform a long press on any of these tools to open the menu and change their settings. Undo and Redo buttons are at the top to correct mistakes. Click done when finished.

    Markup and Markup toolkit in Safari for iOS

How Can I Edit PDFs on Android?

For Android, the best option to edit PDFs is Microsoft OneDrive.

Don't have it? Get Microsoft OneDrive for Android.

  1. Download the PDF to your Android device or Google Drive. Choose the pen button at the bottom.

  2. In the Edit File menu, choose OneDrive PDF Editor.

  3. When the file opens, choose Annotate, and you'll have a choice of three pens and a highlighter, as well as a Text tool as an upper-case T and a Notes tool next to it. Click Done.

    Edit Pen, Edit Menu, and OneDrive's annotate menu on Android
FAQ
  • What is the best free PDF editor?

    The best free third-party PDF editors include Sejda PDF Editor, PDF-XChange Editor, Inkscape, LibreOffice Draw, and PDFelement.

  • How do I edit a PDF in my Google Drive?

    Upload the PDF to your Google Drive and select the file to see a preview. Select Open With > Connect more apps, choose a PDF editor, then select Connect.

  • How do I edit a PDF on my Chromebook?

    To edit a PDF on a Chromebook, you must use a third-party app. With Sejda PDF Editor, go to Edit > Upload PDF file.

  • How do I combine PDF files?

    The easiest way to merge PDFs is to visit a site like CombinePDF.com. Choose your PDFs, then select Merge. You can also combine PDFs using Mac Preview or Adobe Acrobat.

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