Editing PDF’s

Linux probably has a lot more FOSS tools for editing PDF’s than other platforms. ImageMagick will do basic manipulation from the command line. But for a GUI interactive kind of editing, you should look at PDFedit

sudo apt-get install pdfedit

You can do what I’m pretty sure is one of the most often required tasks: Take a page or two out of an existing PDF file and put a page or two into an existing PDF file. Like when you mark up one page of a document, and need to scan the marked-up page and stick it back in the original, replacing the pre-marked up page.

It worked great for me!


  1. #1 Jaime Herazo
    August 29, 2011

    Also PDFTK. This is the description of the package on the repositories (package name is pdftk in case you wanna apt-get it too):
    If PDF is electronic paper, then pdftk is an electronic stapler-remover, hole-punch, binder, secret-decoder-ring, and X-Ray-glasses. Pdftk is a simple tool for doing everyday things with PDF documents. Keep one in the top drawer of your desktop and use it to:
    – Merge PDF documents
    – Split PDF pages into a new document
    – Decrypt input as necessary (password required)
    – Encrypt output as desired
    – Fill PDF Forms with FDF Data and/or Flatten Forms
    – Apply a Background Watermark
    – Report PDF on metrics, including metadata and bookmarks
    – Update PDF Metadata
    – Attach Files to PDF Pages or the PDF Document
    – Unpack PDF Attachments
    – Burst a PDF document into single pages
    – Uncompress and re-compress page streams
    – Repair corrupted PDF (where possible)

  2. #2 John Swindle
    August 29, 2011

    Thanks, Greg! And you, too, Jaime. I had no idea PDFs could be edited. Great news.

  3. #3 Barry
    August 30, 2011

    Any help for us poor benighted souls in Windows land?

  4. #4 Greg Laden
    August 30, 2011

    Barry, you can do everything you could ever imagine with PDFs with Adobe Acrobat (not the reader, but the main program).

  5. #5 Marion Delgado
    August 30, 2011

    Mac OS Xs have a lot of software built in to edit pdfs. That said, if you want linux stuff you usually have to sudo port install instead of apt-get install and it can be very tricky because you’re usually producing your packages from source and you usually have to mess with +architecture, sometimes cleaning or uninstalling old ports.

  6. #6 Marion Delgado
    August 30, 2011

    PDFTK has a snow leopard installer i will see if it also works on Lion out of the box.

    PDFEdit I think crashes on compile in mac os x but you can use Skim? http://skim-app.sourceforge.net/

  7. #7 Paul Hutch
    August 31, 2011

    Barry, IMHO the best free option for Windows is PDF-XChange Viewer from Tracker software. It is free even for most common commercial uses.

    For only $37.50 you can buy the PRO version and when combined with the free, open source, PDF Creator you’ll have basically every feature of the $450.00 dollar Adobe Acrobat Pro. Even though my employer provides me with a copy of Acrobat Pro, I bought a license for myself because I find it easier to use than Acrobat Pro.

  8. #8 Barry
    August 31, 2011

    Thanks, all!

  9. #9 uqbar
    September 23, 2011

    You might also try PDF-Shuffle – has an easy to use GI and is available in the Ubuntu Software Center. It’s limited to merging, splitting, and rearranging PDF documents, but if that is all you need to do, it does it well.

    If you just need to extract a few pages from a larger document, an easy way to do it is to open the document in the Evince document viewer, and then “print” selected pages to the “PDF printer.”

    I have to say that much as I prefer Linux, editing of PDFs remains a weak spot. There is no single tool available that compares to Adobe Acrobat for both capability and ease of use, although there are many good tools available for creating PDFs.