• Pricing
  1. Home
  2. Edit PDF
  3. How to Edit PDF
  4. How To Edit a PDF on Mac—Three Fast and Free Ways
How To Edit a PDF on Mac—Three Fast and Free Ways

How To Edit a PDF on Mac—Three Fast and Free Ways

by Filip Malypetr

You can also read this article in German, Spanish, French and Italian.

Need to edit a PDF on your Mac—for free? Here are three easy options, so you can quickly find the one that’s right for you.

PDFs are great for sharing documents in their original format. You know they’ll look exactly the same, no matter what platform or device they’re viewed on. But what do you do when you need to make quick changes to a PDF from your Mac?

Maybe you need to add, remove, or rearrange pages. Or you might want to insert text, annotations, or signatures. No matter the case, we’ve got you covered with three simple options that only take seconds:

  1. Mac’s Preview function
  2. Smallpdf’s free PDF editing tool
  3. Google Docs converter

You can step through each option below, or scroll to the bottom for a summarized table of pros and cons for each method.

Option 1: Using Preview—Mac’s Built-in PDF Editor

When it comes to basic PDF editing, your built-in Mac PDF Editor has you covered.

You can access the PDF Editor through your Mac’s Preview function. It’s simple, free, and preinstalled on your machine. With Preview, you can easily add text, images, or annotations, and you can add, remove, and rearrange pages in your PDF documents.

To start: open a PDF on your Mac. (Note: If your PDF doesn’t automatically open in Preview, open the Preview tool first, then search for your PDF.)

Then: most options can be found in the Markup toolbar. This gives you options to add text signatures, shapes, and more. You can find this by clicking the Markup icon in the main toolbar, or in the View menu > Show Markup Toolbar.

Editing a PDF on Mac using Mac's built-in PDF editor

To see all your PDF pages, click View > Thumbnails. This makes it easy to delete and rearrange pages in your document.

Key advantages:

  • Built into your Mac
  • No internet connection required
  • Basic options are free and easy to use

The Mac Preview option is great for simple edits, but it is limited. For example, you can’t edit existing text in a PDF. If you need to make more professional-looking edits, one of the below options might be your better choice.

Option 2: Editing PDFs with Smallpdf on Mac

If you’re looking for a user-friendly interface with more options, another easy-to-use tool is the Smallpdf PDF Editor. It’s fast and free, and doesn’t require any signup or software download.

To start: Go to the Smallpdf PDF Editor, and drag and drop your PDF into the box.

Then: you’ll see options to Edit, Mark up, and Organize your PDF. This includes all you need to add text, colors, shapes, even images. You can add your signature, initials, and checkboxes too. Adding, deleting, and rearranging pages is also fast and easy.

Edit your PDF for free with Smallpdf

More advanced features—like making your text fully editable—are available to Pro users. Take advantage of the unlimited 7-day free trial to test it out.

The PDF Editor is also private and secure: all documents you upload and modify are deleted from Smallpdf’s servers when you’re done. No one sees your documents but you.

Key advantages:

  • Simple, user-friendly interface
  • No signup or install required
  • High-quality output
  • Options to convert to Word, JPG, and more
  • Fully edit all text (Pro with free trial)

Editing PDFs with Smallpdf on Mac is a quick and convenient solution for users who need high-quality, professional documents without the expense or hassle.

Option 3: Utilizing Google Docs as a PDF Editor on Mac

You most likely use Google Docs for word processing. But it’s also a simple yet effective solution for editing PDF text with minimal formatting.

To start: upload your PDF file to your Google Drive account.

Then: right-click on the uploaded file, go to “Open with,” and select Google Docs from the drop-down menu.

Editing a PDF on Mac using Google Docs

This converts your PDF into a Google Doc, and allows you to make edits just like you would with any other document format. This includes adding or deleting text, inserting images or shapes, and even applying formatting changes.

When you’re done editing, simply print your document as a PDF to finish.

Key advantages:

  • Operates in your web browser for platform independence
  • Full control over text editing
  • Easy collaboration with Google sharing

The biggest downside to this method is that you can lose some of the original PDF formatting, especially for more complex documents. So while this is a good option for text-dominant PDFs, it doesn’t provide the functionality and control you get with the other options.

Tips & Tricks for Efficient PDF Editing on Mac

The most important tip for editing PDFs from your Mac is knowing that you have different free options available that are easy to use.

The next tip is knowing what type of edits you need to make. For simple edits that don’t require an internet connection, your built-in Mac Preview option may be all you need. If you need a little more control and high-quality output, the Smallpdf PDF Editor might be your best choice. And if you’re mostly working with text-heavy documents, the Google Docs option may be enough.

Remember that all the basic navigation tricks and keyboard shortcuts you’re used to work for most PDF tools too.

  • “Command + A” to select all the text in a PDF document.
  • “Command + C” and “Command + V” to copy and paste selected text or images.
  • Trackpad gestures, like pinch-to-zoom or two-finger scrolling, allow for quick navigation within longer PDF documents.
  • To add pages to a PDF document, drag and drop new PDF documents alongside thumbnails of existing pages.
  • To rearrange pages in your PDF document, simply click and drag with your trackpad.

And finally, while native applications like Preview allow quick and simple PDF edits, online platforms provide more advanced editing capabilities. These cloud-based apps provide user-friendly interfaces with powerful extras specifically designed for modifying PDFs on Mac. Many are free to start with no signup needed, and inexpensive to upgrade if more professional features are needed.

Bottom line: you’ve got options without spending money on expensive software.

Filip Malypetr - Profile Pic
Filip Malypetr
Senior Content Manager @Smallpdf