PDF, or “portable document format,” is a common file type that is used for all kinds of important documents. From tax forms to job applications, chances are you’ll need to edit PDF files or fill in an existing one. Learn how to open, edit, and even add your signature to a PDF file that someone else has created in our step-by-step guide.
Can you edit a PDF file?
In most cases, you can make changes to an existing PDF file that you download from the internet or receive as an email attachment. Each PDF will have its own security permissions, which the owner may have locked so that you cannot make any changes. This is most common for copyrighted forms and some educational materials where the document is designed to be read-only.
For the most common forms we use in daily life, however, there are fields specifically placed on the PDF document that we are intended to fill in. A tax withholding form from your employer, for example, may be sent electronically and have places to type in your name, address, and other pertinent tax info. Even PDF documents that don’t have specific text fields can usually be typed on, provided you have the correct software to open, edit, and save the file again.
How to type on a PDF
Before you even begin to modify PDF files, you need to have the right software to view and edit them. If you own Windows, you may already have the Microsoft Edge browser installed. This browser not only lets you view PDFs, but it lets you type and draw on PDF files without strict restrictions.
- Use File Explorer to find the PDF document you wish to open. Right-click the document and select Open with, then Microsoft Edge
- The file will open in a new Microsoft Edge window or a new tab if the program is already running
- From here, it’s easy to use your mouse to point and click on the fields in which you wish to type
You can also add handwritten or illustrated notes using the Add Notes function at the top of the page. Select the color you want to draw with, or even switch to touch writing to have more control from a tablet or touch screen setting. This is one of the best ways to put your digital signature on a document as well.
When you finish editing the document, you can choose to save it as a new file and even print it out. The new data you typed or drew on the document should remain.
Using additional tools to type on PDF files
Sometimes you may want to type on a PDF in areas where there aren’t existing text fields. This is where third-party software comes in handy, such as the basic Adobe Acrobat software. This free PDF reader should support most PDF files you receive, and you can use the Typewriter tools to insert text in the appropriate fields using these steps:
- Use the Adobe Reader software to open the PDF file of your choosing
- Select the View menu from the top
- Choose Toolbars and More Tools
- At the bottom of this list, choose Typewriter Toolbar, and click OK (This is only available if the creator of the PDF allows it in the permissions)
- Type in the data you want, and hit Enter if you want to add a new line of text to a field
- Edit any text you want using the Select tool, and then adjust the text color, text size, line spacing, and more
- When you are done, save the doc as a new file
For those who have a more full-featured version of the Adobe products, you will find additional ways to edit and change Adobe files. This includes the ability to type and sign from your mobile device, access PDFs from Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive, and turn documents with other file types into PDFs before you modify them.
Adding a legally-binding signature to a PDF
With the draw function in many PDF readers and editing tools, it’s simple to draw your name as a signature on any document. Because it’s so easy to edit and erase items on a PDF, these signatures may not always be seen as legally binding. To ensure that your PDF signature is treated as a contract, use one of the more full-featured PDF software products on the market.
These give you the chance to digitally sign your documents, and to digitally verify and securely send them to only those people you trust. Adobe and other third-party companies even have extra tools that can track when documents have been signed. They may also let you put a watermark on the PDF with “approved” or “draft” to help you know which versions are the official, final copies.
The legality of modifying PDF
Remember that many tools make it easy to sign, add text, draw on, or even remove part of a PDF file easily so that you can save or send it to someone else. Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should do this in every situation. Make sure you have the permission of the document creator to make changes to a PDF. Also, always follow copyright law by never removing the copyright or trademark notations listed on the bottom.