How to Edit PDF on a Mac

If you asked someone how to edit PDF on Mac, most people will tell you about Adobe Acrobat. Granted that it is considered to be the de facto PDF editor by most businesses, but it is neither the only one nor the best one in every respect. There are other software utilities that are far more capable – and many that are a lot more affordable – than Adobe’s product. Let’s start with how to edit a PDF on Mac for free, and then take it from there, shall we?

Mac Preview App – A Pseudo-editor for PDF Files

You might be surprised to learn that the Preview app for images and graphics is actually a great Mac app to handle PDF files. Strictly speaking, you cannot edit text content using this tool, but it does offer a whole range of other editing capabilities like page reordering, annotations, image conversions to PDF and more. Let’s take a look at some of the PDF tools available in the Mac Preview app.

How to Edit a PDF Document on a Mac using the Preview App

Being able to annotate a PDF document is one of the most crucual functionalities of any PDF editing utility. The average user typically does four things: review, annotate, comment and sign. As a PDF reader, Preview offers everything that most other readers do, including Adobe Reader. It also has a fairly comprehensive toolkit for annotations, such as highlighting, striking over, adding comments as text on the document, masking text and overwriting, etc.

To access the annotation tools, open a PDF in Preview and go to Tools > Annotate in the main menu. The highlight tool will be greyed out unless you’ve selected some text, but other elements will be overlaid on top of the existing content. You can also have the annotation tools handy by enabling the toolbar from the View menu.

To edit a PDF document in Preview, follow the steps described below:

  • Launch Preview from the Applications folder and open a PDF document using the File menu at the top.
  • To highlight text, select the text in question, open the annotations menu or make the annotations toolbar visible, and click on Highlight Text.
  • To draw shapes, just choose the shape you want and click-and-drag to draw it.
  • You can use the Mask function to highlight one area of a PDF page (resizable) by darkening all other areas of that page.
  • The Loupe tool shows a magnified portion of the text within a page, and can be resized. Underlying annotation elements will also be magnified, making it ideal to draw attention to a single element of text or image.

The View menu is also where you’ll find the Thumbnails view, which you will need when re-arranging pages in a PDF or adding another document to combine both PDFs. The Thumbnails will appear on the left in a separate sidebar that you can resize by clicking and dragging the vertical bar between that and the main panel.

These are the main features for editing PDFs with this free tool. It’s actually a pity that Apple doesn’t promote Preview as a PDF utility. For most users of PDF documents, it offers everything they need to handle this format, including converting to other formats and converting from formats like JPG. As a completely free tool that is included in the box, Preview is one of the best PDF editors around for Mac OS X and macOS.

PDFelement for Mac: Affordable yet Robust Functionality

As PDF editors go, PDFelement for Mac is a fitting and affordable answer to Adobe Acrobat DC. Not only does it offer an equally strong suite of editing, conversion, OCR, merging and other tools, but in some areas like batch conversion speed and maintaining the original layout of documents, it actually fares better than its more expensive rival.

Editing a PDF document with PDFelement is intuitive and distraction-free. The tools you need for various editing functions appear when you select that function, letting you work undistracted and only showing relevant tools on the right sidebar and at the top. The contents of the sidebar and the top toolbar then change when you select a different function.

For example, when you select a block of text in Edit mode, the sidebar will give you options for selecting line and paragraph mode, changing font type, size and color, bolding and italicizing, and alignment. The top toolbar will contain relevant options for editing that block of text.

When you select another mode, such as Comment, both the sidebar and top toolbar will dynamically change and show you tools that are relevant to that mode.

How to Edit PDF on Mac with PDFelement

The editing process is equally intuitive, and the steps below outline how you do it in PDFelement:

  • Launch PDFelement for Mac and open a PDF file using the Open File button on the main page. Alternatively, you can drag a document from Finder and drop it into the software to import it.

  • To edit text, choose Edit mode in the toolbar. This will show you the editable blocks in the document. Select the block or text to be edited, and you will see additional tools at the top and in the right sidebar. To change any text, just select it and type over it. You can also delete it or use annotation tools to comment.
  • The Add Text button allows you to add text anywhere in the document by clicking and opening a text box.
  • You can also move text by selecting it and using your mouse to reposition it in another location in the document.
  • To edit images, select the image and then crop, move, reposition, resize, extract or replace it.
  • You can use the Add Image function to select an image from your local memory and place it in the document.
  • Markup tools are available in the Comment section, and include highlighting, underlining, striking through, erasing, writing freehand, adding shapes and text callouts and more.
  • The Protect tab contains the Redact function, which is useful for blacking out sensitive information in a shared document. This function is non-reversible once you save the document, so be sure about what parts you want to redact.

Once your editing work is done, simply save the document, convert it, export it or rename it, as you wish. One of the unique editing functions in PDFelement is the ability to use OCR (Pro version) to convert scanned documents and convert them into editable PDFs or even searchable documents.

PDFelement for Mac allows you to do everything you can with Adobe Acrobat DC, along with several advanced actions and features. The Export option allows you to convert PDF into a large number of formats including EPUB. That’s not a feature you’ll see on most PDF editors at this price point. As such, it is an ideal alternative to pricier products like Nitro and Adobe that are often prohibitive to smaller companies that run on tight budgets.

PDF Expert: A Mac-only PDF Editor

This beautifully designed piece of software has been made expressly for the Mac environment, and is as versatile as the UI (user interface) is attractive. If you want to know how to edit a PDF on Mac in as elegant a way as possible, this PDF editor should definitely be on your Top 4 list alongside Nitro, PDFelement and Adobe Acrobat.


Don’t be fooled by its affordable price, either. The software contains all the necessary tools to make editing a PDF super-simple, and you won’t see functionality traded off for price.

How to edit a PDF on a Mac using PDF Expert

  • Launch the program and open a PDF using the File menu. Drag-and-drop from Finder is also supported.
  • To edit a text section, click the Select tool, choose the text to be edited and start writing. Click outside the text box to keep your changes.

  • Images can be edited by selecting them and then the appropriate action, such as moving, resizing, cropping and extracting. Clicking on an image will automatically show you these edit options.
  • To annotate a PDF, click on the pencil icon to show you the relevant tools. You can highlight, underline, strikethrough, add notes and draw freeform shapes. You can also add stamps from a standard list that’s included with the software, for which there is a stamp icon provided.

PDF Expert also has an iOS version for quick edits on the move, and the iPad version supports Apple Pencil, which is quite useful for people who frequently edit documents on their tablet while traveling or commuting. As such, it’s a great utility that lets you work seamlessly between Mac desktops and iOS devices.

Your choice of PDF editor is entirely based on how you plan to use it, and for what purpose. If you do batch conversions, PDFelement wins out because of its greater speed and accuracy. If you need something for a mobile platform as well as desktop, PDF Expert might top the list. On the other hand, if you’re a personal user or novice to PDF editing, you might like to try Preview as a “starter kit.” One thing is certain, though – whatever your purpose or level of expertise, there’s an affordable and highly capable PDF editor with just the right amount of user appeal waiting for you.