3 minute read

PDF files are by nature not really designed to be edited by the end user, instead you’re expected to go back to the original source and change that before “publishing” it as a PDF file. Much like you would with a printed page.

Sometimes however this isn’t always possible to go back to the source. Often because you lost the original source, you weren’t the original author or it’s based on data that you entered into a long-winded form and you don’t want to have to re-enter it all over again.

Such is the latter in this case.

The request was to modify a couple of dates in a document that were written as US date format, rather than UK date format.

I looked at the file and realised it was a PDF file.

My initial response was to go back to the original author, but as I was soon told that creating the whole document from scratch would take a long time and unfortunately there was no way to go back and edit it.

Like most people I had Adobe Reader (it’s free and reads PDF files), but I didn’t have any PDF creation or editing software installed.

It may seem like Adobe Acrobat is the obvious choice for editing PDF files, but you’d be wrong. This software is primarily used for authoring PDF files, but not editing them and it’s expensive (£139 via Google Shopping at time of writing).

I began investigating further checking out the “List of PDF software” on Wikipedia.

The next choice was Adobe Photoshop. Again this is expensive and when I tried it, it imported it in as a rendered image. It didn’t allow me to edit the text.

Some of the editors considered open source, “multi-platform” such as Libreoffice, OpenOffice Draw, Inkscape I already had installed anyway, but again like Photoshop I found that it wasn’t really suitable.

There are a few command-line tools out there, but they offer very little editing ability to the actual content, only the ability to make changes to the document itself such as: add/remove pages, rotate pages, split, rotate, watermark. Nothing to change actual text.

I don’t think I even tried NitroPDF, I wasn’t convinced it was what I needed and I seem to recall it left me wanting to uninstall it immediately. I know for sure thought if you want the 14-day trial, you’re forced to hand over your email address. No thanks.

I tried two online offerings, DocQ PDFVUE, this would allow me to add new text layers, but not edit the existing text. There was a similar story with PDFescape.

Then I discovered Infix PDF Editor, priced at just £20, free to try, easy to download, despite the slightly cheesy website, I loved the software from the outset. I knew it was the right option when I read this description on the website:

It doesn’t matter whether you change a single word, a paragraph, or an entire page. Infix is the only PDF editor that covers your back, reflowing and reformatting text to keep it looking good. Once you’ve saved a file, you can’t even tell it’s been edited.

Perfect. Low and behold it does exactly what it says on the tin!

Simply load it up, choose the “Standard” option, then you’re free to click around on any bit of text and correct it accordingly.

My qualm came when I came to save. I could only save with a watermark otherwise I’d have to buy. No problem, I thought, 20 quid isn’t much. As it turns out the “Standard” edition is £59 (when you only buy one copy).

However, I don’t think they could have made the software itself any simpler if they tried and the fact that there’s nothing else out there like this on the market means you’re only left pondering the price.