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I typically have two needs:

Scenario A. Change a single PDF page.

In this case I have a PDF but not the original source file used to create the PDF. I don't want to try to recreate the document from scratch. I'd like to open the PDF and change a few things. A good example of this scenario: I was responsible for planning a big event at a campground site, I had a PDF of the site. I wanted to start with that document, highlight some parts, add some labels, remove some parts that weren't relevant.


Scenario B. Combine PDFs or extract page(s) from a PDF

This scenario usually arises because I want a single PDF deliverable that is made up of parts that are best created in different programs. In this case I have the source files for all the documents but they don't play well enough together to easily create a single PDF deliverable. For part of it, I may want to use Libre Office Writer. For another page I may want to use Gimp. Still another page I may use Libre Office Calc. I could use Writer as the master document and embed images or the Calc object into that, but for ultimate control, you can't beat separate PDF documents that are then combined.

What are the best tools / processes for editing PDFs in Ubuntu?

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Care to add your answer to here:… and flag this for closure as a dupe of the first? You can also edit the title and the question a tiny bit on the other side. That will make things more consistence and make sure that the information is located on one place. – Bruno Pereira Jul 10 '12 at 15:57
I'm all for putting the best information together so people don't have to go to 10 places to get it... In this case, for me to change that question into my question would leave the other comments and solutions making little sense, no? – snowguy Jul 10 '12 at 16:39
We can clean it up, or possibly merge the other post in to this one, if you want you can have a look and let me know what you think it would be a good solution, I'm all ears. – Bruno Pereira Jul 10 '12 at 16:41
I don't have further time to work on this today but will tomorrow. I posted to help the community and definitely don't want to instead create more confusion with dupes. I do feel that the other question (redacting) is a very specific question and many of the answers address issues specific to redacting (vs modification in general). I'll give it some thought, but I am new here. I am happy to take your advice. So let me know how you think is best to solve. thanks. – snowguy Jul 10 '12 at 16:51
I will clean it tonight, if you see your post closed for some reason please just move your question to the other one. Its nice information and very well formatted, its really appreciated. And don't forget, we can revert anything on the site (most of it) so if you don't agree we can always change a thing or 2. – Bruno Pereira Jul 10 '12 at 16:53

10 Answers 10

LibreOffice Draw impressed me:

sudo apt-get install libreoffice
libreoffice my.pdf

Just open the pdf, edit, and export as pdf.

The editing tools appear in a toolbar at the bottom of the window (took me some time to find it...)

Relevant feature set I have found so far (Ubuntu 13.04, LibreOffice

  • remove pages. Right click on the page on the left page list > Delete page

  • change page order. Drag drop pages on the page list

  • edit existing text fields (edit text, formatting and position). Just click twice with the select tool to enter edit mode.

  • add new text fields. Choose the text tool at the bottom (T), select the desired text area, and write.

  • edit non text fields objects like lines or bullets.

I could not find an extremely convenient highlight method, but you could get away with editing text attributes like setting the colour red and boldface. I could not change the background colour tough.

If I missed good features, please edit and add them!

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For "scenario A", LibreOffice pdf-importer (you might have to install it separately if have the Ubuntu pre-installed or the PPA), and for "scenario B" pdftk is the simplest (yet very powerful). Alternatively, for "scenario A" Inkscape in some cases. – carnendil Apr 29 '13 at 17:44
if anyone knows, please add installation procedure, I installed long ago and I don't remember exactly how. I don't think I added the pdf importer explicitly tough, but I may be mistaken – Ciro Santilli 巴拿馬文件 六四事件 法轮功 Apr 29 '13 at 19:47
If you are not installing the Community-provided LibreOffice (i.e., from, you must do sudo apt-get install libreoffice-pdfimport. – carnendil Apr 29 '13 at 21:53
Resulting PDF lost some elements, but libreoffice worked in a pinch, thanks – Ethereal Jan 13 '14 at 18:27
Doesn't work for me; messes up the whole PDF, seemingly because it doesn't use the font info. – ᴠɪɴᴄᴇɴᴛ Nov 24 '14 at 12:20
up vote 48 down vote accepted

LibreOffice Draw does not work for me as the fonts get completely messed up which then throws the formatting of the document off.

Here are three solutions that for me have worked consistently over the years.

PDF-shuffler I do a lot of combining of PDF documents (as in the Scenario B) and I find PDF-shuffler simple and convenient. I have also used it to extract pages out of a larger pdf document and it works well there too. The PDF-shuffler GUI is simple and it works consistently.

gimp Sometimes for Scenario A you just want to convert the PDF into an image and then manipulate the image. If you don't know the difference between a vector graphic and an image, you probably want to convert to an image and GIMP does a good job of that. When you open a PDF with GIMP it will give you some choices about how you want to convert it. Pay attention to the resolution option. Choose a higher number for a larger file size and a more detailed image.

inkscape The truth is, there isn't a super easy way to edit PDF files following scenario A above. That is because PDF is a universal format and some of the structure of the document is lost when it is converted to PDF. A simple example: if you take a 3 page report and convert it to a PDF you have broken the links between the text on each page. If you edit the PDF version of it and delete a paragraph on the first page the text from pages 2 and 3 won't automatically flow onto the first page. It would be much easier to edit that document in the original program used to create it.

But for whatever reason, you don't have the original document so you are stuck working off of a PDF. So set your expectations appropriately when editing a PDF document following scenario A.

Once you set your expectations accordingly, you'll see that inkscape is the best tool for most jobs here. It will allow you to import a single page of the PDF document as an inkscape vector graphic. There will be a few things grouped together that don't really make sense, and you may have to change some fonts (assuming you don't have the original fonts installed), but really it is slick.

There is a learning curve to Inkscape but the truth is that you can't manipulate PDF without using some program with a learning curve. For my time, I'd prefer to invest that in learning Inkscape--a great application for creating vector graphics that can come in handy for lots of different scenarios--than I would in trying to figure out how to use a special tool just for editing PDFs.

Good luck

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PDF Studio for Linux? – ringø May 23 at 9:57
@ringø PDF Studio is not free. – anderstood Jun 14 at 19:20

You can use Master PDF Editor.
Lets you edit all elements on the page.

The latest version to the date 1.9.24 has a bug that wont open all images of a pdf file...
The version 1.9.00 works very fine tho, but the only way to get it is a direct link:

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thanks for sharing this. this is quite useful PDF editor. – Neutralizer May 25 '14 at 9:30
It used to be free but now you have to buy it :) Can't deny the greatness of this tool! – Neutralizer Oct 4 '14 at 9:29
Did I miss off something? The website reads: "The Linux-based version is free for non-commercial use." – Geppettvs D'Constanzo Mar 31 '15 at 2:38
I found this impressive straight away. Mainly because it got all the fonts and alignments right and looked exactly like the origional document. Well... at least it worked for me like that. – SpiRail Jun 18 '15 at 11:09

I'm a little late in the game here, but recently stumbled across this question while googling it for myself. For what it's worth, I would like to recommend Xournal for the first scenario.

It should be in the software center, or you can simply run the following from a terminal:

sudo apt-get install xournal

Besides that, I'm going to second everyone else's recommendation for pdfshuffler and pdftk for the second scenario.

Hope this helps!

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excellent, free PDF annotation software and if you have a touch screen you can even sign off your docs just like on paper!!! – champost Dec 16 '14 at 21:53
Thank you so so much :) Works really good for me. – Academia Feb 9 '15 at 12:26
IIRC, Xournal rasterizes everything when saving/exporting. Not always what you want. – Raphael May 23 at 13:23
The default pdf export significantly lowered quality (and file size). I found that by enabling Options > Legacy PDF Export before exporting, the quality is nearly identical to the original. – Johann Jul 25 at 16:37

I think that PDF-Shuffler is small but quite good app.

Info: PDF-Shuffler is a small python-gtk application, which helps the user to merge or split pdf documents and rotate, crop and rearrange their pages using an interactive and intuitive graphical interface. It is a frontend for python-pyPdf.

PDF-Shuffler Web Site

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Agreed Vladimir. In fact I should probably revise my answer as well. I have actually started using PDF-Shuffler instead of pdftk for lots of simple stuff like merging two pdf files. – snowguy Jan 11 '13 at 16:19
I was glad to verify that pdfshuffler is available on Ubuntu 12.04 and helped me to rearrange the pages on a horrible PDF I got by email with some pages upside down. Excellent! – Denis Fuenzalida Mar 19 '13 at 19:38
Great tool. Worked perfectly for my need – Rags Aug 5 '15 at 17:28

Foxit PDF Editor (non-free) works well via WINE.

Newer versions of Foxit might work as well -- haven't tested 'em, though.


ps: This answer applies to your "Scenario A": you can basically edit everything in a pdf with Foxit: i.e., you can not only add things, but actually edit them as if it were, say, a Word file.

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In your opinion does it work better than inkscape which is free and doesn't require WINE? – snowguy Mar 8 '13 at 16:44
Thanks for asking! The truth is, I've never worked with Inkscape yet (as I thought it's mainly a vector-graphics-thing for professional or ambitious hobby designers). I'll give it a go for editing PDF's and will report back soon on how it compares to Foxit. – nutty about natty Mar 9 '13 at 7:50
had a quick test-ride in Inkscape; looks pretty solid, with the major (?) complaint/caveat/bug that multiple-page support seems only possible with an extension, which has a 90 % upvote on, so I guess it's sturdy. Would need to check that, too, for a fair comparison. Will report back. – nutty about natty Mar 9 '13 at 15:37
see also – nutty about natty Mar 9 '13 at 15:45

There was magic thing called pdfedit in repository. Anyway, you can get it from here I've used it to make some text changes directly to file, omitting any conversions, so that file structure remains untouched. Just choose text selection mode at toolbox and click the text you want to edit. You are allowed to do it through the text-box that appeares at upper-left corner of window. Of course, there are a lot more features.

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PDF Buddy is an online PDF editor that's a great solution for quick and easy cross-platform PDF editing, whether you're on Ubuntu or anything else. (It would come in handy for what you describe in Scenario A)

(Disclosure: I'm a co-founder of PDF Buddy)

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i just tried BDF Buddy and it seems to be great for simple manipulation of PDF similar to scenario 1 or for signing PDF documents. Unlike inkscape you don't get any access to the PDF elements. But most of the time that's probably more trouble than it's worth. The "white out" feature pdf buddy has is usually sufficient for removing things. – snowguy Nov 30 '13 at 1:24
The thing I didn't like was that you have to create an account (which I didn't do). I expected as much though from a freemium model which allows you to edit 3 documents for free a month. This is a great and easy solution for annotating an existing PDF or adding a signature. – snowguy Nov 30 '13 at 1:27
Unfortunately you cannot use PDF Buddy to combine more than one PDF file. – snowguy Nov 30 '13 at 1:27
Tested on one document, and it is great editor. Then spend an hour edit the real document, and realized it is not free :( – user200340 Jul 5 at 8:31

I am surprised that PDF Studio is not mentioned here.

It's an all-in-one PDF solution that can annotate, markup text, form fill, edit content, sign, OCR and manipulate PDF documents.

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...which is not free software, but I'm sure works just fine. – carnendil Mar 7 '13 at 16:54
...of all the non-free pdf editors I've come across, Foxit is still the benchmark for me... though I guess Nitro also deserves a mention... – nutty about natty Mar 7 '13 at 18:40

Scenario A

After what seemed like an eternal quest to find a good solution for annotations, I found the superior alternative to be PDF-XChange Editor via wine. Everything I have tested so far works, just make sure you install it via the 32-bit .msi installer wine msiexec /i path/to/msi_file. Annotations are saved with the document and not separate (as in okular by default) and you can even edit document text with the free version (images with the paid one). Their forums are also linux friendly and they seem to try to keep it wine compatible. Running through wine is buttersmooth for me, but If you want a native app, I think master-pdf-editor is the most promising alternative.

Scenario B

Two command line tools that are shipped with Ubuntu by default, pdfseparate and pdfunite is a fast and simple solution to split and merge pdf pages. If you want a GUI I recommend pdf-sam

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