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How to Edit Read-Only PDFs: 4 Methods to Use in 2023

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Avatar of author Fred Melanson

Fred Melanson

Published: Wed Aug 30 2023

If your work revolves around PDFs, you surely encountered the question - How to edit read-only PDFs?

Oftentimes when you download a PDF from Google, the PDF is read-only, meaning you can’t edit.

In this article, we will discuss some methods to convert read-only PDFs to editable ones and make the necessary changes.

How to Edit a Read-Only PDF?

For editing a read-only PDF, you must first convert it into an editable format and MS Word is just the tool you need for the process.

The software isn’t just popular among students for writing their assignments and essays, 90% of legal professionals use Word daily, making it a vital tool in their lives.

Let’s see how you and many others can use Microsoft Word application to edit a read-only PDF.

Method #1. Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word is one of the most accessible tools that Windows and mobile users can access by default. However, if you’re a Mac user, you must opt for a paid subscription to Microsoft 365.

Editing Read-Only PDFs in Microsoft Word on a PC

👀 Note: The process of editing remains the same for a Windows PC or Mac.

Step 1. Open the Microsoft Word App and Select the PDF

Open MS Word and navigate to the ‘ File’ option from the toolbar and select any read-only PDF you want to edit.

Step 2. Convert Read-Only PDF to Edit

Before the PDF opens, a pop-up appears asking you to convert that PDF into a Word document.

Converting the PDF file to a .docx file automatically turns a read-only PDF into an editable Word document.

Step 3. Enable Editing

The conversion process of a PDF file to a Word document might take some time, depending on file size.

After the conversion process, click the 'Enable Editing' option that’s below MS Word’s menu bar, and you're good to go.

Use the features in MS Word to edit your document flawlessly. When you’re done, save the Word document as PDF and you’re done.

Read the next section to edit a read-only PDF in MS Word from your mobile.

Editing Read-Only PDF in Microsoft Word on Your Mobile

Step 1. Open the Microsoft Word App and Select the PDF

In your MS Word mobile app, go to the ‘ Open’ section in the bottom-right corner and choose the PDF you want to edit.

Step 2: Convert Read-Only PDF to Editable

Just like in PC, as soon as you open your read-only PDF in MS Word’s mobile version, it will automatically convert the PDF to a Word document.

As the pop-up says, your PDF document might appear slightly different in .docx format.

💡 Pro Tip: If you want the format of your PDF to be intact, we’d suggest you edit PDFs via MS Word on desktop.

Step 3: Save a Copy to Edit

After converting the PDF to an editable Word document, we recommend to save it before making any changes.

To do so, expand the section on the top and click 'Save a copy' to proceed. You can save this file on the cloud or your device.

Step 4: Click on Edit to Start Editing

Ready to start editing? The final step is clicking the 'Edit' button at the bottom.

Both these PDF editing methods with Microsoft Word are extremely easy for anyone to edit a read-only PDF.

But is there an easier way to edit these PDFs?

Indeed there is…👇

Method #2. Google Docs

If you don't want to use Microsoft Word or don't have a subscription to Microsoft 365, Google Docs is a free alternative to editing read-only PDFs.

There are two methods with slight variations for how you can edit PDFs.

One is using Google Drive, and the other is using Gmail.

Here’s a 4-step process to do it:

Step 1: Upload the Read-Only PDF on Drive

If you choose to upload the PDF on Google Drive and start the editing process, click '+ New' to begin. Select your PDF and upload it to the Drive.

Skip the above step if you're opening a read-only PDF on Gmail.

Step 2: Open PDF with Google Docs from Preview

While previewing the PDF on either Google Drive or Gmail, you will see an option ‘Open with Google Docs’ . Click on it to go to the Google Docs editor.

The PDF will now be converted to a docx file, just like it did in MS Word, making it editable.

Step 3: Making Edits on Google Docs

Once you've opened the PDF, you can start editing. From basic textual and content edits to adding or removing images, there are tons of editing features Google Docs offers for free.

Step 4: Saving the Google Doc as PDF

After finalizing your edits, download the Google document in '.pdf' to retain the original format.

Using Google Docs as your PDF editor isn’t rocket science.

Just upload your PDF on Drive, open it with Google Docs, and start editing.

But guess what?

There’s an even simpler way to edit read-only PDFs for Mac users.

Method #3. macOS Default Editor

Mac users can carry out basic edits on a read-only PDF via its default Preview mode, provided you know the permission password.

Step 1: Opening PDF on Mac

To start, go to finder or your desktop and open the read-only PDF. You unfortunately can’t go straight to editing. First, enter the password to make the PDF editable.

Step 2: Editing the PDF

To find editing options, go to ‘Tools’ and hover over ‘Annotate’ .

You can perform editing tasks like:

  • Add and redact current text
  • Highlight, underline, or strike through text
  • Add several shapes and text boxes
  • Mask images
  • Create and add your digital signature

Step 3: Saving the PDF from Your macOS Default Editor

As you perform your edits, Mac’s default editor will automatically save your PDF. If you want to save it manually, click on File > Save .

Are the macOS default editor features too limiting for you?

If so, you can always use paid tools like Adobe Acrobat Pro.

Method #4. Adobe Acrobat Pro

Adobe Acrobat Pro is a PDF editing tool that helps you edit read-only PDFs without limitations. If you're willing to spend over $19.99/mo, it’s a great method to edit PDFs comprehensively.

The software allows you to edit text and images, combine multiple PDFs, rearrange pages, and change fonts.

Here are 4 steps to edit a read-only or password-locked PDF on Adobe Acrobat Pro:

Step 1: Open Adobe Acrobat and Upload the Read-Only PDF

First, in your Acrobat dashboard, click on ‘Edit a PDF.’

Next, click ‘ Select a file’ to open your read-only PDF in Acrobat.

Step 2: Remove the Password Lock

If your read-only PDF is encrypted with a password, you must remove it first to start editing.

👀 Note: To change a read-only PDF to an editable one, you must know the PDF file’s password or get the permission to edit from an admin.

After opening the PDF, click on All Tools > Protect a PDF .

Then click on ‘Remove security.’

Enter the PDF password and click ‘OK.’

And voila! The read-only PDF is now editable.

Step 3: Editing the PDF on Adobe Acrobat

To edit your PDF, click the Edit option on the top left menu bar.

Step 4: Save the PDF

To save PDF after editing, you can just click on the Save icon you see on the top right side.

Read and Edit Documents Faster with Macro

The processes mentioned above are all great ways to edit a read-only PDF. But none of the tools is perfect for converting the read-only PDF to an editable version or editing the PDF comprehensively.

What’s the best way to edit read-only PDFs then? It’s by using two methods in tandem.

Here’s how:

MS Word is a decent tool for converting a read-only PDF to an editable version, but the tool lacks PDF-specific editing features. You can get these missing features with Adobe Acrobat Pro, but it's a paid tool.

If you don’t want to spend any money on editing read-only PDF documents, use Macro, an intelligent PDF editor offering several Adobe Acrobat Pro’s features for free. The tool’s more than enough to carry out basic PDF edits.

With Macro, you can:

  • Add text and images
  • Redact sensitive and confidential text
  • Create a digital signature and sign a PDF
  • Add shapes, change font size, and style
  • Annotate your PDF by highlighting, underlining, and striking-through features
  • Merge, compare, and rearrange PDFs in real time

And much more…

The best part? All the above features come with our free-to-download app, available for both Windows and Mac devices.

So visit Macro’s website and try Macro for free!

Avatar of author Fred Melanson

Fred Melanson

Fred leads Growth at Macro. He is a passionate generalist in the Product-Led GTM space, with experience in content creation, marketing strategy & sales. His LinkedIn has over 1M views yearly, and his Vlogs generate hundreds of thousands of views. His favorite thing in the world is walking with his dog, Lola 🐶
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