Linux PDF editor for manipulating PDF documents

by on December 18, 2007 · 70 comments· LAST UPDATED December 19, 2007

in , ,

Adobe Acrobat is a commercial tool for manipulating PDF files. Earlier I was using CUPs - printing system, to export PDF files. I've also tried out gv for the same purpose. However, I needed complete editing of pdf documents. My search ended with PDFedit software, which is free and open source editor for manipulating PDF documents. The software available in both GUI and CLI (commandline) interface.

This software also supports scripting and almost anything can be scripted. PDFedit is a low-level tool for users. You can use this software:
=> To write / create / edit PDF files.
=> Print PDF files.
=> Save PDF files.
=> Export PDF files to XML etc.

Install PDFEdit

If you are using Debian or Ubuntu Linux, enter:
$ sudo apt-get install pdfedit

Start Editing PDF Files with PDFEdit editor

To start PDFEdit, type:
$ pdfedit /path/to/pdf.file &
$ pdfedit &

PDFEdit Linux freeware pdf writer software
( Fig 01: PDFedit ~ Linux PDF maker in action [click to enlarge the image] )

Other Linux pdf maker / writer software

During my research I came across other apps to edit PDFs. I hope you will find following tools useful:

=> scribus - Open Source Desktop Page Layout / desktop publishing (DTP) application software. It works under Linux, Mac and Windows computer. This software is another good alternative to PDFEdit. Just open file using open option and you can edit PDF file. You can install scribus using apt-get command:
$ sudo apt-get install scribus

To use scribus to edit PDF files:
Start scribus > New File > Insert > Image > Double click > Select PDF file

=> flpsed - a WYSIWYG pseudo PostScript editor. This software is very fast and light weight. To install flpsed, enter:
$ sudo apt-get install flpsed
To edit file, enter:
$ flpsed /path/to/pdf-file.pdf &

=> Gimp - I've also used gimp for editing pdf files. However, you need basic knowledge of gimp itself for editing pdf files. GIMP is almost installed on all Linux distribution. Please note that GIMP is not elegant solution for editing pdf files.

Online PDF manipulation tool

Finally, you can always use the Internet to modify PDF files using a web browser. [pdfescape.com]

Conclusion

PDFEdit is the best free open source software for for Linux / Unix-like operating systems. However, it does not support editing protected or encrypted PDF files.

Further readings:

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{ 70 comments… read them below or add one }

1 angielski December 19, 2007 at 6:15 pm

Excellent tool, I am just downloading it, I missed something like that. Thanks for a nice piece of news.

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2 Ken C April 10, 2012 at 6:39 pm

Just discovered a new one. Came as a bit of a surprise to me. LibreOffice-draw, as of version 3.5.0, can handle pdf’s quite nicely.
See this screencast here… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_a8B0JVZJk

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3 dhaval January 8, 2008 at 12:01 pm

This website is the Best website for Linux administrator and All the linux users.

Realy Great Job ….

Thanks Cyberciti.biz….

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4 David Legg January 14, 2008 at 3:53 pm

Great article, thanks. In a few seconds I now know of at least three tools for editing PDFs, plus a web-based solution too.

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5 Ted Hope January 20, 2008 at 2:02 am

Apt-get cannot locate PDFedit. I was able to download to my desktop but apt-get refuses to install it when: apt-get /path/ install pdfedit

Also tried the install from cache with the same result.

I must be missing some vital step. Any insite?

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6 anax93 January 21, 2008 at 12:38 am

pdfedit compiled successfully (after >5 minutes…) on Fedora Core 6. Unfortunately, it is useless. Highlighting does not work in any sensible way. Worst of all, there is no obvious way for UNDOING anything! There is no simple documentation on this either. There is just no comparison with Acrobat Professional (unfortunately for Windows only and extremely expensive).

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7 Rio Astamal January 21, 2008 at 1:50 pm

don’t forget about openoffice.org it has built in PDF exporter. I often create ebook using openoffice.org :)

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8 tonique January 24, 2008 at 10:52 am

@Ted Hope: you can install separate deb packages using (you should have the required packages installed already, of course)

sudo dpkg -i /path/to/package.deb

On many modern Linux desktops you can install debs by double-clicking/right-clicking on the package icon.

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9 punyhuman January 28, 2008 at 4:28 am

I’m running a 1.2 GHz, 1GB ram mongrel of a machine, main OS is BLAG 70000 on Fedora 7 platform. All I had to do was open a terminal, ‘su -’ to my root, run ‘yum install pdfedit’, and bingo, I’m running ‘pdfedit’ just like that. No problems, other than I need to learn how to run it. That little program (less than 3MB) saves hundred$ of $$. And since I mostly always use point and click GUI, this has a real nice interface. I look forward to using it. Things don’t always turn out so sweet, but when they do it’s nice as pie.
I’m thrilled. Linux OS’s are soon going to really catch on at this rate of development.
Huge kudo’s to the developers for all the excellent work.

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10 Josh Andler April 2, 2008 at 4:25 pm

The newest version of Inkscape (0.46) can now import pdfs and has improved pdf export over the previous release. And it’s not out yet, but OpenOffice.org 3.0 will be fully supporting reading and writing of PDFs.

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11 adrienne April 7, 2008 at 3:54 pm

Check out this other tool called

PDF Studio

It’s a very complete PDF editor for Linux much better than PDFEdit.

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12 Gautier April 16, 2008 at 12:59 pm

I tried the lastest version 0.4.1 with cygwin on XP Pro. I found it unstable with several crashes during opening or editing. Maybe it is cygwin side effects. But the most notable cons is the poor support of fonts. According to the user guide“The creation of pdf files containing text is limited because we do not support our own fonts only standard ones” It is not only creation but also edition. Only 18 differents fonts are supported, most all non MS “standard”. Even a text using MS Courrier font cannot be edited, as well as MS Arial or MS New Times-Roman.
Nice try, but still some work at the fonts level.

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13 m. nease August 10, 2008 at 5:35 pm

Very impressive, thanks! Installation and start went perfectly (though the start line
$ pdfedit &
seems redundant (I’m running Ubuntu 6.04).

By the way, the font I’m using is relatively obscure (URW Palladio KRN), I think, but works fine.

However, when I try to select text to edit I can only select an entire word (rather than a single letter) and receive the message, “this operator does not have any directly editable parameters”.

Any advice?

Thanks again for the great work.

mike

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14 Davey August 19, 2008 at 7:57 pm

But how do install a zip the zip file it comes in??? do i just extract it to some random place???

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15 m. nease August 20, 2008 at 6:02 am

Davey, what’s your OS?

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16 Steve December 5, 2008 at 6:12 am

This software is not really all that useful to the normal user. Simple tasks cannot be done easily, such as importing files (without changes to the page format), deleting files, adding text etc etc. PDFEdit needs a lot more work before it is even remotely close to Adobe Acrobat!

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17 husskii December 30, 2008 at 2:36 pm

great job

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18 monir January 6, 2009 at 1:52 pm

Nice

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19 claudegals February 3, 2009 at 1:02 am

great work… thanks for the great info!

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20 Carson February 15, 2009 at 9:07 am

perfect! im trying to get away from both microsoft and paper and this brings me one step closer

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21 R March 25, 2009 at 12:09 pm

Qoppa PDF Studio is not open-source, but its a mature, well-developed and easy to use tool that allows full editing of PDFs. I always use open-source where I can, but PDF Studio allows me to add notes to PDFs and to highlight text too. Sure it costs money, but some users will be very pleased to pay for its well-developed feature set.

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22 Akoni Claudegals March 28, 2009 at 12:20 am

Great work… Tnx…

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23 JJ April 3, 2009 at 1:56 pm

pdf edit is a great job, still at mills from acrobat, f.e. in a pdf with tables don’t work fine but way to go friends!

pdf studio sucks, only works if you want to highlith text, you can’t modify text, above you have to pay for it, please remove this software of linux! in windows people will laugh of this software, so stop work.

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24 Josephocm May 11, 2009 at 1:29 pm

Thanks a lot! It’s a great work!

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25 Ana Pt May 28, 2009 at 6:04 pm

Thank you for this post.
It was very usefull.

Kiss,
Ana

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26 Nisha June 19, 2009 at 9:34 am

Not able to install using Synaptic Manager in Ubuntu..? anyone plz. help…!!!!!

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27 zakhas June 26, 2009 at 12:42 pm

thanks Rio Astamal, you rox!!!
really why go further, just export from openoffice as pdf

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28 godrik July 13, 2009 at 1:01 am

If you only want to highlight text and take note, you do not need pdf sutdio! xournal does it quite efficiently.

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29 Drew July 13, 2009 at 7:21 pm

pdfedit crashes my system, when i do get to save any work, it puts all pages over each other in one page -> garbage.

scribus does not want to load my pdf -> not useful.

flpsed looks like a program from the 90s that doesn’t do much more than display the pdf.

the online “editor” only allows to add to the pdf, not select and edit anything that is present in the pdf -> garbage.

makes me think that all the positive feedback here was written by the author of the web page (author of pdfedit?).

as much as it pains me to say as an avid user of open source software – not useful for my purposes. try harder next time.

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30 nixCraft July 14, 2009 at 2:29 am

makes me think that all the positive feedback here was written by the author of the web page (author of pdfedit?).

I highly doubts that, as the editor of this blog I can see all email ID and IP address for each post. They are not coming from same IP / proxy or person as you claim. Tell us more about your Linux distro and version you’ve used.

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31 Nick July 20, 2009 at 8:57 pm

I don’t know if this posting thread is really old or not, but I am trying anyway. I can’t seem to open .pdf files in Scribus at all. I continually get a fatal error that claims it does not support that file format. How do you open .pdf files in Scribus?

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32 Warren July 24, 2009 at 5:51 pm

I found the answer for whether or not Scribus can edit PDF files. It’s “no.” See http://www.scribus.net/?q=faq/pdfsurgery

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33 Charles Prince July 29, 2009 at 2:48 pm

open office 3 has pdf import and save as pdf

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34 wolfbak August 8, 2009 at 5:45 pm

is tis pdf converter an open source software as linux is.
if it is how can i get the source code.

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35 Warren August 8, 2009 at 10:42 pm

You mean Open Office? Yes it’s open source. It’s very similar to Microsoft Office. Go to openoffice.org.

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36 wolfbak August 10, 2009 at 5:06 pm

i’am on a BE projct to display a basic PDF file on linux terminal.
guyz ne ideas or suggestion for me.
plz help me wit some research…… any links wud be really helpful

plzz guyz

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37 Ray October 20, 2009 at 5:36 pm

flpsed ! Just what I was looking for the past one year! Thanks a ton!

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38 nms November 28, 2009 at 2:04 pm

PDFEDIT
apt-get install pdfedit

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39 n.rama December 6, 2009 at 7:44 am

Thank you heaps for reference to flpsed which I had used previously but had quite forgotten, thanks to the vagaries of memory! I have just used it again to do what i precisely needed after the vexing distractions of trying all other,including some mentioned above.

You cannot go past point,click and type and fortunately available under synaptic.

Blessed be,
rama

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40 brijesh tripathi December 9, 2009 at 2:59 pm

Install wine and use Foxit reader professional version for highlighting , editing etc.

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41 MS Munir December 20, 2009 at 12:51 pm

Thx your info, I just try it.

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42 jmans25 December 21, 2009 at 4:25 pm

nice tool… but it is not available anymore via. terminal or install packages. can someone please tell me the new place to get it? or did I do something wrong? I am a linux noob, so please help!!!

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43 Robert K January 12, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Ubuntu’s instructions for how to install PDFEdit. (Might apply to other Linux distros?)

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44 jorgenorid February 5, 2010 at 5:54 pm

A lot of thanks for this post :)

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45 subho March 27, 2010 at 2:50 am

Very useful info. Thank u so much!!

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46 Egazoid March 31, 2010 at 6:29 am

I wanted to do something rather simple – translate a PDF written in English into Russian. But it seems there’s some kind of encoding problem (cannot can’t use Cyrillic in PDFedit). I tried different encodings (e.g. KOI8R should be Russian, KOI8U should be Ukrainian) but every time the characters do not display right, I get some symbol-gibberish instead. Anyone with a fix for this problem?

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47 romunov April 5, 2010 at 7:07 am

Unfortunately none of the software above can handle localized characters, rendering themselves useless for my current need. :/

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48 romunov April 5, 2010 at 7:17 am

I take it back, online editing @ PDFescape works also with my local characters. Hazzah!

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49 Anonymous April 18, 2010 at 4:54 am

@romunov

PDF escape really does work! Thank you for finding this out!
+ Easy 2 use (after some 1-1.5 hours of trying)
+ Has the most essential tools
- Cannot add pictures
- Sometimes the result is not as you expect (e.g. some text that I added came out of the designated boxes… but that was relatively easy to fix)

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50 Maniyeri June 3, 2010 at 7:16 am

Thanks a lot!!!
very usefull….

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51 Stuart Naylor June 10, 2010 at 11:30 pm

Errm Scribus can not open and edit PDF files, well it has the option but it hasn’t been fully implemented. Gimp opens them as images and for many that isn’t enough.

So for me not the best article apart from pfdEdit which I will try.

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52 renga August 7, 2010 at 1:39 pm

thanks…It was of great help

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53 NoobLan August 14, 2010 at 7:49 pm

SWEET… I like my tuts just like my women.. Fast and easy.. lol Thank you!.

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54 Lee September 25, 2010 at 10:26 am

“WYSIWYG Pseudo Postcript Editor”? Do you mean Pseudo-WYSIWYG Postscript Editor, or perhaps WYSIWYG Postscript Pseudo-editor?

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55 pral October 2, 2010 at 8:16 am

hey,thanks for the useful post. :)

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56 Lisa October 7, 2010 at 7:57 pm

I came across this article just a bit ago and I tried out the pdf editing on linux, I have to say it was great and I now use it whenever I’m on linux, and I think I’m starting to prefer it over pc applications on windows.

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57 Mridhul November 23, 2010 at 10:34 am

How to install this tools in centos/rhel ?

I’m not able to find this in yum repo.

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58 Sasha January 14, 2011 at 9:49 am

I find this tool almost useless. I opened a PDF document and could not manage to find a way to type text. Ctrl+V does not work either and most surprisingly, there is no undo function. Even pocket calculators have undo. Sorry…

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59 Sanyi G April 18, 2011 at 9:17 am

I concur. Pdfedit is next to useless – i really wonder why it is being overhyped everywhere you look. Easy annotation such as in windows pdf xchange viewer is not possible. Plus the program is slow and crashes every other minute under Ubuntu 10.10

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60 Warren January 14, 2011 at 8:23 pm

Please, people, what is “this tool?” There are a number of different tools discussed on this page. When you say things like “I find this tool almost useless” or “How to install this tool” or “nice tool,” you have to tell us WHICH tool you’re talking about!

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61 RF March 27, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Several years ago, I found PDF Studio worked well for editing PDFs in Linux and allowed me to add highlighting and notes to PDF documents. I’ve used it in Linux for 3 years now, and although I’ve been hoping for an open source solution that supasses it, I’ve not been able to find anything yet. The latest verion has significant improvements and more features.

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62 Ajay April 15, 2011 at 11:43 am

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install alien

wget -c http://downloads.sourceforge.net/pdfedit/pdfedit-0.3.1-1.i386.rpm

sudo alien -iv pdfedit-0.3.1-1.i386.rpm

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63 Bill June 22, 2011 at 4:29 am

Thanks Ajay! That works great!, I did the top portion and kept getting errors trying ot direct to the pdf files (i know next to nothing about Linux – brand new running Ubuntu 11.04) but when I ran your commands it all came together great and is a really good editor except for some encrypted pdf’s.

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64 Rob September 16, 2011 at 10:56 am

I’ve just tried Inkscape and it seems to work well for editing pdf pages, albeit one at a time.

I can ‘staple’ them back together using pdftk.

pdftk document1.pdf document2.pdf cat output combined-document.pdf

Great site BTW

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65 Mustafa İrfan Değerli September 27, 2011 at 12:14 pm

thanks for usefull recommandation :)

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66 Mike November 3, 2011 at 8:02 pm

“GIMP is almost installed on all Linux distribution”

That’s not true. It was completely installed on mine.

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67 Chris November 23, 2011 at 10:59 am

Would the poster of this blog please add Xournal it’s the best tool I’ve found on Linux for editing pdf’s and it’s open source!!

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68 dbcalm February 21, 2012 at 6:52 am

Thanks for this. With pdfedit, I was able to remove particular pages and page numbers of a file. Long live Linux!

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69 Rduke15 April 19, 2013 at 6:11 pm

For Debian based systems like Ubuntu:

sudo apt-get install libreoffice-pdfimport

- Open the PDF with Libreoffice Draw.
- Export as PDF.

Worked very well for me, whereas pdfedit was very cumbersome and didn’t do things quite the way I wanted.

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70 psrao January 21, 2014 at 3:51 pm

pls send the linux pdf editor for printing purpose
or linux pdf editor free download link

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