10 Ways to Manipulate PDF Files with Free Software

norman

Have you always wished you could merge, encrypt or just manipulate a PDF file? Editing PDFs has always been possible with Adobe’s software, but not everyone can afford the steep price of Adobe’s professional suite. But there are actually several pieces of software that will let you deftly manipulate Adobe’s proprietary Portable Document Format. In this guide, we will show you a few ways you can manipulate a PDF file without investing in Acrobat Professional. To start, here’s an overview of the free software that you’ll need.

PDF Split and Merge

As the name implies, this program allows you to split and merge a PDF. However, it has a few limitations. This program will not split or merge protected PDF files (which are password-protected). If you want to split and merge PDFs that you have created, the program should work fine.

PDFill

This is one of the best pieces of software to manipulate a PDF. It will allow you to make almost any change to a PDF (with the exception of editing the text inside of the PDF). The program can merge, split, reorder, watermark, and even rotate a PDF. This program does have a few shareware programs with it, but we will only demonstrate the free tools of the program.

Some PDF Image Extract

As the name suggests, this program is designed to extract images from a PDF. When you open the PDF, it will extract every image from it and save it to the directory where the original PDF is located. In other words, if your PDF is on the desktop, it will create a folder on your desktop with the images.

Zamzar

Many of you probably already know about Zamzar. It's a website that allows you to upload a file and convert that file in to almost any format. You can go from a PDF to a word document for example or a PDF to HTML. The max file you can upload is 100MB. It does not watermark or make any comestic changes to the PDF, either.

Some PDF to HTML Converter

As the name implies, this allows you to convert a PDF to HTML. Not only does the program convert the text to HTML, it also converts the pictures so you do not lose them, as is the case with other converters. The program places the HTML folder in the same directory as your original PDF file.

Merge an Unprotected PDF File

For this task, we will use the program PDF Split and Merge. As mentioned earlier, this program will only merge unprotected PDFs or PDFs in which you know the password.

Download PDF Split and Merge from here . You want to download the Win32 Installer under the Pdfsam Basic 2.0.0 section.

Install the program as you would any other program. We recommend that you install it for all users, so any user on the computer can use it.

After the program is installed, click on the Pdfsam button from your Start Menu. You will be presented with the main menu.

On the left side of the screen, you will see the available options (Alternate Mix, Merge/Extract, Rotate, Split, Visual document and Visual Reorder).

Click on Merge/Extract. You will need to add the individual PDF files you want to merge. We recommend that you add the PDF files in the order in which you want them, but don’t worry if you change your mind. You can always change the order later.

Click on the Add button and add the PDF files. You can use the control key to add them all at once. After you get the files, added you should have a listing of the PDF’s, how many pages there are and what version the file is. Don’t worry if the different PDFs are in different versions, they will all be converted to a common format.

If the listing of files is highlighted in yellow, you will not be able to merge these PDF’s unless you know the password.

Keep in mind the PDFs will be merged in the exact order shown. If you do not like the order, make sure you use the Move Up/Move Down buttons to the right of the listing.

Click on the Browse button under the Destination output file section. This is where you get to name the PDF and choose the version. We recommend you choose version 1.5 or 1.6 to keep compatibility with the older versions of PDF software.

When you are ready, click on the Run button and the program will combine the PDFs together.

Merge Protected PDFs

In the last section, we showed you how to merge unprotected PDFs. Here, we will demonstrate PDFill, which will allow you to merge protected PDFs.

Click here to download PDFill. Make sure you download the right version for your operating system.

Install the program as you normally would. When the program starts for the first time, you will be prompted to install GhostScript. GhostScript allows the program to read and create PDF’s. We recommend that you click the Download Automatically button to download and install GhostScript. If that doesn’t work, try clicking Download Manually. Follow all of the prompts to install GhostScript. After the installation finishes, a Windows Explorer window will open, close this window.

Click on Start, select All Programs, and click PDFill PDF Editor. This program is not free, but we need it so we can configure the rest of the programs. By default, the Java Runtime Environment does not allow the program to use more than 64-128MB of RAM. We need to change this so you can open a larger PDF. If you don’t change it, you will get an error when trying to open a large PDF.

When you open the program, you will be presented with the main window.

Click on Format and select PDFill Options. Click on the System tab. Under Java Memory Size, change the size to 768 if you have 2GB or 1024 if you have 4GB. Just make sure you do not exceed the amount of RAM in your system, otherwise it will slow to a crawl. You can also play with the options a bit if you have more or less RAM. We do not recommend going above 1536 in case the program hangs. Click Ok to save the changes and then close the window.

Click on Start, select All Programs, select PDFill and click on PDFill PDF Tools (Free). When you open the program, you will be presented with many different options.

Click on Merge PDF Files. Click on the Add a PDF File button to begin adding files. As with the previous program, you can use the control key to select multiple files at once. Or, if you are lazy, you can drag and drop the PDF files in to the blank white space of the window.

The program may appear that it locked up or stopped responding if this happens ignore it. The program goes unresponsive due to the size of the PDF. Since we adjusted the amount of RAM that the JRE can use, we don’t run into a problem.

A listing of the PDFs to be merged will appear. As with the previous program, you can change the order the PDFs will be merged by using the Move Up/Move Down buttons.

Click on the Save As button and name the file whatever you wish. As with before, the program may temporarily appear to lock-up, do not click into the window or the program will crash.

After the merge, the PDF will open. If it didn’t merge properly, try re-doing the merge. Close the program when you are finished.

Convert a PDF File into a Microsoft Word Document

PDFs are hard to work with if you want to do more than view a document. Unless you have the expensive Adobe software, you cannot edit a PDF. With Zamzar, you can convert the PDF to a word document, edit the document and reconvert back to a PDF. No one will know the difference!

There is a 100MB file limit, so you cannot upload your 500MB thesis paper, sorry.

Go to the Zamzar website. Under Step 1, click on the Browse button and locate the file you want to convert.

Now click into the drop-down menu and select the file you want to convert to. We recommend you convert to doc since you will be able to edit the file with Microsoft Word. Enter a valid e-mail address. The company does not spam you; they just need a valid e-mail address to send the converted file. Click on the Convert button. Depending on the file size, the PDF may take a little while to convert. We recommend you go grab a bite to eat or something similar while you wait for the file to be sent.

After they send the e-mail, you have 24 hours to download the file. The file will be deleted after 24 hours.

When you receive the e-mail to download the file, click on the link they provide. Click on the Download Now button to download the file.

You can now edit the document to your liking. If you want to reconvert to PDF, just repeat the process, selecting PDF as the conversion format.

Watermark a PDF

We recommend you use PDFill to create the watermark. With this program, you can have either a picture or text as the watermark.

Click on Start, select All Programs, and click PDFill PDF Tools (Free). We are first going to demonstrate how to watermark using text and then a picture.

Click on the Watermark by Text button. It will request a PDF File that you want to watermark. Find the file and open it. There are many options to choose from, you can change the text string, the font, and even the color.

We are going to keep it simple and keep the default options, but you may type whatever you wish. When you are done, click on the Save As button and name the PDF appropriately. After it is saved, it will open it and you will see the watermark.

Having a photo as a watermark is a little more complicated. Not that it is any tougher, it’s just you need a photo that won’t make the text unreadable. We recommend that you avoid any dark photos and keep them simple.

Click on the Watermark by Image button. It will prompt for a PDF to open. Next, it will ask for an image, find the image you want to add and open it.

When you get to the watermark options screen, feel free to adjust any of the options available. Click on the Save As button when you are finished and name the PDF appropriately. The PDF will automatically open.

Encrypt a PDF

If you frequently handle PDFs that you do not want anyone else to change, but don’t know how to encrypt the file, this section is for you. We suggest that you use PDFill for this task since it provides the most encryption options.

Click on Start, select All Programs, and click PDFill PDF Tools (Free). Click on Encrypt and Decrypt Options. Choose the appropriate PDF.

In the Encrypt and Decrypt Option window, type in a password that only you will remember. You can choose the encryption level. If someone does not know the password, they will not be able to make changes to the PDF, so the strength of the encryption doesn't matter too much. Leave the security options alone.

Whenever someone tries to open the PDF, it prompts for a password. If they don’t enter the right password, it will automatically close.

Reorder the Pages of a PDF File

Some people like to read PDFs and magazines backwards. Even if you don’t, wouldn’t it be great if you could reorder the pages of the PDF to your liking? With PDFill, it’s simple.

Click on Start, select All Programs, and click PDFill PDF Tools (Free). Click on the Split or Reorder Pages button. It will prompt for a PDF, open the PDF you want to reorder.

In the Reorder Pages text box, type the order of the pages you want. You may also use the words “even” and “odd” to refer to the pages. For example, if you want the pages to be 2, 1, 4, 3…. , then you would just need to type even, odd. It will automatically format the pages appropriately.

When you are done, click on the Save As button to save the PDF. It will automatically open it. If it did not turn out as you wanted, try experimenting with reordering until you get it as you want.

Split a PDF

Sometimes PDF’s just don’t turn out right. A textbook you want split into multiple chapter PDF’s for example, instead of a large continuous file. On the other hand, you may just want one page of the file. With PDF Split and Merge, it makes it easy to split the pages exactly like you want.

We are going to suggest using PDF Split and Merge over other free alternatives. If you didn’t notice, PDFill also has a Splitting function, but PDF Split and Merge offers more splitting options.

After installation, click on your Start Menu, select All Programs and click on PDF Split and Merge. Click on the Split plugin on the left side of the screen.

Click on the Add button to open a PDF you want to split. Under Split Options, choose the appropriate type of split.

Burst splits the PDF in to individual pages, Split Even Pages splits the even pages, Split Odd Pages splits the odd pages, Split after these pages allows you to specify when to start the PDF split, Split every “n” page allows you to split in increments (like split 1 page every 5 pages). Ignore Split by bookmarks level.

Under destination folder, choose where you want the modified PDF to go. Click on the Run button when you are ready to process the split.

After the split, you should have a directory filled with the split PDF files.

Extract Images from PDF Files

If you have ever tried to copy/paste an image from Adobe Reader or any other PDF reader, you probably failed to grab the image. Most PDF readers cannot copy/paste the images. With Some PDF Image Extract, you can extract all of the images from the PDF.

Download Some PDF Image Extract from here .

Install the program as you would any other program. We recommend you keep the default installation parameters.

When the program launches after the installation, you get the main window with a few options you can change to the right .

Click on File and select Open File. After opening, feel free to adjust any of the options to the right. You can change the picture extension to PNG, change the image quality percentage, and even choose what ranges of pages are scanned. To keep things simple, we are going to leave the default options.

Click on the Start Convert button at the bottom left of the screen to start the convert. The images will be stored in a directory where the file is present. As mentioned earlier, if your PDF is on your desktop a folder will be created on your desktop with the images.

Convert PDF to HTML

If you have ever wanted to convert a PDF to HTML, this section is for you. Instead of having to publish a PDF, you can just put the HTML file on your web server and have people navigate to it. This means that the receiver doesn’t need PDF reader software on their computer.

Download Some PDF to HTML Converter and install the application.

When the program opens, you will be presented with a ton of options. We recommend you open the PDF before you start changing options.

Click on File and select Open File. Open the PDF you want to convert. If you want to change any of the options to the right, feel free to do so. To keep things simple, we suggest using the default options.

When you are ready to start the conversion, click on the Start Convert button at the bottom left hand corner of the screen.

After the conversion, your browser window will open and display the page.

Rotate a PDF

With PDF Split and Merge, you can rotate a PDF a full 270 degrees. We suggest using PDF Split and Merge since it makes the entire process simple.

Click on Start, select All Programs and click on PDF Split and Merge. Click on the Rotate plugin on the left side of the window.

Click on the Add button and find the PDF you want to rotate. Under the Rotation section, you will see the rotation options. You can choose to select only the even pages, odd pages or all of them. You can also choose the degree of the resolution (90, 180, or 270).

Choose the destination folder for the rotated PDF and then click on Run. The program will rotate the PDF pages and then open it for you.

Conclusion

You have now seen quite a few ways you can manipulate a PDF for free. Granted, there are a few things you cannot do with free software, such as edit the PDF directly, but for most users free software will suffice. If you just need to change the order, split, merge and do other simple tasks there is no reason why you should spend the tons of cash on Acrobat Professional.

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