PDF documents and its viewer are ubiquitous those days. All major web browsers (like Chrome, Edge, and Firefox) can render PDF file, not to mention the dedicated Adobe PDF reader. That said, PDF editors for Windows are actually far and few in between. If there ever is a need to manipulate PDF documents, all the readers we mentioned above are unable to perform such task. Some of the most common tasks you might need are Merge, Split and Reorder PDF pages. Unless you pay a premium to Adobe for its basic Adobe Acrobat license, it’s difficult to modify a PDF file.
Here are three FREE tools alternative to Adobe Acrobat, for Windows that allows you to do some, if not all of the basic operations such as Merge, Split and Reorder PDF documents.
#1PDFsam Basic – PDF Split and Merge Basic Edition
PDFsam basic offers Merge, Split and Extract. Not necessary have the reorder feature out of the box, but given you can extract and merge it is possible to perform reorder manually. One thing to note is PDFsam requires Java runtime. If you have a strong opinion against using Java based apps and would like to have your system not depend on JRE then this might not be the choice for you. Apart from JRE as a prerequisite, PDFsam basic does what it promises. There are also feature such as Split by size might be useful for large PDF documents to create equal size partial files for easy share. Over all, PDFsam basic does what it promises to do for free. Well polished UI that’s based on Java.
#2 PDF Shaper Free
PDF Shaper Free is another freeware that allows you to manipulate PDF files. Unlike the previous one, this does not require any additional JRE to run the app. Right off the back, it narrows down the navigation to four basic options around Documents, Content, Pages, and Security. Just like PDFsam, it allows you to Merge multiple PDF files into a single PDF, as well as split PDF file into a smaller size by page numbers.
There are more features under Pages for page orientation, extract selected pages into a separate PDF file, as well as adding watermark or remove selected pages in a given PDF. The features we see here already exceeds some of the basic features other tools have to offer. So, if you are looking for more in-depth PDF editing, be sure to remember to check out all the features PDF Shaper has to offer in the free edition before pulling out your wallet for Adobe Acrobat.
All of the tools mentioned here so far does not offer a visual editing experience. Unlike macOS’s Preview, you cannot make changes in the tool visually as you browsing through the documents. That means you need to know exactly which page you want to strip away or start merge when using this tool. This also means that, in order to properly reorder any page, you need to split and merge them manually. That said, PDF Shaper Free does have a preview function to see what your PDF would look like before proceeding. Simply click the “Preview” icon (4th from left) to see how a merged PDF would look like.
Lastly, it also offers to create password protected PDF and unlock password protected PDF files. It also strips away all the metadata, for example, it can remove or update the author, created dates etc. The last “Sign” feature is not about PDF document signature, it’s about digital signing with private keys in PFX file format. Do not get confused with user signature signing in a PDF document.
#3 7-PDF Split & Merge
Last but not least, we have another tool that does the basic merge and split. 7-PDF Split & Merge offers what most of the above two tools but with out-dated UI. Once you figure out which button to click, the tool does the job. We aren’t going down to the rabbit hole by reviewing how the UX could improve, but there is an advantage in laying out all possible UI in one presentation. At a glance, a user can quickly figure out what are all the options in Split and Merge your PDF.
PDF Shaper Free is arguably the winner of the three. It has more features than other two free versions. Although it is nowhere compared to Preview, the free out of box tool on Mac, it does get the job done at the end of the day. And that is all it matters.