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Why Can't PDFs Be Edited?

PDF files appear in many contexts today, from government and legal use to even more mundane use cases such as reproducing restaurant menus. When you download a PDF file online or receive one from a work colleague, you might run into one issue that often frustrates users who are less familiar with these files: an inability to edit the document's contents. If you're using a simple free PDF reader to view the file, you won't be able to make any changes, add text, or change page order. Why is that?

The answer has to do with the way PDFs work behind the scenes, but it could also sometimes be a property of the file itself. In most cases, all you need is software purpose-built for PDF editing, such as Kofax Power PDF. Let's explore why you can't start editing PDFs for free in just any program while also considering other occasions when you might find a document locked for editing.

PDFs Need Special Software for Editing

The original developers of the PDF format wanted something capable of displaying a document resembling a printed page the same way, no matter the platform that displayed it. To do so requires a document that can tell a computer program exactly where every element on a page exists. Every line of text, every image and other elements have special code behind the scenes that tells a PDF reader or editor how to render the page.

As a result, one can't simply open a PDF in Microsoft Word and start editing — Word won't understand how to read the file. That's why you need purpose-built PDF software such as Power PDF to edit these documents.

Related Post: The Beginner’s Guide to PDF Files

Some PDFs Have Other Restrictions

What if you have a PDF Editor installed, but you still can't edit any part of the document? It is possible that the original author of the document "locked" the file so that others cannot alter the text, for example, PDFs supplied by official or government entities. However, sometimes it is a restriction placed by others within a business itself. In some cases, you can enter a password to unlock the document and allow editing again. If you've received a PDF document you can't edit from a business colleague or another team within your business, ask the original author for assistance if you need to make changes.

Making PDFs Work for You with Power PDF

At first, the inability to edit PDFs with typical office productivity software can be a source of frustration. Once you find the right tools to simplify editing PDF documents, you can tap into a wide array of features and functions that you won't find in a basic word processing file or a spreadsheet.

With Power PDF for Windows or macOS, accessing everything from PDF creation to advanced electronic signing workflows is easy and cost-effective. See just how simple it is to learn and how fully-featured this software package is when you try a free 15-day trial today to evaluate Power PDF and its suitability for meeting your needs.

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