[Tutorial] How do I edit a PDF?

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[Tutorial] How do I edit a PDF?

Postby John_Ha » Tue Jul 18, 2017 12:17 pm

Writer can create PDF files but Writer cannot open PDF files and Writer cannot edit PDF files.

Writer can also create a PDF Form which can have data added to specified fields when the PDF is opened by a PDF Reader supporting Forms (such as Adobe Reader). See the manual Chapter 15 - Using Forms in Writer.

If you want to do major edits to a PDF you have two choices:

1. Buy a PDF Editor such as Adobe Acrobat DC or PDF-XChange Editor; or obtain a free PDF editor like PDFEscape. Google for more alternatives.

2. Convert the PDF file to a word processing file (like .odt, .doc etc) and edit the file. You can use a File Conversion site like zamzar.com to convert a PDF to an editable format like a .odt or .doc (with varying degrees of success).

You can usually copy from a PDF and paste into a document and edit the results. Even this is difficult as the PDF has no concept of a "paragraph of flowing text" and each separate line in the PDF copies out as a separate paragraph. Some PDFs are created such that copying is prevented.

Images in a PDF are often broken into an array of multiple small images. You can copy an image (or indeed anything) from a PDF by opening the PDF in Adobe Reader and going Edit > Take a snapshot. Now left-click and drag the mouse to select the area wanted (if the area you want is larger than the screen just allow the screen to scroll). When you release the mouse the selected area will be copied to your clipboard. Paste it into an image editor, or Writer, and save it.

PDF Split and Merge is a very useful free utility which allows you, for example, to split a PDF into separate pages, merge multiple PDFs into one PDF, and shuffle pages around in a PDF.

If you install the Oracle PDF Import Extension you can do minor cosmetic edits to a PDF using OpenOffice Draw. That being said, I have never found this extension to be that useful because it works in two ways:

1. The PDF is a "normal PDF" - as in the vast majority of cases

In this case, the PDF content is imported into Draw. The text on the Draw page is split into many single-line paragraphs and it is all but impossible to edit it satisfactorily for other than the most minor changes. There is no concept of a paragraph, nor of text flowing to the next line and sometimes event the same line is split into different fields making alignment tricky.

2. The PDF is a "hybrid PDF" which means it also contains a .odt file embedded in the PDF alongside the normal PDF content - this is VERY unusual!

This is very unusual ...

... but if you are fortunate enough to have such a PDF, then the extension extracts the .odt file and, not surprisingly, you can edit the .odt file with Writer.

The add-on description says:

The PDF Import Extension allows you to import and modify PDF documents.

Best results with 100% layout accuracy can be achieved with the "PDF/ODF hybrid file" format, which this extension also enables. A hybrid PDF/ODF file is a PDF file that contains an embedded ODF source file. Hybrid PDF/ODF files will be opened in OpenOffice.org as an ODF file without any layout changes. Users without this extension can open the PDF part of the hybrid file with their PDF viewer.

The PDF Import Extension also allows you to import and modify PDF documents for non hybrid PDF/ODF files. PDF documents are imported in Draw to preserve the layout and to allow basic editing. This is the perfect solution for changing dates, numbers or small portions of text with a minimum loss of formatting information for simple formatted documents.

Documents with more sophisticated layouts, such as those created with professional Desktop Publishing applications that use special fonts and complex vector graphics are not suitable for the PDF Import Extension. Similarly, longer documents (> 20 pages) may cause some performance and stability problems.


- Text attributes like font family, font size, weight (bold, not bold), style (italic, not italic) are imported together with their respective text
- Retain font appearance, when a PDF file uses a font not installed on your system, the font is replaced with the best alternative font
- Converts images and vector graphics
- Each line in a paragraph is converted into one text object
- Import of password-protected PDF files
- Import shapes with default style
- Support for colors and bitmaps
- Backgrounds remain behind other elements

Not supported:

- Native PDF forms
- Processing layout of LaTeX PDF
- Import of complex vector graphics elements
- Conversion of tables
- Import of EPS graphics
- RTL (right-to-left) text/font support

Please notice: Use this extension cautiously as editing PDF files is not a trivial task. Encouraged by the huge number of positive comments and the improved quality of this extension, we decided to remove the Beta tag from this release. Of course we will continue to work on this extension to reflect user needs and any changes to the PDF standard.
LO, Windows 10 Home 64 bit

See the Writer Guide, the Writer FAQ, the Writer Tutorials and Writer for students.

Remember: Always save your Writer files as .odt files. - see here for the many reasons why.
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