Free and Open Source Alternatives to Adobe Acrobat

There's more than one way to create and manipulate a PDF

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PDFs are everywhere these days. They're used by the IRS for downloadable tax forms. They're used when consultants send proposals and contracts to clients. They're even used for e-books. If you have Adobe Acrobat, you probably know how to make and work with PDFs already, but if you're thinking that you have no idea how to make or edit a PDF, don't fret. Here are some free open source software programs that you can download and use right away.


If you only want to make a PDF with no bells and whistles, you can choose "Make PDF" from the Print menus of many software programs. However, Acrobat does much more than make PDFs.


LibreOffice might seem like an obvious choice if you're already familiar with open source software, but if you're new to the community, it's definitely worth looking at. LibreOffice is one of the flagship open source projects, and it's a popular alternative to Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Visio, and Access. Because it allows you to import and export PDFs, it's also a great alternative to Adobe Acrobat.

LibreOffice is available for Linux, Microsoft Windows, and macOS, and you can download the installation files from the official download page. You can also download the source code, which was released under an LGPL license, from the LibreOffice website.


Unlike LibreOffice, PDFCreator is a piece of software designed purely to deal with the creation and control of PDF documents.

The interface is simple to use, and because it all revolves around PDFs, it has additional features that might be of interest. For example, you can add passwords to files, encrypt files, stop people from printing or modifying documents, add digital signatures and save profiles for quick access to settings.

PDFCreator is a fully functioning piece of software. If you end up getting more involved with PDF files, you can also download its companions—PDFArchitect, which lets you modify PDF files, and Images2PDF, which lets you convert images to PDF files.

The downside to PDFCreator is that it's only available for Microsoft Windows, but if you're a Windows user, you can download the installation files from the official download page. You can also download the source code, which was released under a GPL license, from SourceForge.


PDFLite is another piece of standalone software, but this one is focused on minimalism. The interface is simple, although it does let you search, print and zoom, and it claims that any program that can print, can convert to PDF. Plus, since the web is full of PDFs, the creators of PDFLite have created plugins for the Microsoft Windows versions of Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, which might make your browsing a little more seamless.

PDFLite is only available for Microsoft Windows. You can get the installation files from the official site. If you'd like to download the GPL-licensed source code, you can get that from the main site, too—just look for the Source Code link in the Development section.