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How To Edit Scanned PDF Documents

The PDF (Portable Document Format) is one of the most versatile and commonly used file types around today. If you’ve landed on this page looking for an easy, fast way to make edits to your scanned PDFs, then you’re one of many people hoping to perform this task, and here we'll explain how to edit a PDF.


For all its versatility, editing a scanned PDF is not as straightforward as you’d hope. Once you’ve scanned your document and saved it, the text, images and any charts, diagrams or graphics found within the file cannot be changed directly. So to work with a scanned document, you need to rework it into an editable format.

Perhaps you’re working in a professional capacity or on an assignment and you’d like to send or alter paper copies of a document, or maybe you’re looking to get rid of some paper copies. No matter the reason, you’ve found yourself in need of a way to transform a scanned PDF. This article will explain in an easy-to-follow method how you can edit your scanned PDFs!

How To Edit Scanned PDF Documents Step-By-Step

To transform a scanned PDF, you need to run a program that includes OCR (Optical Character Recognition). The software will automatically run OCR in the background and convert your file into editable text and images.

Once you've used an OCR, you can use FormatPDF to make changes to your scanned files. Alter your document by making amendments to the text, adding drawings and annotations, inserting images and more. Our online tool works without you having to download any additional programs or software.

If you’re ready to start altering your file, follow the step-by-step instructions below.

  1. Open FormatPDF and head to https://www.formatpdf.com/en/edit-pdf/
  2. Upload your scanned file by clicking the "Select PDF file" button. Alternatively, drag and drop your document into the box that states "Or drag and drop the PDF here”.
  3. The file will upload in a matter of seconds and will appear on screen. You will have access to all the tools, which include various options such as drawing, editing text, inserting a picture, adding an icon or writing text.
  4. Once you’re happy with the changes you’ve made, click on the "Download" button in the right corner of your screen. A few seconds later you’ll receive the new version of your file.

What You Need To Know About Editing A Scanned PDF

You may want to consider the following points before you get started with changing your file. Read on for a few points to bear in mind:

  • High-quality scans will give you the best results and make it a lot easier when it comes to editing. It sounds obvious, but make sure your scan is straight. For the best results ensure your scanned document is between 300 and 600 dpi.
  • A scanned file can't be changed without using a program that includes an OCR tool to convert images into editable text format. This is because the scanned document is actually an image file, and you can't alter the text in an image.
  • Check you’re happy with the scan before putting it into a program. Text that is overly bright or dark in the source document will not be picked up because there needs to be a decent level of contrast.
  • Scan and save your document in black and white for the best visual result.
  • Once you've finished editing the PDF, you may want to compress the PDF to make it smaller, add a password to protect it, or even add a watermark. We offer all these tools and more on our website.

Alternatives To Edit A Scanned PDF

Although FormatPDF provides all the tools you need to transform your files, you may wish to explore alternative options. We’ll explore some of the best alternative options you can use to change your file using different devices including PC and smartphone, and different operating systems such as Mac, iOS, Windows, Linux and Android.

Options To Edit A Scanned PDF On Your PC

Depending on what operating system you’re using, you will find there are different options available to you. We will now further inspect the options that are available for users of the following operating systems: Window, Mac and Linux.


Windows users can use the default Windows PDF viewing and editing program for basic functions, though you will not be able to alter the text on your document. For more comprehensive editing, you can use a paid program called Adobe Acrobat. The steps to change your document in Acrobat are outlined below:

  1. Open your scanned document in Acrobat.
  2. Select “Tools” > “Edit PDF”. The program will apply OCR to your document in the background to convert it into an editable version.
  3. Click the text or element you’d like to change and begin typing. Your text will automatically convert to match the font in the scanned document.
  4. Once you are happy with your changes, select “File” > “Save as” to save your document.


Similar to Windows users, Mac users can revert to the default PDF and image viewer, Preview, to perform basic editing functions. For more in-depth editing, Mac users will need to download the paid program Adobe Acrobat for Mac, which is the same program mentioned above but for Mac users. You can follow the same steps outlined above to change a scanned document using a Mac.


For Linux users, the program GIMP can provide an alternative to editing scanned files. However, using GIMP you can only change one page at a time. Once you’re happy with your changes, you will have to save in GIMP format and revert to PDF after you have exited the program.

Options To Edit A Scanned PDF On Your Smartphone

The wonders of modern technology mean that you have access to a number of powerful editing tools right in the palm of your hand. Whether you’re using an Android or iPhone device, there’s a way not only to scan a paper copy of your file but to alter it, too.

Of course, you can use FormatPDF on any device, including a mobile. But if you’re still looking for an alternative, you can download an app to complete your task.


iPhone users can use a third-party app to easily scan, convert and make changes such as adding a signature and altering each page of your file with the following functions: rotate, contrast, luminosity and trimming.


Android users can use the Adobe Acrobat Reader app to perform a number of functions such as commenting, adding a signature and filling forms. After downloading the app, sign into your account and open the file you wish to alter. By tapping the blue pencil at the bottom of the screen you will have access to different functions. Basic editing is free, though you will need to pay for some features such as altering text and organizing pages.

Becky is a freelance tech writer with over 8 years' experience writing for print and online. She is often found heavily caffeinated and accompanied by a laptop occupying local coffee shops, bars, co-working spaces and, frankly, anywhere she can get a strong cup of coffee. She enjoys collaborating on different projects ranging from tech to travel and everything in between!
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