How to Edit PDF on iPhone and iPad

Tips • Jan. 16, 2024

edit pdf iphoneipad

Viewing PDFs on iPhone and iPad isn’t difficult. But what if you want to edit one of your PDFs while you’re on the go? It can become a mission impossible quickly if you don’t know the easiest steps that will get you to edit your PDF in seconds.

If that’s what you’re struggling with and you’re trying to learn how to edit PDFs on iPhone and iPad, you’re in the right place. I’ll show you how I edit my PDFs when I don’t have my MacBook Air with me, and I’ll also tell you a few things you have to keep in mind, so let’s break it down!

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Can you edit PDF on an iPhone without downloading an app?

A long answer short, yes, you can edit PDFs on an iPhone and iPad without even downloading any specialized apps. While not many Apple users know about this, when you’re previewing a PDF file, you can make slight changes, add annotations, add text, search for text within the PDF, and more.

What you can’t do is replace text, remove existing text, re-write text, and a couple of other things. Now, these things might be exactly what you’re looking for. Even though this isn’t available for editing in the PDF preview on an iPhone/iPad, other ways are more efficient, and I promise they’re quick.

How to edit PDF on an iPhone and iPad

To edit the PDF, it’s best to have it downloaded on your iPhone/iPad and saved in Files. From the iOS home, go to Files and browse between your files to find the PDF you’d like to edit.

pdf on iphone

When you open the PDF you’d like to edit, you’ll see a couple of actions available at the bottom of the iPhone/iPad screen. At the top bottom corner, you’ll see a pen icon. This icon allows you to open a further menu of available editing features. These features include an integrated search functionality, a helpful choice of annotative tools, and the ability to add a text box.

With the annotative tools, you get to choose between pen types, shapes, and colors that would make your annotation stand out from the PDF document. On top of that, you also get to add a text box where you can type in the text directly to the PDF using your iPhone/iPad’s keyboard.

There’s also an option to add your signature. If you don’t have a saved signature on your iOS device, you can always create one within minutes. I have a great signature I did freehand and I prefer adding a scan of my signature into the PDFs whenever I have to, so that’s also a great idea.

While there are plenty of things you can do within the integrated preview of a document on an iPhone/iPad, my opinion is that it could’ve been greatly improved. But if you’re an iPad user and have the Apple Pencil, you’ll love making your annotations freehand. If Apple only added the ability to customize existing text within the PDF, you might not ever need a third-party PDF editing app to do so.

iPhone/iPad’s functionality of PDF Preview explained

I have to admit I didn’t know the whole potential of Apple’s Preview that’s integrated with every iOS and macOS device. Although it took me a while, I can also admit that the Preview offers much more than I thought.

The secret to learning the ins and outs of the Preview is to give every feature a try to learn its full functionality. Only then you can get the most from Preview and editing PDFs on your iPhone/iPad without using a third-party app.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, it’s best to have your PDFs saved in Files on your iPhone or iCloud. When you open the PDF, you’ll see a taskbar above and below the PDF, taking just a tiny bit of your screen.

Top of the PDF Preview taskbar

In the top taskbar, you’ll get the selection button in the top left corner. The selection button helps you choose and switch between a variety of PDFs (and other files) you have on your iOS device. The middle of the taskbar is where you can see the name of your PDF. It’s important to note that you can click on the PDF’s name to get a drop menu of more functions.

The available functions for a PDF include:

  • Lock PDF
  • Duplicate
  • Move
  • Rename
  • Print

Locking a PDF file gives you the ability to use a password to protect your PDF. This is ideal if your PDF is confidential or of a private matter. Other functions are self-explanatory, but it’s good to know that you can also print your PDF directly from your iPhone/iPad using Wi-Fi. Of course, you also need to ensure that the printer is connected to the same Wi-Fi network and that it has Wi-Fi capability.

The far right top button is the Done button, which closes the PDF file once you press it. What helped me the most is to understand that the top menu also changes, depending on the functions you select from the bottom taskbar. Keeping an eye will help you move through functions much more easily.

Bottom of the PDF Preview taskbar

The bottom of the menu features 3 to 4 buttons, depending on the functionality you select. The far bottom left button is the share button. You can share your PDF directly from your iPhone/iPad to your most recent contacts, AirDrop it, email it, or share it in third-party apps such as WhatsApp or Messenger.

There’s also a small dropdown menu where you can find more functions such as:

  • Copy
  • Print
  • Add to New Quick Note (turns your PDF into a Note)
  • Save to Files
  • Search with Google Lens
  • Edit Actions

While you can copy a PDF, you also get to print it for the second time within the Preview, in case you missed it in the top menu taskbar. An interesting function is the New Quick Note, which helps you turn your PDF into a note that’s saved and available in the default Notes app on your iPhone/iPad. I’ve given this a try a couple of times but it’s relatively hard to turn a PDF with other elements such as tables to a note. However, it could work well with text.

Searching with Google Lens is another interesting feature. If you have any photos or images within the PDF, you can search for them on Google using the integrated Google Lens feature.

Editing the actions gives you a bit of control over the explained menu, where you can choose your favorite options, add other actions, or remove actions you find unnecessary.

When you close the pop-up menu by pulling it down, the second option in the bottom menu is the search functionality. This is a super useful function where you can type in a specific part of your PDF file and the Preview will automatically lead you to a specific page. This is something you’d usually get to do on a macOS, but now it’s great to see such a convenient functionality on iOS devices too.

The third in a row (from the left) button at the bottom taskbar is the selection menu for annotation. This is where iPad users (especially the ones who own Apple Pencil) will love choosing a pen style and color for further freehand annotations and edits on the PDF.

The final button on the right is the text box which is a small text box pop-up on the PDF, which you can drag and set anywhere within your PDF file. Then, you can type the text and fill in the previously added box. This is useful when you have to fill out a PDF form.

Can you edit PDFs on iPhone/iPad for free?

Yes, you can edit PDFs on an iPhone and an iPad for free. However, editability can be limited. Preview is an integrated app within all iOS devices, including iPhone and iPad, but it has its limitations. My opinion is that it wasn’t meant for full-on PDF editing, but it includes a couple of features that make certain things possible.

If Preview on your iOS device isn’t enough for you to edit your PDFs the way you wish, getting a third-party app to edit PDFs is a great option. There are plenty of free options out there. Some of these include PDF Expert, PDFelement, Adobe Acrobat, GoodReader, and more. Of course, you might have to go through a bunch of ads in some free versions of these PDF editors, but it’s worth it since you won’t have to pay much.

Can you edit a PDF on iPhone and iPad with Apple Pencil?

When it comes down to editing PDFs on an iPad, everyone’s a big fan of an Apple Pencil. But can you use the Pencil on your iPhone?

pdf pencil

Long answer short, yes, you can use Apple Pencil on your iPhone in the same way you use it on your iPad. While you might not benefit from a bigger screen like you would on an iPad, annotations can still be easier with the Apple Pencil, even on an iPhone.

With the help of an Apple Pencil, you can take advantage of freehand drawing. With the integrated feature for annotation, you can choose the type of pen, color, and style you’d like your Apple Pencil to imitate while you’re editing PDFs freehand.

Of course, editing PDFs on an iPad is always a better option thanks to the larger screen, but editing PDFs on an iPhone is also a decent option if you’re on the go and don’t have a larger iOS device. For some, editing PDFs on an iPad is easier than on any other macOS device.

Can you scan documents and edit them as PDFs on an iPhone and iPad?

The greatest thing about iOS devices is that you can turn any document you take a photo of into a PDF. All you have to do is take a clear photo of a paper document. When you do, you can tap and hold on the photo and this will recognize the text on your document.

Copy the text and paste it into Notes or a PDF editing app. If you have a third-party OCR app, you don’t need to save the copied text to Notes. However, if you don’t have one, you can save the copied text to Notes, and then click on the Print button.

While you won’t print out the document, there’s an interesting feature, which helps you save the document as a PDF. All you need to do is proceed with the printing process without selecting an actual printer. When asked if you’d like to save the document, make sure it is saved as a PDF.

From there, you can further edit your PDF using Preview, but it’s not a bad idea to think of getting a third-party app that will make this whole process much easier.

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We mostly use PDFs to create or fill out forms, sign documents, and deal with important documents. Being able to do so on the go from your iPhone or iPad is a great possibility of the modern technology we have access to.

I suggest learning how Preview works so you can take full advantage of it, or you can download any of the earlier-mentioned third-party PDF apps. Preview isn’t solely designed for PDF editing, but it includes certain features that make it a possibility. While it’s still a fairly limited editor, going for the dedicated PDF editing app should make things simpler.

Decide between a free or paid PDF app should make a bit of a difference, but whichever you go with, you’ll love the convenience of being able to get things down even when you’re outside running errands, stuck in one of the public transportation, or being away on your vacation.