How to Edit a PDF File on Mac: Your Step by Step Guide


Are you thinking of applying for a job or a loan online? If so, there’s a decent chance that the application will involve filling in a PDF file.

Now, you don’t have to know how to edit a PDF file on Mac if you want to sign a document. What you could do instead is print the file out, use a pen to fill it in, and either scan it or send it by post. That said, editing the PDF is much faster and more convenient.

Not sure how to edit a PDF on Mac? Good news: everything you need is already built into the system! Here’s a short guide to help you out.

The Quick Look Method

Quick Look is a tool that allows you to preview files on your Mac without using an app to open them. Since 2018, you can use it to edit PDF files as well. Here’s the easiest way to do it.

1. Locate the PDF you want to edit, select it, and press Spacebar. This will show a preview of the file on your screen.

2. Click on the icon that looks like a pencil in the top right of the Preview screen. This will give you access to all the tools you can use to edit the file. For now, we’ll focus on the tool that looks like a T in a box.

3. Click on the T icon and you’ll get a box with the word Text inside it. You can move this box anywhere on the screen and type in anything you want to add to the file. You can change the color, size, and font of the text by using the drop-down box next to the A.

Keep in mind that some PDF documents are easier to fill in. When you open those, the text boxes will appear automatically wherever you need to type.

4. Once you’re done editing your file, click on Done to save your changes. This allows you to share the edited PDF with others.

The Preview Method

If you haven’t updated to Mojave or a newer version, editing PDF files is a bit trickier. That said, you can still do it for free by using the Preview app. Here’s how that works.

1. Click on the PDF file you want to edit, which should open it in Preview. If it doesn’t, you likely have another PDF reader app installed. In this case, right-click on the file and select Open With > Preview.

2. Click on the icon that resembles a pencil in a circle. This will open the Markup tools, which include options for text selection, sketch and draw, and text and sign. You’ll also be able to make notes, add shapes and borders, change the text style, and so on.

3. From this point onward, editing PDF files in Preview is a lot like doing it in Quick Look. We’ll go into the specifics of using some of the key tools below.

Copying Text

Adding text isn’t all you need to know about how to make a PDF editable. For example, here’s how to copy text from one PDF into another.

1. Go to Quick Look or Preview and click on the Aa icon in the toolbar. This enables the text selection option. Find the words you want to save and highlight them.

2. With the words highlighted, right-click on them and select Copy. You can also press Command + C.

3. You can now paste the words into another document or anywhere else in the PDF. Of course, you’ll first need to create a text box.

Checking Boxes

Many PDF files have checkboxes that you need to tick or cross. The crossing is easy enough—just press X—but what about adding a tick? If the tick sign doesn’t appear automatically, here’s what you can do.

1. Click on the Text Box icon (the letter T in a square) and move the text box to where you want to add a tick.

2. Create a tick by pressing Option/Alt + V. If you’d prefer a different design, change the font until you find a tick you like.

3. Copy the tick as explained above and paste it anywhere you like.

Creating Shapes

By creating shapes, you can highlight certain areas in a PDF file. Both Preview and Quick Look offer this feature.

1. Click on the Square/Circle icon and select the shape you want to create. These include a square, star, speech bubble, and so on. Once the shape appears in the document, you can move or resize it as you see fit.

2. To change the color of the shape, select it and click on the box with lines around it from the drop-down menu.

3. To magnify a part of the document, select the Magnify option from the Shapes pallet. Dragging out the blue dot makes the circle larger and dragging the green dot enlarges the text inside it.

Signing a Document

Adding a signature to your file is also something you can do in Quick Look and Preview. Follow these steps:

1. Click on the Signature icon (looks like a scribble) in the toolbar. Then, select Create Signature. This will create a window that allows you to use your trackpad as a virtual notepad.

2. Draw your signature by using a stylus or your finger. When you’re done, tap any key. If you’re not happy with it, select Clear to draw the signature again.

3. Once you have your signature, select Done. To insert it into a document, click the Signature icon again and select your signature. It will appear in a text box, at which point you can drag or resize it.

You can also save your signatures for future use. To learn more about this feature, go to

More on How to Edit a PDF File on Mac

If you find yourself editing PDF files regularly, consider looking into third-party options. Some of them offer advanced features such as using OCR to turn paper documents into editable PDFs. For casual users, Quick Look and Preview should be enough.

Want to know more about how to edit a PDF file on Mac? Interested in getting even more out of your Mac? Keep reading our Technology section!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here