How to easily manage PDFs

Project tendering
How to easily manage PDFs

Many of our electrical estimating clients use PDF files as part of their everyday work. PDF (which stands for Portable Document Format) files were created to make it easy to share documents between computers and save files so that they can be viewed, but not modified. Most computers now have a PDF reader program of some sort installed. When you work with PDF files, there are a number of useful things you can do to help manage them. Here we share lots of tips on how to easily manage and edit your PDF files.

1. How to edit a PDF document

A common headache with PDFs is that it can be difficult to make edits, particularly if you don’t pay for a PDF software. To save re-typing the entire document, there are modern tools and ways to edit PDFs which we’ll cover below, depending on which computer system you use.

Convert the PDF to Word format using Google Docs

This is especially useful because you don’t need any special paid software to do it. The only limitation is that you can only convert PDF files that are a maximum of 2GB. To use this method, go to your settings in Google Drive and choose “Settings”. Then check the box next to “Convert uploaded files” (shown below).

how to covert PDFs to Google Docs files

Next, upload the PDF to your Google Drive account by selecting “New” and “File Upload”. Once uploaded, you can then open the document and select “File”, “Download” and then choose to download the file as a Word document. Once downloaded, you’ll easily be able to edit the content within Word.

Edit using Adobe Acrobat

If you’re lucky enough to have a paid subscription to Acrobat this is a paid/licensed software that allows you to make changes to your PDF (not to be confused with Adobe Reader which is purely for reading PDF files). You can also use Acrobat to export the PDF to Microsoft Word which is useful if you need to make lots of changes.

Edit your PDF on Mac

You can also easily edit a PDF file by using the “Pages” app on your Mac. To do so, open the PDF you would like to edit and copy all text to the clipboard. To extract any images, hold down “command” , “shift” and “4”. Click and drag the cursor to fit the frame of the image you’d like to extract, then release and save to your desktop. Paste the text into a new document in your “Pages” app. This will allow you to edit the text of the document and reinsert images.

Edit using a free online PDF editor

If you were to do a quick search, there are a number of online PDF editors. Some of them are free and others require a paid subscription, or allow you to use a limited number of features without a paid account. One of the best, free online PDF editors available is DocHub. DocHub is particularly useful for making small changes such as signing PDFs before returning them to the sender. DocHub also has a Google Drive app integration which allows you to upload PDF files via your Google Drive account and easily sign or edit them, before downloading as a PDF or saving to your Drive account.

DocHub Google Drive integration

2. How to rotate a PDF document

Construction plans and other documents are often scanned as PDFs. Sometimes images end up upside down or they’re not oriented the way you need to view them (such as a picture that should be viewed horizontally that appears vertically). In these cases, you need to be able to rotate your PDF document so that it is easy to read. To permanently rotate pages, you need PDF software such as Adobe Acrobat Pro. To permanently rotate a document using Acrobat Pro, navigate to “document” then “rotate pages”. Then select which way you want the page to be rotated, and input the page numbers to apply the rotation to. This means that you could choose to rotate different pages in different directions if you needed to.

3. How to delete pages from a PDF document

Knowing how to delete pages can be useful, especially if pages are added that aren’t needed and you want to reduce the file size. There are a few different ways to delete pages from a PDF, depending on which programs you have available. Here are a couple of different options: Use Adobe Acrobat This again has to be the paid version and not Adobe Reader. To delete pages, click the “page thumbnails” button which is at the left-hand side of the pane. This shows you all of the pages in thumbnail form. From here, select any pages that you want to delete, then click the “delete” button at the top of the thumbnails pane. If you use a Mac, you can delete PDF pages by using the preview function. Right-click on the PDF document then select “open with” and “preview.” From the “view” menu at the top, select thumbnails – this will show all pages in a thumbnail view. Select all pages that you would like to delete (you can hold down “command” and select multiple pages if needed). Go to the “edit” menu and select “delete” – this will delete every page you selected.

4. How to merge PDF files

Sometimes when documents have been scanned at different times, you may want to merge them together into one PDF file. Again, there are several ways to go about this. A quick search online reveals some programs that are set up to do this for free, while you can also use paid programs like Adobe Acrobat Pro. Here’s how to merge PDF files using Adobe Acrobat. Click the “tools” menu at the top left-hand corner and select “combine files.” Click the blue “add files” button and select all PDF files that you’d like to combine. Once selected, click the blue “combine files” button at the top right of the screen. With your PDF files now combined, “save as” to save your new file wherever you need it.

5. How to password protect your PDF

Password protection is one of the simplest ways to secure your PDF, although it is by no means foolproof. The password still needs to be provided to the recipient, and this is often not done by the most secure means. Still, a password provides some level of security. As with previous PDF functions, there are many methods for password protecting your file, so we’ll look at just a couple here. Again, you will find multiple different programs available online to help you manage password protection on your PDF files.

Password protect PDFs in Word

Many PDF files begin life as a Word document, and you can password protect them before they are converted to PDF. When saving your document, select “save as” and choose the PDF option from the dropdown menu. Underneath you will see a box that says “more options.” Select this and then click on the “options” button in the box that pops up. Select “encrypt document with a password” then enter your chosen password twice, as prompted. Hit save – now people who open the document from any program will be asked for a password.

Password protect PDFs in Adobe Acrobat

Navigate the program via Tools > Protect > Encrypt > Encrypt with Password. Select “Require a Password to Open the Document,” then type your password choice in the corresponding field. Select a version of Acrobat from the Compatibility drop-down. It’s important to choose a version that is equal to or lower than the recipient’s version. You now choose an encryption option. Note that if you choose “except metadata”, search engines can still access document metadata. Click “Ok” then confirm the password a second time.

6. How to sign a PDF

Do you ever receive contracts via PDF document and need to sign them? You can do this electronically, rather than printing and signing documents. First of all, there are two different terms you need to understand:

  • Electronic signature – this refers to an image of your signature, overlaid on a PDF document.
  • Digital signature – this is more complicated. It refers to an encryption that ensures someone with your unique private signing key has seen and authorised the document.

For this article, we’ll look at electronic signatures as these are more likely to be used. You can add your signature to a PDF document quite easily by using the free Adobe Reader software. To do so:

  1. Open the PDF file in Reader
  2. Click the “fill and sign” button at the right-hand pane
  3. Click the “sign” button then select “add signature”
  4. Choose from “type” (you type your signature and it renders an electronic signature that will not look like your real signature), “draw” (you draw your signature with your mouse) or “image” (you upload a scanned image of your real signature – this will then be saved for use next time)
  5. Position your signature where you want it and click “apply”
  6. Save your signed PDF.

7. How to extract pages from a PDF

There may be times when you have a large PDF file made up of several parts for which you’d like to split or extract pages. You could do this with your paid software such as Adobe Acrobat, but we’re going to show you a quick trick for doing it with your Chrome browser. Here’s how:

  • Find the PDF you’d like to extract pages from in your files
  • Right click and select “Open with” then “Google Chrome.”
  • Hit “Ctrl + P” to open print options and click “Change” to select “Save as PDF”
  • Under “pages” select the button that allows you to choose pages and enter the ones you’d like to extract
  • Click save and choose where you’d like to save your new file to

8. How to search within a PDF

You may need to search your PDF document for certain terms or words. If your document is long, this would be very time-consuming if done manually. You can search in various PDF programs, but there is also a very easy way using the “open with Google Chrome” method we talked about in the last section. Here it is:

  • Right click on your PDF file and select “Open with” then “Google Chrome”
  • At the top right-hand corner of your screen, you will see three vertical dots – click there then select “Find” from the menu
  • Type in the search term you want to find in the search box that pops up
  • You can scroll up or down using the arrows in the search box to move between examples of your search term

9. How to convert a PDF to an image

PDF files are a great way to package a document with a large number of pages, but sometimes you just want to be able to share a single page or image more easily. An image file such as JPG is smaller and easier to share, especially if you consider that people might be opening and viewing the document on a mobile device or tablet. The other consideration is that you’re relying on people having a PDF viewing software installed to be able to quickly view the document. This is not necessary with an image format file. Additionally, most project management tools are better equipped to deal with JPG or other image files rather than a PDF. If you use a Mac, there is a way to convert to JPG without downloading any software. Open the PDF file using the “Preview” function (right click on your PDF and select “open with”). Under the “file” tab, choose “open” then change the format of the file to JPG and save. If you use Windows you will need to look for an online converter tool. There are plenty of free options available.

10. Managing PDFs on your iPhone

Whether you’re an electrical estimator or in another busy role in the construction world, the chances are you’re often on the move. This makes being able to manage documents from your phone especially useful. Being able to open and save PDF files on your iPhone is one of the first things to learn. To do this, open the email that contains the file and long press to open the PDF. Once it has opened, tap the “share” option. From here, you can save the file to services you have on your phone such as Google Drive or Dropbox. Alternatively, if you hit “save file” it will save the files on your phone. Once the file is saved, you’re then easily able to share it from the location that you saved it to. Alternatively, if you forward the original email, be sure to select “include” in the display window to ensure that the file forwards with the email. If you need to print a PDF from your phone, you will follow the same steps that you did to share the file. Instead of sharing to a location such as Dropbox, you will select “print” and choose the WiFi enabled printer you want to print from.

11. How to markup a PDF on your iPhone

To annotate PDF files from your phone, you could choose to use one of the many apps available in the App Store for doing so. However, there is a way of making your annotations without downloading any extra apps. When you open the document, simply select the markup button (the one that looks like a ballpoint pen) from the top right, then choose from the markup options available.

Markup PDF on iPhone

12. How to add a watermark to a PDF document

Watermarking is one of the oldest forms of document security. While a watermark doesn’t prevent your PDF documents from being leaked or stolen, they do identify the original owner of the document, or in some cases (depending on the technology used), the source of the “leak.” A watermark on a PDF might be your company logo or other unique identifier, or, it might be unique to the recipient of the document. For example, you might watermark with the recipient’s name or email address (there are some paid software options that do this automatically for you, such as Digify). At a basic level, you might use watermarking to classify your documents. You can identify whether they are confidential for example, which may prompt recipients to take care with how they treat the document.

Watermarking with Word

Seeing as many PDF files begin life as a Word document, this is a good place to start. In most versions of Word, you will find watermarking by going to the “Design” tab, then selecting “Watermark.” You will then see preset options, an option to customize, and on Office 365, you will see the option to get “more watermarks from” You simply select what you’d like, and in the custom options you can manage layout, font, and whether the watermark is a picture or text.

Watermarking with Adobe

If your file is already in PDF format, then you need software that specifically works with PDF, such as Adobe. The process is easy: Choose Tools > Edit PDF > Watermark > Add. You may also choose to specify pages if you don’t want the watermark on all pages.

Other watermarking options

If you Google “how to add a watermark to a PDF for free” you’ll see a number of different options come up for free tools. It’s important to check out how these work first - you don’t want the watermark of a free tool on your professional documents! You should also consider security. Free tools are often not regularly updated or may be vulnerable to security breaches - if this would be unacceptable for your PDF, then give the free tool a miss.

Useful tools for PDF management

Although we have mentioned lots of work-around options here for managing PDFs you may also want to invest in a permanent tool, particularly if various members of your team need to edit PDFs. Here are some of the latest PDF editing tools we found: iPhone, iPad and Android PDF editors

Windows and MAC PDF editor tools

Final thoughts

There you have it! PDF documents are very useful for sharing information electronically, potentially saving on paper consumption too. By learning a few management techniques, you can ditch the printer and achieve exactly what you need.