Ashampoo PDF Free is a lightweight and free PDF editing tool which is ideal for quickly viewing and editing any PDF documents stored on your PC!
Whilst on paper (or in this case, PDF) it hasn’t quite got the sheer power of its bigger brother, PDF Pro 3, Ashampoo have still produced a very functional PDF editing tool with all of the basics of PDF viewing and editing nicely covered.
In fact, as with some of the other free tools I have tested from Ashampoo, PDF Free goes much further than you might expect and I suspect for many will mean premium PDF editing software is not needed at all after seeing what this gem is capable of doing!
So far PDF Free is sounding great, let’s see what it can do!
- 100% Free to use PDF editor (free registration requited)
- Simple, easy to use and well designed user interface
- Starting editing PDFs straight away
- Easily edit and annotate existing PDF documents
- Multiple import and export options
- Ability to set permissions and encrypt PDF files (AES 256bit encryption)
- Lacking some advanced features found in PDF Pro 2 (the premium version)
Ashampoo PDF Free Usability
Installing PDF Free
Installing PDF Free is quick and easy, this begins by visiting the Ashampoo Website where the installer can be downloaded for free!
At just over 300MB this is quite a big download so might take a little time to get going with, once running however, the software was installed in a just a matter of seconds!
The final part of the install will be entering your Ashampoo account details to activate the licence, if you don’t yet have an Ashampoo account then don’t worry, it is quick and easy to sign up for one and all that is needed is a valid email address!
With registration complete, PDF Free will now be ready to go!
Working with and Editing PDFs
When opening PDF Free for the first time we will be greeted by a “welcome” document which is already opened up in the application, this is great for initially testing out the software and getting a feel for what it can do.
Editing any loaded PDF document, such as this welcome document, is as simple as clicking on the text to be edited and then typing as would be done in any traditional word processor application. PDF Free even gives us the ability to enhance text and make it stand out thanks to the ability to change font and styles (such as making text bold) in addition to making certain text stand out thanks to the text highlighting features as can be seen below:
As well as simply editing existing text, we can also add new blocks of text to any part of the PDF document simply by selecting the text tool form the menu and defining the area where the new text is to be added.
Moving on from editing text and PDF Free also provides a good selection of commenting tools, these are ideal for annotating a PDF document and adding useful information in a way which will both be time and date stamped and will, in most cases, easily stand out from the original PDF document.
In addition to document editing itself, any edits which are made to the underlying file are also logged, these can be seen via the change log box which is available under the document menu and can give insight into the changes made to a document.
One of the biggest things which does seem to missing when it comes to adding content, in this section, is the ability to add images from a file into the PDF document. This is, of course, only a small thing which wont affect too many users, but nevertheless something to point out for those which might need such functionality.
Merging, Inserting, Splitting & Extracting PDFs
Moving away form the basic editing of PDF files we can next start looking at the functionality which is required for manipulating the PDF document itself. Such functionality can include inserting new pages into the document, deleting existing pages, reordering and re-sizing pages and also extracting specified pages into individual PDF files amongst other similar operations.
Sadly, when it comes to manipulating PDF documents, this is where we start to see some of the first notable limitations of PDF Free appear (in case you are unaware, Ashampoo also produce a fully featured editor called PDF Pro 2 which can, naturally, do a lot more than PDF Free can).
A look at the “Pages” menu (as can be seen above) and we can see the available options for altering this document, note how the ability to add new pages and import directly from a scanner are both absent in this free version (yet both are available in the PDF Pro 2 version).
Securing PDF Documents
Another great feature of PDF Free is its ability to secure and even encrypt any PDF documents which are edited using the application.
Starting off at the Document Security box (accessible from the “Document” menu) and we see the available security options and the strength of encryption which will be applied, these currently go up to and include full AES-256bit encryption of the document.
Once any of the encryption options are applied, we can then go about specifying other security features which are to be applied to the document, these include allowing or disallowing editing, printing, searching metadata and copying data from the document amongst other things.
As can be seen above, we have the option of specifying two individual passwords when activating these security features. One password allows others users of the document to open, read and possibly event print the contents within and another password allows permissions within the document to be changed (a kind of master password, if you will).
NB – If you do make use of these security options it is important to remember these passwords, they cannot be reset!
PDF Free vs PDF Pro 2
As was mentioned a little while ago, PDF Free from Ashampoo is accompanied by a fully featured PDF editing suite called PDF Pro 2 (you can read our review of PDF Pro 2 by clicking here). Whilst many of the core PDF editing features are covered by PDF Free, it is, as would be expected, missing some of the functionality of the premium version.
On the editing front there is actually little difference between both versions, as such, if basic editing is all you need from a PDF editing tool then PDF Free will go a long way. Moving a little bit further on and we do see certain tools missing from the free version which relate to the manipulation of documents, these include no ability to create new pages within the document nor any ability to imports directly from a document scanner as we can do in PDF Pro 2.
Other missing features, amongst other things, include the lack of any find and replace tool (we just have find on its own).
PDF Free Security
As has already been mentioned, PDF Free allows encryption of documents using up to and including AES-256bit encryption technology.
Building further on this security we can make use of both a master password, reserved for editing or changing the properties of the document, alongside a read-only password used to keep the document secure in the hands of less trusted parties (this can include, amongst other things, not allowing read-only parties the ability to copy from or print the document).
Ashampoo have a great support portal and provide a comprehensive Q&A section which handles most problems you might encounter. Should you still need to get in touch with a support representative you can submit support tickets online.
Ashampoo PDF Free Pricing
Ashampoo PDF Free is 100% free to use and can be downloaded directly form the Ashampoo website (although registration via a free Ashampoo account is required to activate the software).
If you are looking for some of the more advanced PDF editing featured then be sure to check out the premium PDF Pro 2 also from Ashampoo.
Ashampoo PDF Free Review Summary
PDF Free from Ashampoo is a very useable PDF editing suite which is ideal for anyone looking for basic viewing and editing of PDF documents. In fact, if you editing requirements never go past basic tweaking of text, making annotations and securing of the final document, then this could very easily be a great alternative to a premium PDF editing suite.
As with most free software there are, however, some limitations and PDF Free does miss a few features which some might find useful. Missing functionality includes the ability to find and replace text, add images to the document from a file, adding new pages to an existing PDF document nor the ability to import pages directly from a scanner amongst a few other things.
As was mentioned earlier on, PDF Pro 3 is also available from Ashampoo and fills in many of the gaps you might find if you need something more than is offered by PDF Free, you can try it for yourself thanks to the 30 Day Free Trial available via the Ashampoo website.
Overall, a genuinely useful free PDF editor which will be sufficient for many people simply looking to tweak existing documents and then secure them ready for real-world use, definitely worth a try before you commit to premium PDF editing software!