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How to Work with PDF Files: Editing and Translating

Posted by
Elmira in Technical Writing on 5/11/20229 min read

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The PDF format has long become part of our daily routine. We can hardly imagine office work without exchanging PDFs with colleagues. We often get important information in the form of PDF files. However, we are often at a loss when it comes to working with such documents. This blog will help to understand what the PDF format is about.

Advantages of PDF Format

PDF stands for Portable Document Format. This name probably comes from its ‘portability’ feature, the fact that this format can be exchanged between users. This is just one of the advantages of PDF files. More importantly, they can be shared without losing the native content. If you have ever worked with PDF files, you know that they cannot be edited. In most cases, the only thing you can possibly do with the content is copy it by highlighting the text with a cursor. In some cases, even copying is not allowed. Such files are totally uneditable.

This is, actually, the main advantage of the format. It is important that the content cannot be changed when you deal with important documents like orders, decrees, legal acts, and any regulatory documents, including internal or corporate ones (like the Company Dress Code, for instance). These documents are already finalized, and there is usually a special procedure for making amendments or adjustments to them. As a result, the information is protected, and no one knows how to make changes to a PDF.

Among the benefits of PDF format are the small size and compactness. This is important when the memory of the PC is limited by the hard disc and documents are not stored on the cloud.

How to Create a PDF File?

There are lots of ways to create a PDF. Select and use the tool you want and create a PDF with it. Below are just some of the options for you.

How to Create a PDF on iPhone?

If you are using a tablet or a mobile phone, tap the file icon to open the file. Then tap Print on the File tab. There will be an option to save the file as PDF, so tap on save and enter a name for your file. The image below shows how to do it.

How to Create a PDF on Mac?

With Mac, it is the same idea. You can use the Print menu to create a PDF. Open the file, click the File button on the top menu, and select Print (Control+P will also work). Next, click on PDF in the Print menu, and choose Save as PDF. The PDF button is in the bottom left-hand corner.

How to Make one PDF from Multiple PDFs?

Merging multiple PDFs can be done in Adobe Acrobat. For this, there is the Combine files function. You have to click on Combine files and add the necessary files.

How to Edit a PDF?

Editing PDFs is still often required. This is especially true for typical documentation, like a medical record, for example. For each patient, the form of the document is the same. Only the personal info is different.

How to Make a PDF Fillable?

Adobe Acrobat offers a special tool for making fillable PDFs. If you want to insert new fields in your file, you have to use fillable forms, a special feature of Adobe Acrobat. To access the forms, go to the Tools tab and select Prepare Form. After selecting a file, Acrobat will analyze the document and add form fields. This feature is often needed when you have to deal with lots of standard docs, each time modifying only a small fragment of text. It can be personal information like on the screenshot below:

How to Make PDF Searchable?

Most PDFs are searchable without conversion. They can be searched online, in Adobe Acrobat, or any other reader. If the PDF is ‘totally uneditable,’ i.e., when the text cannot be recognized and highlighted or copied, it requires conversion to a different format (doc, docx, odt, rtf, txt, etc.)

How to Add Signature to PDF?

PDFs allow adding signatures, which makes the documentation look even more official. To add a signature, you can use Small PDF, Adobe, or any other program. In Small PDF, you can choose people who should sign the document and then request a signature from them.

How to Make Changes in PDF File?

This is a problem if you have to deal with ‘read-only’ PDFs or scans. Adjustments can be made with the use of special programs like DocFly, or any other. It should be noted, though, that such resources are based on conversion.

How to Copy Text From PDF?

If the text is recognizable, it can be copied by highlighting the fragment of text and clicking on it with the right mouse button. If the text is uneditable, the file has to be converted to doc. or any other format so that the text can be copied.

How to Add Password to PDF?

The read-only files usually have a restriction from editing. The restriction can be set once the native file is generated. You can go to the Security tab and click on Manage Security. A special password is then assigned to the file, and other users will not be able to adjust the text. This procedure varies from editor to editor, but the principle is the same.

How to Translate a PDF?

Professionals use CAT (computer-aided translation) programs to translate faster and allow using termbases and translation memory. For example, below, you can see a screenshot of the settings page of a project for translating PDF files in a popular CAT program (Memsource).

translate pdf

These programs can process lots of file formats. However, PDF files might be a problem.

Not all CAT programs can ‘crack’ PDFs, and when they have such a function, again, it is not all PDFs they can crack. There are the so-called ‘read-only’ PDF files that cannot be edited and, therefore, translated. So, when you upload such a file in a CAT program, you will get a notification that this file has no content inside or that it cannot be edited.

Read-only PDF files can be protected by password or be just scans of Word documents, which, actually, means the same: they cannot be edited. This has been a cause of many problems for translators who have to deal with such files.

The only answer to the question ‘How to translate a pdf?’ is conversion. Conversion is a procedure how to make a document editable. Many conversion programs are currently available online. They allow converting PDFs to the doc. files or a dozen other formats like txt, odt, rtf, HTML, etc. The file becomes not only readable but editable as well and can be successfully processed by a CAT program.

However, after conversion, the text can be partially damaged, and the text quality (formatting) can be lost (this is especially visible in the case of table borders, special symbols, etc.). This is the result of an editing restriction setting which means a loss of time on conversion and a partial loss of quality for the text. The latter results in a time loss, as well as the lost formatting, which will have to be restored. Still, conversion of PDF to doc. format is the common routine translators face every day as no other solution to the problem of read-only files has been found yet.

If the PDF is editable, you will quickly learn how to work on a pdf document. Below are several recommendations on how to translate editable PDF files.

How to Translate a PDF in Chrome?

Google Chrome offers users a lot of translation tools. To translate a PDF, a plug-in tool has to be installed. It can be downloaded from an online market or from the developers’ page. All plug-ins work on the same principle: after installation, you have to highlight the text, click on it, and, in the context menu, you will have an option ‘Translate with…’

Mate Translate is a plug-in that can work with PDF files. You don’t have to upload the text to the program. Just click on the text fragment highlighted in the PDF file, and Mate will give you the translation. This is how it can look on your display:

translate pdf in chrome

How to Google Translate a PDF?

Google Translate is probably the most popular translation tool in the world. To google-translate a pdf, you have to press the Documents button in the upper left-hand corner of the page. The button is next to the Text button. You will be offered to upload a file in any of the suggested formats (DOCX, PDF, PPTX, XLSX, etc.).

After the text is processed, you will be able to download it. Just click on the ‘Download translation’ button. The result can be slightly different from the original. Special symbols can be lost, lines can be shifted, and tables can lose borders. Besides, at the top of the page, there will be a watermark ‘Machine Translated by Google’, which can damage your reputation as a professional translator, but it is all right if you need the text for internal use.

Again, you have to bear in mind that only editable PDFs can be processed. If the file is uneditable, Google translate will give you a warning (you will see it in the bottom left-hand corner of the page): ‘Unable to translate the scanned PDF file.’

How to Translate a PDF in Adobe?

If Adobe Acrobat is installed on your PC, you can translate a PDF in it. To do this, you have to open your file in Adobe. You will have to convert the file into a workable format. In the Tools menu, you will have to select the Export PDF option.

In fact, it is a conversion tool that allows you to convert the file (editable file, mind it) into one of the offered formats. After that, you can translate the file.

After you download the translated file, you can make it a PDF again to protect the information. This function is available in Markdown editors, which allow downloading files in convenient formats.

How to Translate a PDF in Google Docs?

If you are used to working with docs online and sharing with your colleagues, you can translate a document in Google Docs. To translate a PDF online, you first have to access your Google account, then click on the Documents icon in the menu at the top of the page (the one with the Google apps). Then open your file and, in the top menu, click Tools and select the Translate document option. Again, this option works only for editable PDFs.

Working with PDF in the ClickHelp Online Documentation Tool

ClickHelp Online Documentation Tool offers new options for working with PDF files. For example, you can convert your projects into PDF format. Your project might look different online (more dynamic, with more interactive content), but you will also need a version targeted for printed formats in case the user wants to have a hard copy of the text part of the project. Click on this link to learn how to create a pdf file. This will be a bit simplified version of your project (without dynamic elements, videos, animations, etc.), but it will be handier as a printed document.

As ClickHelp is based on the principle of single sourcing, it allows users to always work with the initial document avoiding the ‘text-damaging’ conversion process. Due to its advanced search system, the ClickHelp tool will always create a PDF or a Word file from the original doc. This saves much time otherwise wasted on adjusting the files damaged in the process of conversion.


‘Why use PDF?’ is a question people often ask themselves. The obvious advantages of this format are the possible answers to it. With PDF, you can protect your information. For this, you will have to learn how to add a password to a PDF. In order to make your documentation more official, you will have to learn how to insert a signature in a PDF. This (and many other advantages) is a good reason why use PDF.

Good luck with your technical writing!
ClickHelp Team
Author, host and deliver documentation across platforms and devices


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