Editable PDF Support in LibreOffice Writer

We recently attended a small business community meeting on the topic of affordable software solutions for business owners. The issue of PDF support was raised by a participant—specifically, whether an affordable tool existed for editing PDFs. While there is certainly software available that allows you to easily create PDFs from existing documents, the perception held by meeting participants was that reliable PDF editing was the domain of software beyond the budget of most small business owners.

We're setting the record straight in this blog post. LibreOffice Writer can create PDFs which are 100 percent editable—and all for zero cost.

With editable PDF support, customers have the best of both worlds. Using PDF format ensures that documents appear exactly as authored when opened by a receiving party—with the option to edit the PDF using a comprehensive and free office software suite.

We've created a short video screencast explaining step-by-step (with audio narration) how to create editable PDFs with LibreOffice Writer:


Let's briefly cover some points on using PDFs in a business environment. Generally, the file format you use for internal business document workflow should be just that: internal. When sharing documents with customers or users in external organisations—unless there is a clear requirement for those documents to be editable—PDF format should be used. It's unfortunately not uncommon to find downloadable documents hosted on a company website that are clearly not intended to be edited—but are provided all the same in editable Microsoft Office format. In this scenario, the business has assumed that the customer has ready access to the exact same version of Microsoft Office used to author the documents. This assumption is almost always wrong—and many other examples of inappropriate use of editable file formats abound.

Similarly, a user in one business will often share Microsoft Word email attachments with a customer or a user in another business. Not only is it incorrect to assume that the recipient has ready access to Microsoft Word, but unless there is a clear intention for document editing, it is best to use a non­-editable format.

Simply put, we recommend that sharing documents to external users in PDF format should be a default business process. Then, the only prerequisite for external users to view documents is to have access to one of the many freely-available PDF reader apps. You will have the additional benefit of not having to deal with complaints arising from Microsoft Office version errors, missing fonts or features, and broken document formatting.

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