Convert PDF to Word

One of the most common non-Excel questions I receive is, “How do I convert a PDF into an editable Word document?”

(In case you read that too quickly; no, I don’t want to eat the Word document.)

The Internet is rife with PDF to Word converters.  These converters vary in price just as much as they do in accuracy.

If you are a Microsoft Word user, it’s likely you are already in possession of a great PDF to Word converter.

Let’s dive right in and see how it’s done.

Beginning with the release of Microsoft Word 2013 (Desktop edition), a PDF to Word converter has been included as a standard feature.

If you provide Word with a PDF document, Word will work its magic and convert the PDF into text that can be edited and saved as either a Word document or back to a PDF.

The Conversion Process

To convert a PDF into a Word document, start Word and perform the Open File process.  Browse to the location of the PDF file and select it as you would any normal Word document.

When Word detects that you have given it a PDF file, you are presented with the following message.

We’re being told that the larger and more complex the PDF, the longer the conversion process will take.  Also, you want to “trust but verify” the output.  Not all PDFs are created equally, thus the interpretation of the data may vary based on the quality of the document.

If you intend to convert many PDF files to Word, consider checking the “Don’t show this message again” message to not be slowed down in your workflow.

Quality Control

As stated, the accuracy and formatting will vary based on several factors.

The output quality is governed by the source material.  PDFs fall into two categories: True PDFs and Scanned PDFs.

True PDFs are files that were created by an authoring application, like Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or Adobe Acrobat.  These files are vector-based and contain encoding information that makes the conversion process more accurate affair.

Scanned PDFs are raster-based files similar to image files, like JPGs, or bitmap files.  It would be as if you took a picture of a document with your phone or scanned a printout with a document scanner.  Scanned PDFs that are converted to Word documents are rarely perfect and will likely require manual intervention to correct imperfections.

Scanned PDFs will have difficulty with non-text objects in a document, like tables and images.  The layout and placement will have a high likelihood of requiring document touch-ups.

Fonts and numbering may be less than stellar, but the bulk text is likely to be spot-on.  In many cases, that’s the most important part and gives you what you need.

Accuracy when converting from a Scanned PDF will depend on the quality of the source printout and the quality of the scan.

Converting Images to PDF

If you are interested in converting a document image to PDF using only your mobile device and a free app, check out this article:

Image to Text

In case you need to import data from PDF to Excel, check out this post:

Image PDF to Excel

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