Converting a PDF File to a Word Document

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 14, 2018)


Denny has a PDF document that he needs to convert to Word so that he can work with it. He knows that if he had Adobe Acrobat he could save the PDF into Word format. However, he doesn't have Acrobat and cannot justify getting it for this one task. Denny wonders if there is a way to do the conversion to Word without the need to use Acrobat.

Actually, there are plenty of ways you could accomplish this task. If you are using Word 2013 or Word 2016, you can open a PDF file directly in Word. You can also right-click the PDF file on your desktop, choose Open With, and then choose Word as the program you want to open it with. Once in Word, you can then use Save As (F12) to save the file out in Word format.

If you are using an older version of Word, you might try opening the PDF file in whatever reader software you have available, selecting the text in the reader, copying it to the Clipboard, and then pasting it in a new Word document.

You could also install any number of utilities that will do the conversion for you. Here are just a few that were recommended by WordTips readers, in no particular order:

If you don't want to install a utility on your system, you could also take advantage of free online converters. Here, again, are some that were suggested by WordTips readers:

Some of these are a bit slow and may seem clunky, so you'll want to try various ones out to see if they meet your needs. If you want something faster, you may need to actually cough up a few bucks to get what you need. For instance, Adobe Reader is free, and they offer an add-on for $25 per year that can convert PDF to Word or Excel.

When you convert from PDF to Word there is a cardinal rule to keep in mind: Don't expect perfection. The end result will depend, in large part, on two things—how the PDF file was initially created and how good the conversion program is.

When PDF files are first created, they can be generated from text (such as a Word document) or, more often, from using a scanner. If the PDF is from a Word document, chances are good that the conversion will go quite well. If the PDF was scanned, then the conversion will be "less good" because many scanners actually take a picture of the text and store the picture in the PDF. It looks good, but since it is a picture, conversion to text will depend on the quality of any OCR software built into either the scanner itself or into the conversion software.

The other quality issue is the conversion program itself. I've used many conversion programs that end up substituting fonts or perform "tricks" with the document, such as store text in any number of text boxes in the document. This can be maddening, but sometimes I can get around it by using a different conversion program—they all go about their work differently.

The bottom line is that PDF to Word conversion may eliminate a lot of retyping of text, but the results will not re-create the original. Count on doing a lot of reformatting after the conversion. Also, before taking time to do the conversion, you may want to check to see if you can skip it entirely by getting a copy of the original Word document, if it is available.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13514) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Office 365.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is three more than 1?

2018-04-18 05:09:10


Converting a PDF File to a Word Document is simple with this tool
ask me if you need it

2018-04-17 15:27:54


Regarding Fred Lantings question, try this Google Seaarch:

2018-04-16 05:39:06

Nick from London

If you cannot select the text on the pdf it may have been converted to a graphic rather than text. Then you may need a OCR (optical character recognition) program. I use FreeOCR but there are others. As Allan Wyatt says don't expect perfection.

2018-04-14 11:53:21

Henry Noble

For Fred Lanting.
Almost all desktop programs follow the convention of placing version information in the Help > About screen.
How you get to About depends on the version of Word you are using because Microsoft has moved the Help screen around. After you locate the Help screen, examine it for the "About Microsoft Word" information.
The various Office packages include different components of the Office suite of products. Microsoft Office Enterprise 2007, which was only available via volume licensing, includes Word 2007.

2018-04-14 09:51:44


Hi Allen,

Thank you very much for your effort to improve the readability of your Tips!
Your article emailed this morning on "Converting a PDF File to a Word Document" was easy and quick to read. I think it is perfect now (in my opinion). I appreciate your thoughtful effort.

2018-04-14 06:40:17

Fred Lanting

I read Tip 13514 which you said “applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016”
“Converting a PDF File to a Word Document” and more questions arose. I have WORD 2007 (or do I? How can I tell?) I asked and it says I have OFFICE Enterprise 2007. Is “Enterprise 2007” the same as “Word 2007”? One “computer whiz” told me that Office Enterprise 2007 is the package that encompasses Word and more, but which Word? 2007? Belarc also says I have Windows 7 Enterprise (x64) Service Pack-1 .

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