Converting a PDF to Word


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How to convert a PDF to a Word document and why it’s so hard.

One of the things that drives me crazy is that it’s easy to convert documents from Microsoft Word 2007 to PDF (for commercial printing) but very hard to convert PDF back to Word without screwing up all the formatting. Do you guys know how to do this? ”   – Bernard K.

The easiest way to copy from a PDF is to select the text in the PDF and paste it into Word. But this won’t copy all the formatting nor the layout in the PDF.

There are various third-party tools that you can try. But it’s a tough ask for any software.

PDF files are quite different from Word documents. PDF’s are intended to be viewed and annotated but not edited like Word documents. Much depends on how the PDF was made in the first place. The way a PDF is made affects what you can extract from it later. If the PDF has security limitations placed by the creator you may not be able to select elements to copy. If the PDF was made from scanning a document then it would be very difficult to convert with all the formatting in place because you’re looking at the scanned image with, perhaps, an OCR version of the text in a sub-layer.

If the PDF was created in Word or another word-processor you might have a better chance of converting back into an editable document.

As they say in the car ads – ‘Your mileage may vary’. In this case you need not only the right tools but a PDF file with enough information within it to allow conversion.

If you need to convert a PDF to a Word document there are various third-party tools available for you to try including:


among many.  However be wary of the sometimes extreme promises of these products – it’s not always possible to convert all that you want from a PDF.

Converting a PDF to Excel is even more complicated. You may be able to convert a table in a PDF into an Excel worksheet but you won’t get the underlying formulas.

Often the easiest solution has nothing to do with software. Just ask the person who supplied the PDF for a Word version of the same document.

But that’s not always possible.  In later emails Bernard explained that the PDF he wants to convert is his own. The original document was made in Word 2007 and converted to PDF but the original .doc/docx file is now missing.

If the PDF was made from a word-processor like Word 2007 or OpenOffice then there’s a better chance you’ll be able to convert back again using one of the above products or some other option.  However the conversion will, most likely, not be 100% and you’ll have to do some editing to put the original back together again.

Have you any recommendations for PDF to Word or Excel utilities? If so we’d love to hear from you – which software and why?

 

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