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How To Convert PDF To Word – A Comprehensive Guide

Converting PDF documents to Word format is an incredibly useful skill that unlocks new possibilities for working with and editing PDF content. In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll explore everything you need to know about converting PDFs to Word in detail.

Whether you need to edit text, update formatting, add comments or revise a document, having it in .DOCX format makes your life easier. We‘ll look at the history of PDFs, benefits of conversion, different techniques to convert using common software and tools, tips for retaining formatting, and even how to go from Word back to PDF again.

By the end of this guide, you‘ll be a PDF to Word conversion expert! So let‘s get started.

A Brief History of PDF Files

To really understand the value of converting PDFs to Word, we first need to understand what PDFs are and why they exist.

PDF stands for Portable Document Format. This proprietary file format was originally created by Adobe Systems in 1993 as a way to share documents between computers, operating systems and applications.

The goal was to have a standardized file format that would retain all of the formatting, fonts, graphics, and layouts from the original application used to create it. This ensured that the document would look 100% identical on any device it was viewed on, regardless of whether the user had the same software used to create that document.

For example, prior to the invention of PDF, if you drafted a document in Microsoft Word and wanted to share it electronically with someone else, they‘d need to have Word installed on their own computer to view and print the file properly.

PDFs solved this problem by essentially embedding everything necessary to accurately display the document (fonts, images, text, color spaces, etc.) into the actual file itself. As long as the recipient had software capable of reading PDF files, they‘d see the document in its original form – matching the creator‘s intended design and formatting perfectly.

Initially, Adobe kept the PDF format proprietary which meant only Adobe Reader could open and view PDFs. But in 2008, Adobe released PDF as an open standard. This allowed other software developers like Microsoft, Google and others to build their own PDF readers and editors.

Today, PDF has become a universal file format supported across all operating systems, devices and web browsers. It provides an ideal way to share finalized documents and ensures they will retain their intended appearance and formatting. This is key for documents like manuals, instruction sheets, official forms, flyers and more.

However, PDF documents are inherently NOT designed for editing. To make changes to a PDF file, you need advanced software capable of editing the components embedded in the PDF format. Otherwise, your only option is to print the PDF on paper and make edits by hand with a pen or highlighter.

This is where converting a PDF file into an editable Microsoft Word (.DOCX) document comes in handy! It unlocks the ability to fully edit the text and modify the formatting easily using the powerful capabilities of the popular Word word processing software.

According to recent statistics, over 1.2 billion people use Microsoft Office worldwide. And Word itself has over 1 billion users. With Word‘s user-friendly interface and features for editing text, inserting comments, changing fonts/formatting, rearranging content and more – it provides immense flexibility.

So if you need to update, customize or repurpose a PDF document, converting it to Word is the way to go. Let‘s look at different techniques next.

4 Ways to Convert PDF to Word

Now that you understand the key benefits of converting non-editable PDF files into fully editable Word documents, let‘s explore some ways to achieve this.

There are a few different methods you can use depending on what software you have available:

1. Convert PDF to Word Using Microsoft Word

Since most people already have Microsoft Word, it makes sense to start there. Recent versions of Word have built-in capabilities to open and convert PDFs into Word documents.

Here are the steps:

  1. Launch Microsoft Word on your computer.
  2. Click "File" in the top left corner and select "Open".
  3. Browse your local files or cloud sources like OneDrive to find the PDF document.
  4. Select the PDF file you want to convert and open it.
  5. A prompt will appear asking if you want to convert the file – click "OK".
  6. Word will begin converting the PDF to a Word document.
  7. When finished, save the converted Word file to lock in your changes.

Microsoft states they use best-in-class conversion technology in Word for PDFs. It does an excellent job retaining the original formatting and layout accurately.

However, more complex elements like multi-column sections, comments, heavily formatted tables, endnotes and others may not convert perfectly. Minor tweaks to the formatting may be required after conversion.

But overall, converting PDF to Word using the built-in converter in Microsoft Word works seamlessly for most standard documents. And it doesn‘t require any extra software purchase if you already own Word.

2. Convert PDF to Word Using Google Docs

If you don‘t have Microsoft Word, another option is using Google Docs. This free web-based word processing software includes integrated PDF conversion tools.

Here‘s how to convert a PDF to Word using Google Docs:

  1. Go to in your browser and login your Google account.
  2. Click the "Open File" folder icon and select "Upload" to add your PDF.
  3. Drag your PDF file into the upload window.
  4. Once uploaded, click the "Open With" dropdown and select "Google Docs" to convert.
  5. With the PDF now opened in Google Docs, click File > Download > Microsoft Word to export the converted DOC.

Google Docs leverages advanced OCR (optical character recognition) and heuristics during conversion. It handles simple PDFs without much formatting very well.

However, Google Docs may struggle to retain complex formatting like multi-column sections, page numbers, headers/footers, tables of contents, endnotes, etc. Some cleanup may be needed after conversion.

The benefit of Google Docs is that it‘s completely free to use and available on any device with a web browser and internet connection. So it provides a handy PDF conversion option when access to paid software is limited.

3. Convert PDF to Word Using Adobe Acrobat

For advanced PDF conversion and maximum formatting accuracy, Adobe Acrobat Pro is the preferred choice. As the inventors of the PDF format, Adobe offers specialized conversion tools for turning PDFs into Word documents smoothly.

Here are the steps to use Adobe Acrobat Pro:

  1. Open the PDF file in Acrobat that you want to convert.
  2. Click the "Tools" tab and select "Export PDF"
  3. Choose Microsoft Word as the export format.
  4. Click "Export" to convert the PDF to a Word .DOCX file.
  5. Save the converted Word document when prompted.

Adobe uses sophisticated algorithms for analyzing PDF components like fonts, graphics, page elements, color spaces, etc. During conversion to Word, it works to match the original design as closely as possible.

Table structures, text formatting, layout, embedded media and other complex elements convert smoothly from PDF to Word using Acrobat Pro.

The only caveat is you must purchase Acrobat Pro for $14.99 per month. However, they do offer a free 7-day trial if you only need to convert the occasional document.

4. Use a Free Online PDF to Word Converter

If spending money on software licenses is not feasible, there are also free online PDF to Word converter tools:

  • PDF2Go – Drag-and-drop PDF conversion. No signup required.
  • PDF Buddy – Allows batch converting multiple PDFs to Word.
  • Zamzar – Supports conversion to/from over 1200 file types.
  • Hipdf – Edit Word documents converted from PDFs online.
  • Smallpdf – Simple PDF conversions with downloads to Dropbox.

Online converters are quick and easy to use. However, take note of potential file size limitations and privacy concerns of uploading to a third-party service. But for occasional lightweight conversions, these free tools get the job done.

5 Expert Tips for Converting PDF to Word Successfully

Follow these pro tips when converting PDFs to Word for best results:

1. Use the Most Advanced PDF Converter Available

The more advanced capabilities a PDF converter has, the better job it will do retaining complex layouts, embedded media and formatting accurately. Tools like Acrobat and Word do the best job, while online converters have more limitations.

2. Review and Retouch the Formatting After Conversion

No PDF to Word converter is 100% perfect. After converting, expect to spend a little time cleaning up formatting issues in Word – adjusting text, spacing, sizing, etc.

3. Watch for Missing or Misaligned Objects

Proofread closely to ensure no images, charts or other objects shift position or get left out during conversion. Delete and re-insert if needed.

4. Check Hyperlinks and Bookmarks

Click all links after conversion to verify they still work correctly. Recreate bookmarks and links as needed.

5. Scan for Other Layout Inconsistencies

Examine the Word document closely to catch other conversion mishaps like missing footers, incorrect captions, formatting errors, etc.

Taking time to review and fix any inconsistencies ensures your converted Word document matches the visual presentation of the original PDF as closely as possible.

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Converting PDF to Word

Before deciding to convert a PDF file to Word, let‘s examine some of the key advantages and potential drawbacks:

Pros of Converting PDF to Word:

  • Edit text freely without restrictions
  • Add, delete or modify words, sentences or paragraphs
  • Insert comments and annotations in the document
  • Revise formatting like fonts, colors and styles
  • Rearrange content like sections, images and tables
  • Reuse excerpts from the document in other works
  • Apply Word‘s extensive editing and reviewing tools

Cons of Converting PDF to Word:

  • Formatting inconsistencies during conversion
  • Loss of original comments, markups and annotations
  • Link bookmarks may break and need recreating
  • Images, charts and objects can shift position
  • Will no longer be a read-only protected format
  • Word document loses dynamic resizing capabilities of PDF

For most editable uses, the pros of gaining full document access in Word outweigh the cons. Just be diligent checking for conversion issues that may need cleaning up.

Distinguishing Searchable PDFs vs. Scanned Image PDFs

An important point when converting PDFs to Word is whether the original PDF file is a scanned image or contains searchable text.

Scanned PDFs are just photographic snapshots of document pages without actual text data. The "text" is only a picture – software cannot access it for editing or conversion.

Searchable PDFs contain digital text data that software can identify and manipulate. The text is coded into the PDF in a machine-readable format.

OCR (optical character recognition) software is required to analyze scanned image PDFs and identify the text characters. This enables conversion to Word.

Searchable PDFs with text data readily convert to Word flawlessly. So check your PDFs before conversion – if it is purely scanned images, OCR may be necessary to unlock the text.

Comparing Top PDF to Word Converter Software

If you need to routinely convert PDF documents to Word, purchasing dedicated PDF software can save tremendous time and effort.

Here is an overview of some top PDF converter tools:

Software Highlights Price
Adobe Acrobat Pro Advanced capabilities from the inventors of PDF, great for complex retention $14.99/month subscription
ABBYY FineReader AI-driven OCR preserves formatting, can convert scanned PDFs $8.99/month subscription
PDFelement Full-featured editing & conversion, OCR text recognition $79 lifetime license
Wondershare PDFelement Intuitive interface, convert in batches, combine files $69 lifetime license
Foxit Phantompdf Affordable alternative to Acrobat, retain bookmarks & links $109 lifetime license
Nuance Power PDF Fully customizable conversion settings, great for maximum control $100 lifetime license
Nitro Pro Quickly batch convert multiple PDFs to Word, integrate with cloud storage $12.50/month subscription
Soda PDF Online web app and desktop app, annotate PDFs before conversion $5.99/month annual subscription

Purchasing robust software designed for complex PDF manipulation and conversion provides efficiency gains when converting numerous documents regularly.

How to Convert PDFs to Word on Mobile Devices

Thanks to mobile apps, converting PDFs to Word can be accomplished on your smartphone or tablet. This enables access from anywhere when travelling or on-the-go without lugging a laptop.

Here are top mobile apps for PDF to Word conversion:


  • Adobe Acrobat Reader
  • WPS Office – PDF to Word Converter
  • PDF Converter by Icecream Apps
  • PDF to Word Converter by SmartLab


  • Adobe Acrobat Reader
  • PDFelement – PDF Reader & Editor
  • PDF to Word Converter by Cometdocs
  • PDF to Word Converter by PDFfiller

Look for apps with advanced OCR capabilities, cloud storage integration and batch converting features for efficiency.

Converting Word Documents Back to PDF

We‘ve focused mainly on converting PDFs into Word, but you can also go the other direction – converting Word docs to PDFs.

Here are some handy ways to convert Word to PDF:

  • Use "Save As" in Microsoft Word and choose PDF
  • Upload the Word doc to Google Drive and use "Download" as PDF
  • In Adobe Acrobat, open the Word file and use Export as PDF
  • Drag-and-drop the Word file to online PDF converters
  • Windows 10 has a built-in Microsoft Print to PDF option
  • Mac OS provides a system-wide "Print" to PDF converter

Going from Word back to a PDF is useful for restoring the portability, security and universal compatibility benefits of PDF after editing the document.

Reformatting PDF Text Instead of Converting

In some cases, you may not need to fully convert a PDF to Word. There are tools that can extract just the raw text from a PDF stripped of all formatting.

  • Adobe Acrobat Text Recognition
  • OCRMagic
  • PDFTables
  • Convertio Online Converter

This removes columns, tables, fonts, sizing, colors, etc. and outputs plain text or HTML/RTF.

The benefit is speed and flexibility. But you lose all document design elements of the original.

Assess whether you need to convert the entire PDF or just extract the core text content.

FAQs About Converting PDF to Word

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

Can I edit a PDF without converting to Word?

Yes, there are PDF editor tools that allow adding text boxes and annotations. But for full content editing, converting to Word is better.

How do I convert a scanned image PDF to Word?

Scanned PDFs require OCR software to identify text. Or you can manually transcribe the contents into a Word document.

What‘s the best way to maintain formatting converting PDF to Word?

Specialized converters like Adobe Acrobat have the best chance of retaining complex formatting accurately. But minor tweaks will still be needed after conversion.

Can I convert Word docs to PDF on my phone or tablet?

Yes, mobile apps like Adobe Acrobat, Word, and PDFelement allow converting Word to PDF on iOS and Android devices.

Does converting Word to PDF reduce image quality?

No, PDF is designed to maintain the quality and integrity of the original Word document without any degradation or loss.

Final Thoughts

The ability to convert PDF documents into fully editable Microsoft Word files unlocks immense possibilities for repurposing and revising content locked down in PDFs.

Whether you use built-in converters in Word or Google Docs, specialized software like Adobe Acrobat, or online web tools – unlocking PDF restrictions provides a key advantage.

Carefully check converted Word docs for formatting issues, links, missing objects and other inconsistencies. Tweaking and tidying up the file ensures it matches the original PDF as closely as possible.

With the right converter tools, you gain all the upsides of open, editable Word documents while still being able to save back to the portable protected PDF format for distribution and archiving if needed.

We covered a deep dive into everything you need to know about successfully converting PDFs to Word. You‘re now equipped with the knowledge to edit and repurpose PDF content with ease!