There’s a lot to love about PDFs — they’re compatible with almost any system, they don’t take up a lot of space, and they can’t be easily edited or changed. This is great when you’re trying to send out a form or rules for a game, but sometimes you really need to make a few changes without going back to the source document.
Thankfully, there are a couple of ways to quickly change your PDF files into easy-to-update Word documents before saving and redistributing them. Here’s how to convert a PDF file into a Word document.
Converting with Adobe Acrobat
Using Acrobat is the best way to make sure your conversion’s formatting is as accurate as possible. However, you’ll need the paid version of Acrobat to use this method. Adobe currently offers a free, seven-day trial of Adobe Acrobat Document Cloud (DC), which you can use for one-time conversions.
If you need to make conversions on a regular basis, however, you’ll want to pay for the full version, which runs $13 a month with an annual commitment, or as part of an Adobe Creative Cloud package.
Step 1 — Open the PDF you’d like to convert in Adobe Acrobat. Depending on your preferences, PDF files may automatically open in Acrobat.
Step 2 — In the right-hand pane, look for Export PDF. Click it.
Step 3 — Click on Microsoft Word, which will present you with format choices: Word 97-2003 (.doc) and Word 2013-2016 (.docx). If you go with a .docx file, you can hit the settings cog and set additional options, such as the ability to retain flowing text or the PDF format. Choose your ideal format and settings, and click the Export button.
Step 4 — Adobe will automatically run text recognition for any scanned text during this step. The text recognition doesn’t always work, but for most legible text, it’s an ideal solution. Keep in mind that you may need to do some quick reformatting in your new Word doc afterward.
Step 5 — Name your new Word file and save it in your desired location.
Converting with Microsoft Word
Microsoft Word is a great, free way to convert PDFs to Word documents — if you have Office already. Of course, the formatting doesn’t always line up and the text may not be exact. If you have Acrobat or don’t mind trying a web-based converter, we suggest trying another option if the formatting is unusable. After all, other solutions may be more accurate.
Step 1 — To begin, launch Word and click File. Then, click Open from the resulting menu as though you were opening another Word file.
Step 2 — Locate the PDF file you want to convert. You can either search for it by name or navigate to the location where it’s stored and browse for it. Once selected, click Open.
Step 3 — That’s it! Word will try to automatically convert the content of your PDF to a new Word file.
Converting with web-based software
There are a number of web-based services that you can use to convert PDF files to Word files. If you don’t have immediate access to Acrobat or Word, then you may want to try one of the freemium programs listed below.
They all follow the same basic process, too, and require you to merely upload your file, pick your preferred conversion method, and start the process. Afterward, you only need to download the file or check your inbox for the newly-converted document. Read on for more information.
This converter will email the Word file to an address of your own choosing, which may be useful when collaborating on projects for business or school.
This option is available as a free trail that will allow you to convert the first two pages of any PDF document. The premium version will run you $9 a month, but provides unlimited conversions. Regardless of which version you go with, it’s a solid service, and converting PDF files couldn’t be easier. Just select the file you want to convert, click convert, and you’re done. The interesting part is that you can also choose to convert PDF files to Excel, Powerpoint, or other programs. There’s no guarantee when it comes to formatting, but in some cases, that may work better for editing purposes.
Smallpdf is fast, simple, and free — all things you want in a handy web app. Smallpdf also lets you upload from and export directly to cloud storage solutions like Dropbox or Google Drive.
PDF Pro doesn’t have much going for it, which is precisely the point. The simple web app works with a range of file formats — including PDF, Word, PNG, Powerpoint, and Excel — allowing you to quickly shuttle between formats or batch process multiple files at once with a few simple clicks. It doesn’t require a subscription or sign-up fee, though, you are limited to three downloads when working with the free iteration of the software. Opting for a monthly subscription ($4) will net you unlimited downloads, but, for most people, the free version will suffice.
Updated on January 4, 2018 by Luke Larsen with Smallpdf and Creative Cloud details.