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How can I convert a PDF to an editable format like MS Word, txt, or rtf?

On a semi regular basis friends and colleagues have asked me this question. Hence, it seemed like a good idea to write up a short post about methods for converting PDF documents to an editable format.

Of course, the best way to edit a PDF is to work with the original document that was used to create the PDF document (e.g. a MS Word formatted newsletter, a PageMaker layout for a publication, Publisher documents etc), and in turn create a new PDF document.

But what do you do if you can’t find the original any more?

Commercial solution

It appears that the preferred solution for converting directly to a Word Document is Abbyy FineReader PDF (PC only) which retails for about $100. It looks like they have a free trial which might be utilized to use to convert a PDF document for which the source is no longer available.

For you OSX users out there, try Recosoft’s PDF2Office Professional v4.0 ($129), which can convert a PDF to a Word, PowerPoint, AppleWorks, RTF, and HTML. PDF2Office also includes a handy batch conversion tool.

Open source solution

Free PDF to Word Doc Converter (PC only) by Inc. is a free conversion tool that enables you to convert most PDF documents to an editable format. The Web site for the product indicates that the utility can:

  • Convert PDF to Word and preserve the original layout of your PDF in an editable Word Document.
  • Extract text labels, graphics, shapes from PDF file into Word Doc file.
  • Convert all the pages, or partial pages of PDF file to Word file.
  • Support Adobe PDF 1.0 – 1.6 formats.
  • Can automatically open the output Doc file when the conversion is done.
  • Several PDF to Word conversion options are available for a better result.
  • Convert in a high speed.
  • Easy to use software.

1 thought on “How can I convert a PDF to an editable format like MS Word, txt, or rtf?”

  1. Converting from PDF to Word is the epitome of out of the frying pan and into the fire.

    Anyway, another option would be the excellent FoxIt PDF reader. The reader is free, and an upgrade to allow annotation/save-as-text and other features is $39.

    Weird that none of the best tools to work with PDF actually come from Adobe.

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