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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.