Q

Converting a Word document to PDF is easier than the other way around

Our expert explains why it's easier to save a Microsoft Word document to PDF than convert it back, as well as options for trying.

I have a file that was originally a Word document, but it has been transformed into a PDF. Unfortunately, I have lost the original and want to convert the PDF back into a Word document. Is this possible?

Yes and no. While it's possible to covert a PDF to a Word document, it's a much dicier proposition that it might first seem.

Part of the problem is the nature of the files. Word documents are designed to be edited, while PDFs are intended to represent, as accurately as possible, the layout of elements on a page. These two goals aren't wholly incompatible, but Word and Adobe Acrobat (or other document and PDF editors) accomplish them in substantially different ways.

Take headers, for instance. In Word, the text in a page header and footer is stored apart from the text itself, so that the body of the document and the headers can be edited without interfering with each other. In a PDF, the header of a page is just another part of the page, and it rarely has any markup that would allow a conversion program to handle the header properly.

So while there are applications that can convert a PDF into a Word document, they can only go so far. The conversion program typically doesn't know how to reconstruct the contents of the document in a way that would seem like it was originally authored in Word. Some programs do a better job of this than others, but I've never seen one that reconstructs the original exactly as it was.

If you don't have any other choice but to reconstruct your Word document from a PDF, you can use such a conversion program to recover the original text. Restoring the exact formatting, however, will take a good deal more manual work -- you'll have to recreate it all by hand in Word, using the text recovered from the PDF as a base.

Do you have questions for our experts? Email editor@searchenterprisedesktop.com.

This was last published in May 2013

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If you have Acrobat Pro, save it as a Word doc then fix the formatting--you have a hard copy (the PDF), so you know what it looks like. You created it originally, so this isn't your first rodeo. Guys, this isn't that tough to do, nor does it take that long. If you want the easiest way, copy the entire converted doc then paste it unformatted into a new Word doc and just fix the formatting--no "garbage" comes along with the unformatted paste, you get to select the fonts, etc., that you need. I've done 200-page contracts this way. It isn't as bad as retyping the doc from scratch and you do it in-house (no waiting on an outside service).
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