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Have you ever received a PDF file that you want to convert to Word DOC or DOCX format? This is usually necessary if you have a PDF where you want to edit the content of a piece, perhaps a resume or a thesis, but the PDF can of course be more complex. If you want to convert a PDF to DOC, DOCX, RTF or TXT format, we will discuss some options to do the extraction job in Mac OS X. This is actually the opposite scenario of converting a Word document to PDF via Microsoft Office Word app, but it is just as often needed.
First, we’ll take a look at how to use Google Docs to convert a file to Word format, and then we’ll show you how to potentially extract the text from a PDF document, which you can then create yourself in DOC or DOCX change. Next, we’ll show you a paid solution from Adobe, a thorough and complex PDF to DOC converter tool best used for professional applications, and an alternative native Mac app that offers similar functionality. Finally, we’ll cover a more automated method that is an extension of the first text extraction approach, which can convert PDF into text files that you can edit, perhaps best suited for casual use and with simple PDF files.
Please note that if the file in question has password protection, you must first remove the password from the PDF file and then start the conversion process.
Option 1: Convert PDF files to DOCX with Google Docs
The web-based Google Docs has some pretty impressive PDF conversion tools built in, as we’ve discussed before, and it works quite well.
- Go to the Google Docs website and sign in with a Google account
- Click on Upload button and choose the appropriate PDF file on Mac
- Open the File menu in Google Docs and choose “Download As” and select “Microsoft Word (DOCX)” and save the Word DOCX file to the Mac
Google Docs is rightly good at converting PDF files into a usable DOCX format, and it often retains formatting very well. You can then open the DOCX file in Microsoft Office or with the Apple Pages app to make sure the conversion went smoothly.
The main downside to Google Docs is that it requires web access and internet access to use, otherwise it’s free and easy to try out and might just work for you.
Option 2: Copy text from PDF and paste it into a DOC in Mac OS X
Had you guessed that copy and paste is quite effective at extracting the text from a PDF file and turning it into a DOC or DOCX file? It doesn’t quite convert the PDF to DOC in an automated way, and it’s pretty low-tech, but if the PDF in question is mainly (or entirely) text-based, it works surprisingly well. Moreover, you can convert the file to whatever you want, be it doc, docx, rtf or even a pdf.
- Open the PDF file in the Preview app on a Mac
- With the mouse cursor, select the text you want to copy and press Command + C
- Navigate to Microsoft Office, Word, Pages or your word processor of choice and paste with Command + V into the document and save as usual
You can also use Command + A for Select All if you want to try to copy the entire contents of the document.
Very low tech, right? But guess what, it can work! Sometimes this works great, sometimes it doesn’t work great, it largely depends on the PDF file you are trying to copy and extract text from. You can then save the file as a DOC or DOCX file when you’re done in Pages, Microsoft Office, or your app of choice.
This is clearly the least technical approach, and with such minimal effort, it’s at least worth a try before trying the other more complicated methods, or before raking in money for an Adobe product.
Option 3: Use the PDF export to Doc / DOCX / Web App from Adobe
By far the highest quality is a paid option from Adobe, which created the PDF format to begin with, so it might come as no surprise that they have a product that lets you convert their file format to something else. The Adobe offering is a web app and therefore works in Mac OS X, iOS, Windows or Linux, and can convert the PDF file into a DOC, DOCX, RTF or even Excel XLSX file.
- Visit Adobe Acrobat Exporter Online for $ 25 per year
The Adobe converter tool is probably the best solution if you want to convert tons of PDF files and get things done with the highest possible quality, but the price seems a bit high to convert a few files from PDF to Word, so you’ll have to determine whether it’s worth it or not.
Unfortunately, the biggest drawback of this Adobe solution is that there is no trial run or test option, you have to pay before you can find out if it works or not. That doesn’t sound great to many users, which is why the next option may appear more for many Mac users who want to perform PDF file conversions.
Option 3B: Try PDF Converter to DOCX / DOC, etc.
There are plenty of other paid options available, but if you’re looking for PDF converters that aren’t the Adobe solution, you should aim for one with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) capabilities as this can help identify and extract the contents of a pdf file more precisely. These are never particularly cheap solutions, but luckily many of them include free trials so you can do a test run to determine if they suit your needs. We will discuss one of these options called CISDEM PDF Converter OCR, but there are many more.
- CISDEM PDF Converter OCR costs $ 60, with a free trial version available that allows you to test PDF extraction, download the app and load the disc image
- Drag and drop the PDF file you want to convert into the open app
- Adjust the identified PDF as needed and choose the output format
- Click “Preview” or “Convert”, when done, give the exported DOC / DOCX file look fine
In a few tests with different PDF files, this solution works very well to extract all data from a PDF and convert it into rich DOCX file formats, but, as is very common with this type of file conversion, the precise formatting of a document is often lost for complex layouts. This is much better than many of the other PDF conversion tools out there, and with fairly basic PDF documents, the output is near perfect. It also has the advantage of not requiring internet access or a web browser as the app is native on the Mac. Compared to the copy and paste methods, or the Automator methods, it’s better, but you’ll really want to test it with a trial document or two before committing yourself to the app.
Option 4: Extract text from PDF files with Automator for Mac OS X
This is basically an automated approach to the copy and paste method we first described trick, it doesn’t do a real PDF to Word DOC conversion, but it tries to extract the text and output it as an RTF or TXT file, which you can then manually save yourself as a Word DOC or DOCX if desired. Automator is considered a little more advanced, as it basically creates an automated macro for the task you are setting up up, but it is not particularly complicated if you follow the installation instructions:
- Open Automator on the Mac (in / Applications / folder) and create a new workflow, application or service
- Search for and choose “Get Selected Finder Items” if you want to use this as a service from the right-click context menu (or use “Ask for Finder Items” if you want to trigger an open dialog when starting the app or service) and then drag that to the right side of the action screen
- Then search for “Extract PDF Text” and drag that below your previous selection, then choose whether you want the output of PDF text to be “Plain Text” (TXT) or “Rich Text” (RTF)
- Click on “Run” button To give the Automator action a test run, select your PDF file and have it converted to a text document
- Open the exported PDF file and view the contents to determine whether this is a satisfactory method or not
You really need to take a good look at the PDF export document to determine if the resulting content is satisfactory, for a stylized PDF file you might see letters and characters missing, but the gist of the text is there, as in this example below:
Again, this isn’t much different from Option 1, which is to copy and paste PDF data into a DOC or text file yourself, but it’s useful if you’re working with a lot of documents as it automates that process. Keep in mind that the simpler the PDF, the better this method will work. Complex PDF files or PDF files with images will not work because the text is not recognized (as there is no OCR here, it is just text extraction).
Why not open the PDF in Pages, Office, TextEdit, or XYZ app?
You may have noticed by now that you can’t just try opening a PDF file with a generic text editor in Mac OS X or another operating system because it just opens gibberish. Therefore, you need to manually extract the contents of the PDF and then import it into the file format of your choice, or use the available conversion tools. For example, this is what happens if you try to load a PDF file in a Mac OS X text editor, none of the PDF text is visible without conversion or copy / paste or extract, it’s all nonsense:
Have any of the above methods worked for your conversion needs? Did the simple text extraction method work to grab the PDF data and turn it into a DOC? Did you go for the Adobe product offering? Do you know of any other solution to convert PDF files to DOC and DOCX format in Mac OS X (or over the Internet)? Let us know your experiences in the comments!
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