How to edit PDFs in Microsoft Word

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Rob Schultz/IDG

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Editing in PDFs in Microsoft Word has become a lot easier since Microsoft built in more functionality, starting with Word 2016. Its cousin the Edge browser has impressive PDF capabilities too.

While you can't beat a full-fledged PDF editor for complex work, Word now has the ability to open and edit PDFs (though with some formatting hiccups). Here's how it all works.

Import, export, and edit PDFs in Microsoft Word

1. Open Word 2016. Select File > Open, then Browse to the folder that contains your PDFs. Select a file and click the Open button. Notice the selected file appears in the View window on the right. For this example, select a file with text and graphics.

01b select a pdf file and click open JD Sartain / IDG Worldwide

Select a PDF file and click open

2. Once you click Open, the following dialog box appears:

02b convert to word dialog box JD Sartain / IDG Worldwide

Convert to Word dialog box

NOTE: The message warns that large files take longer to load, and the layout in Word may not look exactly like the original PDF. That’s because margins, columns, tables, page breaks, footnotes, endnotes, frames, track changes, and special format options such as font effects (among other things) may differ between the original software used to create the PDF file (such as InDesign or Microsoft Publisher) and Word.

Microsoft suggests that text documents transfer and reflow better than documents heavily laden with charts and graphics, tags, bookmarks, footnotes, and/or track changes. These additional text blocks often land in the middle of paragraphs or tagged on to the end. Be aware of these limitations so you can plan for the outcome and make adjustments as needed.

Many of the layout attributes, however, are compatible and transfer from the PDF directly into Word with no problems. For example, the following image is a copy of the original PDF we opened in Word.

03b original pdf file in adobe acrobat JD Sartain / IDG Worldwide
Original PDF file in Adobe Acrobat

Modify PDFs in Word

You can easily add new paragraphs and edit and delete data, and the document reformats automatically as you type. You can even remove, replace, or reposition the graphics, and the text-wrap feature re-wraps the paragraphs around the image at its new location. You can also change the page size, the margins, the line spacing, the font and font size plus all the font attributes, and much more.

In the “edited” version of this document, the font and font size in the title, subtitle, first, and last paragraphs were all changed. In addition, the yellow paragraph was added and the image was moved from top right to bottom left, all without any problems.

04b edit and modify the adobe pdf in word JD Sartain / IDG Worldwide
Edit and modify the Adobe PDF in Word

In fact, Word’s PDF compatibility is so good now, you can right-click the image and view an entire list of editable graphic options including cropping, sizing, formatting, positioning, adding captions, and even attaching hyperlinks.

05b graphic options available including wrap text JD Sartain / IDG Worldwide
Graphic options available including wrap text

With all these new features, you can now use Word as a desktop publisher, save the finished product as a compiled/condensed PDF, then ship it directly to the printer for mass production. This is a real plus for small offices and home businesses who can’t afford to purchase another software program for every special function that occurs.

The real benefit for everyone else is the convenience of copying data from one document to another that previously originated within incompatible file formats. PDFs are smaller, easier to email, and much more efficient for printing, because the format is portable. All the necessary elements to produce the finished product are collected into a single file.

The downside of Word’s Reflow feature is that some companies use the PDF format to ensure some measure of copyright protection on the documents they distribute. There is a solution for these groups as well. Password-protect the document in Acrobat for Read Only, so the file cannot be copied or converted.

Save or export a Word document to PDF

1. Once the document is altered to your satisfaction, choose File > Save As, navigate to the appropriate folder, then choose PDF from the Save as Type dropdown list.

06b1 re save the modified pdfdocx fileback to a pdf JD Sartain / IDG Worldwide
Re-save the modified PDF docx file back to a PDF

2. Immediately, the system displays the following PDF file type screen. Choose Optimize for Standard (publishing online and printing) and check the box for Open File After Publishing, then click Save.

06b2 publish pdf as a standard online and or print file JD Sartain / IDG Worldwide
Publish PDF as a standard online and/or print file

3. Another option for saving or re-saving a document as a PDF file is to export it. Choose File > Export, select Create PDF/XPS Document in the left column, then click the button with the same name.

07b additional option to save as a pdf is to export to a pdf JD Sartain / IDG Worldwide
Additional option to save as a PDF is to export to a PDF

4. Again, the system displays the following PDF file type screen. Choose Optimize for Standard (publishing online and printing) and check the box for Open File After Publishing if you want the PDF to open after it’s saved. Then click the Publish button and your new PDF is created.

07b2 publish the exported pdf file JD Sartain / IDG Worldwide
Publish the exported PDF file

Repairing PDF errors in Word

If you find errors in the republished/re-saved PDF documents, you may have to go back and reformat the pages. Text will likely re-flow with no problems, but the graphics using text-wrap may disrupt the text flow. If that happens, break up the paragraphs so that one text box ends before the image, then another, new text box begins again after the image. Once that’s accomplished, hard-code the position of the graphic box.

1. Right click the image, choose Wrap Text > More Layout Options, and the following screen appears:

08b choose an absolute or a relative position JD Sartain / IDG Worldwide
Choose an absolute or a relative-position

If your text is moved and rearranged in your new PDF, you may want to choose a Relative horizontal and vertical position. This allows the image to move with the text. If you want the image to remain absolutely at the bottom-left side of page one, then choose an Absolute horizontal and vertical position. You don’t have to locate or guess the position, just move the image and the new position coordinates appear in the above box. All you have to do is click Absolute or Relative, then click OK.

Once these decisions are settled, repeat the steps above to re-save or re-export the file to a new PDF.

Export PDFs from Acrobat to Word

1. Open the new Adobe Acrobat DC (Document Cloud), and sign in.

2. Open a PDF file. In this case, we opened the file called Tea.pdf

09b open acrobat and a pdf file JD Sartain / IDG Worldwide
Open Acrobat and a PDF file

3. Select File > Export To > Microsoft Word > Word Document (or Word 97-2003 document), if applicable.

4. On the Save As PDF screen, name your file (or use the same name), choose the Word extension (docx for 2007 through the current version documents), and click Save.

10b export pdf for a word document JD Sartain / IDG Worldwide
Export PDF for a Word document

NOTE: The first time, it takes a few seconds to a minute while the Conversion Engine gets started. But, generally, after the first one, they convert fairly fast.

Convert a batch of Word documents to one PDF file

Here's something else you can do with PDFs and Word. If you need to email several dozen Word files to a client or colleague, the fastest, easiest, and most efficient way to accomplish this task is to create a single PDF file that contains all the individual files. Adobe Acrobat can perform this function in a few easy steps and takes only seconds.

1. Open (or login to) your Adobe Acrobat program.

2. From the Home page, choose Create PDF.

3. On the next screen, choose Multiple Files > Combine Files

001 create a pdf batch file JD Sartain / IDG

Create a PDF batch file

4. On the following screen, click the Add Files button.

5. Navigate to the drive and folder where the batch files are located, then highlight all the files you want to include in this single batch file.

002 add word files to the pdf batch JD Sartain / IDG

Add Word files to the PDF batch

6. Acrobat displays the selected files on the next screen. Click the Combine button (top, right).

7. As Acrobat combines the designated files, the icons turn black and display a green check mark to indicate that all the targeted files have been selected.

8. On the next screen (Save As PDF), click the Choose a Different Folder button.

003 combine files and save as pdf JD Sartain / IDG

Combine files and save as PDF

9. Navigate to the drive and folder where you want the PDF batch file saved, enter a new filename over the Acrobat name (Binder1), then click the Save button.

10. The file is saved with a PDF extension in the designated drive and folder and displays on the screen with the new filename. Page down to review the combined files             .

11. Now you can email the combined files as one PDF.

004 custom pdf batch file saved displayed JD Sartain / IDG

Custom PDF batch file saved + displayed

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