Adobe has created a web-based tool for converting PDFs to Word documents. It’s so inexpensive that you might find a reason to sign up.
Adobe ExportPDF has a single function: visit https://www.acrobat.com/exportpdf and upload a PDF; the web service will convert it into a Word .DOCX file that you can download to your computer, with anywhere from good to very good OCR results. In the best case, you’ll have almost complete fidelity for formatting and page layout. In the worst case – bad scans or pages with handwriting or smudges or any of the usual things that cause OCR errors – you’ll get back a mess, just as if you had done the OCR yourself.
The service costs $19.99/year for unlimited conversions. It is very fast and the interface is very simple. There is a demonstration video here.
As always, there are a few things to know about it.
This is part of Adobe’s Acrobat.com services, controlled by an Adobe ID – yet another login name and password.
Exporting a PDF file to Word is not a new trick. You can do this with Acrobat. The web service uses exactly the same OCR engine that is built into Adobe Acrobat X. Theoretically the results ought to be identical if you use Acrobat X or if you use the online conversion tool. It will be of more interest to offices that have not purchased a copy of Acrobat recently.
Even offices with Acrobat X might find it useful, though: since Adobe ExportPDF is web-based, it is available from any computer, not just the one where Acrobat X is installed. It is licensed to a particular person with a particular Adobe ID, although I can imagine that very small businesses and law firms might accidentally let more than one employee know the Adobe ID credentials. (There is likely to be a corporate plan soon for group licenses.)
There is not yet any way to batch process large numbers of documents, although Adobe says it might introduce that feature in the future. At the moment you upload and download one document at a time.
Like the desktop program, Adobe ExportPDF won’t convert PDF Portfolios, password-protected PDFs, or PDFs with permissions applied to prevent printing, copying or altering content. Maximum file size is 100Mb.
The appeal of PDFs has always been the impression that they cannot be edited easily by recipients. That feeling of security is starting to slip away. The ExportPDF service makes it easy to create an editable file from a PDF, make changes in Word, and turn the document back into a PDF. That’s been possible with the Acrobat desktop program for quite a while but the online service makes it alarmingly simple.
If you’re determined not to buy Acrobat X, Adobe also offers Adobe CreatePDF, a $9.99/month service to upload files in a variety of formats and convert them to PDFs through a web interface. Interestingly, the subscription to Adobe CreatePDF includes the ability to export PDFs to Word documents (and Excel spreadsheets, a format that is not included in the cheaper ExportPDF service.) If you subscribe to CreatePDF, you do not also need to subscribe to ExportPDF.
If Adobe ExportPDF helps you avoid retyping even one long PDF document, it’s worth $19.99. Keep it in mind!