The Ultimate Guide to Converting PDF to Word on Mac (5 Methods)

Last updated: Apr. 25, 2017

PDF Word document Mac

Agree or disagree, working with a PDF document on a Mac isn't that easy compared to handling other types of files such as Word or Pages. That's why we often want to convert PDFs into Word docs and make them editable.

So, what is the best way to convert PDF to Word on macOS? Well, it depends. Factors like whether it's a scanned PDF, whether it contains sensitive data, whether you want to do this in batch, etc. all matter.

In this article, we are listing all of the methods and guides. Each method has its own pros and cons, it's up to you to choose which way to go based on your preference.

Note: all the methods below should work whatever OS X version your Mac is running (latest macOS Sierra included).

1. Mac Automator App

Automator, one of Mac's pre-installed apps, is originally developed to build custom workflows to perform various tasks. Many of you may don't know that the app can actually convert a PDF file into an editable document. More specifically, to convert your PDF file into a Plain Text or Rich Text format which can be opened in Office Word or Pages app.

All you need to do is open Automator (find it in Applications or Launchpad), select Workflow and load the PDF file you want to convert, specify desired output format and the app will turn your PDF text into plain or rich text format.

This video shows how:

Pros:

  • Free to use.
  • Quick and simple, no need to download any third-party apps. 

Cons:

  • Limited output options (text format only).
  • Don't support batch conversion.
  • Can't handle scanned PDF files.

2. Google Docs (OCR Supported)

This is one of our favorite methods. Google Drive is very powerful and convenient to deal with documents as well as for work collaboration purposes. One of its features is to convert PDF file to Word document (.doc, .docx). Also, it supports Optical Character Recognition, a technology that enables you to extract texts from a scanned PDF or image.

To convert a normal PDF to Word, watch this YouTube tutorial: 

If you your document is a scanned PDF or image, be sure to check off an option in Settings before you upload your file for conversion. To do so, go to Google Drive homepage > click the gear icon on top right > check "Convert uploads" option. That's it.

Pros:

Cons:

  • Don't support batch conversion. Time-consuming to convert many files at once.
  • Formatting of output files is sometimes messy.
  • You'll have to register a Google account (for those of you who don't have one).

3. Online PDF to Word Conversion Services

You should have tried or heard about online PDF to Word converters, we have to warn you though, some are pretty bad especially those services that don't have any privacy policies or disclaimers. Watch out for these websites that you can't find any information regarding how they are going to deal with users' documents uploaded to their remote servers.

We'd suggest you NOT use this option if your PDF files contain business confidentials such as contracts you signed with partners or purchase receipts customers paid to your organization, etc.

That said, online conversion services are convenient to convert a few handy PDFs into Word docs so you can edit them right away. The process generally involves three steps: upload, select, convert. Here are a few popular options:

Pros:

  • Quick, simple and time-saving.
  • Flexible output options.
  • Some services support OCR conversion.

Cons:

  • Security concerns, because you'll have to upload your files to their servers.
  • Conversion quality of some services is not good.
  • Limitations such as file size, sign-up needed, etc.

4. PDF to Word Converter Software for Mac

For individuals and small business owners who need to handle documents on a regular basis, this is the option we recommend. Sure, desktop software is usually not free (though some may provide demos), and you need to spend time downloading, installing and learning how to use it. The benefits are enormous and obvious, primarily, it's safer. If your documents are complex (with lots of elements), the conversion quality from desktop software is much better than that from other alternatives.

What's the best PDF to Word converter program for macOS? It's hard to say, but we find PDFelement for Mac powerful and incredibly easy to use. It's more than a converter, you can also use it to directly edit any PDF files even if they are scanned ones.

Get PDFelement for Mac

Here's a quick step by step guide on how to convert PDF to Word using PDFelement:

  1. Get PDFelement and install the app on your Mac.
  2. Launch the app, click "Add Files" to upload your PDF files. Note: you can add multiple ones.
  3. Enable OCR on top right corner if your PDFs are scanned.
  4. Next, specify output formats and options.
  5. Click "Convert" to continue. Wait a few seconds or minutes until the process is complete. 

Pros:

  • Secure, stand-alone. You can use it offline without Internet connection.
  • Conversion quality tends to be higher than other options.
  • Flexible, support batch and partial PDF conversion.
  • OCR, customer help/support, etc. are available.

Cons:

  • The app isn't free, you have to pay.

5. Adobe Acrobat

The reason why we list Acrobat as a separate option is that we feel Acrobat is not for most business professionals as it's over-priced ($300 to buy, or $15 monthly subscription), and many of its advanced functionalities won't be used at all for most of us, and if you do need them, there are cheaper alternatives. However, if you are not price-sensitive, Adobe Acrobat is a good tool for PDF conversion, editing and creation. To convert PDF to Word on Mac with Acrobat, follow the guide from Adobe official website.

Pros:

  • Powerful and easy to use.
  • It includes a wide range of advanced features.

Cons:

  • Very expensive. $300 USD to buy or $15 for monthly subscription.

Conclusion

Converting PDFs to Words doesn't have to be that hard, especially with Apple Mac's built-in Automator app. Google Docs and online PDF to Word conversion services are also handy. If you deal with business documents regularly on you Mac, and you're paranoid about the security of other options, using a Mac PDF converter software is a great option. In addition, if you're super savvy and have lots of advanced PDF editing/converting needs, Adobe Acrobat can be your best choice.

Anyway, that's all we wanted to share. If you have any feedback or suggestion, e.g. you found another new awesome technique, let us know and we'd be happy to add it and update the post.

Influenced by the startup culture in the Silicon Valley, Jessica loves building things from zero to one and is keen on following news related to the Big Five tech giants and many SaaS startups.

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