PDF files are difficult to handle. Scanned PDFs are even harder to work with because they are essentially images. In general, all the texts and elements inside a scanned PDF file are not editable, unless you turn the file into a Word document.
The question is: any way to convert a scanned PDF to Word quickly?
Thanks to OCR technology, there are actually several ways to do that. In this article, we’re going to show you four different methods to get the job done.
Depending on how complex your scanned PDF files are, the best method that fits you also varies:
- If you only want to handle a few simple and so-not-important documents, method #1 and #2 should be enough.
- If your PDFs contain sensitive data and you deal with scanned PDF files regularly, we recommend method #3 and #4 which are software solutions that can run offline.
What is OCR and Why You Need It?
OCR, short for Optical Character Recognition, is a technology that helps convert a scanned PDF file or image into a searchable document. For example, suppose you have a paper receipt from a grocery store that includes an extensive list of items purchased, and you need to record all the items on your computer. You can first scan the receipt using a scanner and save it as a PDF file or an image.
With OCR technology, you can then convert the scanned file to an editable Word document. After that, you are able to directly copy all the texts and numbers in the digital receipt and paste them anywhere you want. Without OCR, you’ll have to manually type and record the data which tends to be very time-consuming.
Now that you understand what OCR is. Let’s move on to the topic: tools you can use to convert scanned PDFs into Word documents.
Method 1: Google Docs OCR
Google actually integrates OCR technology into its online document products, and it’s free to use. All you need to do is check off an option before you upload your scanned PDF files. Follow the step by step guide below:
First off, you need to have a Google account. If you don’t, register one. Log into your account.
- Open a web browser (Chrome, Safari, etc.) and visit Google Drive.
- On the top right corner, click the gear icon for Settings.
- Check this option “Convert uploaded files to Google Docs editor format“
- Click the blue Done button.
- On the left pane, click the red New button > File Upload, select your scanned PDF file and click Open.
- Once uploaded, select the PDF you just uploaded, right-click and move to “open with”, then select “Google Docs” option.
- Wait for a few seconds, the texts on your scanned PDF will be extracted below the image file. That’s it.
Method 2: Free Online OCR Conversion Tools
In a few Google searches, you’ll find a wide range of such online OCR services available on the Internet. We haven’t tried each of them, as it’s unlikely that we can. But we want to remind you of the security concerns these options may impose, especially those services that do not disclose how they are going to deal with the documents you upload to their servers.
Therefore, use this option at your own discretions. We highly recommend you not to upload any scanned documents that contain private or confidential data. Having said that, here’s a list of free OCR services that you may find helpful:
- OnlineOCR.net — able to extract text from PDFs and images. Output formats include: Word, Excel, Text. Support 46 languages. Max file size: 5MB.
- Free-Online-OCR.com — just select your PDF file, specify “Word Document” output format, and click “Convert”. Soon a downloadable file will be available.
- Convertio.co – Easy tool to convert scanned documents into editable Word, Pdf, Excel and Text output formats. No download required.
Method 3: Convert Scanned PDF to Word on PC with PDFelement
PDFelement is one of the best Windows PDF editors we’ve reviewed. Besides converting PDFs to Word and many other formats, it also allows you to create PDFs, directly edit scanned PDFs, add/fill forms, secure & sign, etc. To convert a scanned PDF file into an editable document, you’ll need to perform OCR first. The quality of output files is much better than other free alternatives. The program is compatible with Windows 10, 8, 7.
Method 4: Convert Scanned PDF to Word on Mac with PDFpenPro
PDFpenPro from Smile Software is one of the best Mac PDF editors we’ve reviewed. The app integrates a handful of small but powerful utilities into one and allows you to quickly modify and organize any PDF files as you want. Converting a scanned PDF file to Word doc is incredibly easy. Just install the program on your Mac. Open the app and upload the scanned PDFs, specify the export format to be Word documents, wait for a few minutes and you’ll see high-quality editable Word docs.
These are the four ways we wanted to share with you. As we said in the beginning, the best solution can vary from case to case. Which method(s) do you find most effective and efficient? Or do you find any other better solutions for converting a scanned PDF to an editable Word doc? Leave a comment below and let us know.
Jessica is the co-founder and content manager. She has been fascinated by the startup culture in Silicon Valley and she loves building things from zero to one. When she is not writing, she loves getting close to nature and shoot photos with her iPhone and Canon EOS 80D.