How to edit PDF files in Word (2016 onwards)

Did you know: You can edit PDF documents in Word 2013?

Edit PDF documents in Word



File – Open – Choose PDF


Right Click on PDF – Open With

Estimated reading time 3 min

The Need

I don’t have to explain the need. All of us want to edit PDF documents. But all of us do not have Adobe Acrobat. So we are stuck with what the PDF shows.

We try to copy paste into Word but that never works as expected. Tables are never pasted, formatting goes haywire, alignment and columns are disturbed… you know the story.

If you do have Adobe Acrobat you don’t need this feature.

The solution

Use Word 2013. It tries to understand what the PDF document is and converts it into an editable copy. Now all features of Word can be used to do editing, formatting etc.

The original PDF file is not altered in any way.

How to edit?

Two ways. In Word – File – Open and choose the PDF file. OR

In File Explorer, right click on the PDF file – Open With – Word.

Edit PDF documents in Word


Before the file is opened, Word shows this dialog. As usual we don’t read it!


It is basically saying that Word is going to intelligently guess the contents, layout and formatting in the PDF file and it is going to convert it into equivalent Word document. Due to this, the look and feel may not match exactly.

Click Don’t show this message again and Click Ok.

It takes time. Why?

PDF files store information in a different way. Word has to guess the content and formatting. It does this very intelligently. But at the end of it, it is recreating the PDF document using features of Word. So if there are titles in the PDF document, Word recognizes that these are titles and then automatically applies Word heading styles to them.

This thinking takes time. Be patient – especially for large documents. In most cases it works fine.

Edit as usual and save as Word or PDF

Once opened in Word, you edit and format things as you usually do. When you finish and choose SAVE the file is NOT saved as PDF. Save As dialog appears and the default format is DOCX – which is Word document.

If you want you can always change the file type and save it as a PDF. But I recommend that you do not overwrite the original PDF.

Copy pasting tabular data

Direct Copy Paste from a PDF table into Word, Excel or any other application does not work. This is because PDF stores the text and the layout separately.

Here is a table I am trying to copy from a PDF file.


After pasting it in Word, it looks like this. Why? Because PDF does not store it internally as a table.


Now if I open the same document with Word, here is what I get.
A fully editable table.

Editable PDF table in Word

Protected PDFs cannot be edited

This is not a workaround to edit protected PDFs. If the original PDF is copy and edit protected, Word will NOT be able to make it editable. If you have purchased some material which is someone else’s Intellectual Property, we must respect it.

All documents DO NOT convert well

If it is a scanned document, there is no point in converting. Because even after conversion each page is going to contain ONE image.

Works best for documents containing lots of text like legal documents, proposals, whitepapers, research articles and so on.

Does not work well with things which contain too many graphics, page colors and borders, Audio / Video, long footnotes or endnotes, comments, tracked changes.


Technically this feature is called “REFLOW”. For more details read these articles.

Unlock PDFs with Word 2013
Why does my PDF look different in Word?

The team who created this feature

As a user we just choose Open with Word – But this team has spent two years of their lives making this happen. Hats off to them!



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