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Best PDF to Word Converters Reviewed

If you work with PDF documents then this in-depth article reviewing PDF to Word Converters is a must read. With the right PDF to Word converter, one need not suffer the slap in the face from badly formatted MS Word documents which require loads of editing to get them back into a legible form. Save yourself that indignity and read on to discover the best PDF to Word converter in this review.

 

PDF to Word Introduction

Before I get stuck into this article I first need to get some rice wine as I have no beer left. Not ideal I know, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Ok, with rice wine by my side I am now ready to commence the search for the best PDF to Word converter.

However, as we will see the world of PDF to Word converters is a minefield with results ranging from pristine MS Word formatting to a horribly mutated version of the source PDF file

Extracting information from pdf documents includes copying and pasting text, snapshot or even conversion of the whole document to an editable MS Word document. This PDF to Word converter review will deal with the latter case where the different tools used for PDF conversion will be reviewed.

Such tools are available as Windows software, mobile apps or even web based and in the interests of leaving no stone unturned, all will be covered to ultimately discover the best PDF to Word converter and also the best free PDF to Word converter for the price conscious.

In this PDF to Word Converter review, we will separate the wheat from the chaff with a series of challenging PDF documents.

Testing approach for converting PDF to MS Word

To determine the best PDF to Word converter, this article will test the PDF converters to their limits with a series of challenges, each more fiendish than the last covering the full spectrum of PDF formatting possibilities. Three sample documents will be used,

Each of these PDF documents will be converted into a MS word document and the following results will be shown,

  • Conversion times. How long does it take to convert each document.
  • Formatting features. Have they been converted correctly?
  • Sample screenshots of the resultant MS Word Documents

Let’s begin this PDF to Word converter review with Windows PDF to Word Converter Software.

PDF to Word, Windows software

In this section lets go through the various options for Microsoft Windows software that offer PDF to Word conversion functionality. Let’s begin with MS Words’s own internal PDF to Word converter.

Microsoft Word PDF to Word Review

MS Word PDF to Word Conversion

The familiar MS Word User Interface

One need not look too far to find PDF to Word conversion software for it may already be on the computer in front of you. MS Word has an inbuilt converter that can open PDF documents and convert them to editable Word documents. To access this function, simply follow the step by step procedure below.

How to convert PDF to Word format with MS Word?

To convert a PDF file to Word format using MS Word, follow these steps:

  • Go to File>Open and select the PDF Document you wish to convert.
  • A message will appear, shown below, that Word will convert the PDF. Click “OK”.
  • The conversion will now start and after some seconds, you will have the converted document displayed before you.

Now let’s get to the PDF to Word conversion performance beginning with the Thesis. The diagrams and text paragraphs were rendered correctly for the defined pages. However I did note some problems with page 12 where the Figure description was out of place. MS Word also has a tendency to not respect the positioning of the text when compared to the source PDF file.

  • MS Word PDF to Word Conversion Diagrams
    Diagrams and labels were correctly converted.

For the mobile phone manual, the conversion was excellent and on par with Adobe Acrobat. Finally, the Research Paper. Here, MS Word struggled a lot with the graphs which is a shame as many other aspects were rendered correctly including the two paragraph text, diagrams, symbols and most text formatting. It even made a reasonable go at the equation although did not quite nail it. If you already have MS Office installed on your machine, then it is a good “free”, option for PDF to Word Conversion, although not quite up to the conversion quality of the next Software, Adobe Acrobat.

Adobe Acrobat Pro PDF Converter Review

Adobe Acrobat Pro
8 Reviewer
Pros
• Best Conversion Accuracy
• Comprehensive PDF Solution
Cons
• Highest Price

Given the original specification of PDF files came from Adobe, it would be a logical assumption that Adobe would be adept in converting these documents. Indeed, Adobe offers a comprehensive program tailor made for PDFs, Acrobat Pro. Its features include,

    • Creation of PDFs from MS Office, image files or even html
    • Annotation of PDF documents
    • Sending and tracking of documents online
    • Merging and comparison of PDF documents

Let’s see if Adobe’s long standing expertise with this file format pays dividends in terms of accurate and quick file translation in this PDF to Word converter review.

Adobe Acrobat PDF to Word Converter

Adobe Acrobat PDF to Word User Interface

 

Let’s start with the basic PDF to Word formatting from the Ph.D. Thesis. From the screenshots below it is clear that Adobe Acrobat Pro can easily manage the text paragraph and images from Pages 15 and 16.

For the smartphone manual, Adobe Acrobat continues to excel with near perfect translation of the PDF document to MS Word format.

  • Adobe Acrobat Pro PDF to Word Conversion accuracy
    Simple paragraph text was converted accurately.

The only fly in the ointment was the research paper where it struggled with both the graphs and part of the equation. That said, it did well with all other aspects of the research paper including the formatting of both columns, most graph elements, headers, pictures, text formatting and symbols. All in all, an admirable performance from Adobe with near perfect translation of PDF documents. This means that in everyday use you can expect minimal post conversion cleaning up of the MS Word document. This excellent translation does come at some cost though. Adobe Acrobat Pro is offered either as a one off purchase or as a monthly subscription. The monthly subscription is $12.99 for the Standard version and $14.99 for the Pro version with the latter offering cross platform support. The Pro version can also be purchased for $449, not a small amount of cash.

How to convert PDF to Word format with Adobe Acrobat?

While not really the main thrust in determining the best PDF to Word converter, I will nevertheless spend a few seconds to show how to convert a document from PDF to Word format using Adobe Acrobat. Follow these steps,

  1. If you don’t already have an Adobe account you will need to create one. A paid Subscription may be needed for this.
  2. Open the file to be converted.
  3. Click “Export PDF”, on the right side tools menu.
  4. Click “Export to Word”.

Nitro Pro Review

Nitro Pro
8.5 Reviewer
Pros
• Comprehensive PDF Solution
• Accurate PDF Conversion
• Fast
• Local PC conversion
Cons
• Mid-Range Pricing

This is a specialized software for PDF to Word conversion which not only offers the core converter functionality but a host of other features. As you can see from the screenshot above, it offers a familiar Windows style interface to work from. From that, a range of features are accessible, including

  • Create universally compatible PDFs
  • Convert PDF files
  • Edit PDFs, including scans via OCR
  • Manipulate text, change fonts, customize layouts, and more.
  • Review with collaborators
  • markup and revision tools
  • Fill, sign, and secure PDFs

Nitro Pro PDF to Word Converter

Nitro Pro PDF to Word Converter Interface


Coming after the big dogs, Adobe Acrobat and MS Word, Nitro Pro would appear as an underdog. However, this whippersnapper has proven to be a remarkable contender during the course of this testing

Coming after the big dogs, Adobe Acrobat and MS Word, Nitro Pro would appear as an underdog. However, this whippersnapper has proven to be a remarkable contender during the course of this PDF to Word converter review testing. Let’s go through the results for each of the Nitro Pro converted documents.

As expected, the Thesis PDF provided little challenge and Nitro Pro provided an accurate PDF to Word translation with little duress. For the mobile phone manual, the screen shots also show a good quality PDF to Word conversion. However, I did note one anomaly here. The page numbers seemed to be incorrect because of text overrun from an earlier page to the next. Other than that the mobile phone manual was successfully translated from PDF to Word.

  • Nitro Pro PDF Converter Review Diagrams

Like Adobe Acrobat, Nitro Pro ultimately came a cropper on the research paper and in particular the graphs. Most other aspects of the research paper text conversion were handled admirably but I did notice some bugs here and there. An example is given below for Page 479. As you can see a line has been omitted in the Nitro Pro conversion, compared to both the source PDF document and the Adobe PDF to MS Word conversion.

Research Paper PDF Source Document. P. 479 Paragraph

Research Paper Nitro Converted Word File P. 479 Paragraph

Research Paper Adobe Acrobat Converted Word File P. 479 Paragraph

In the end, I think Nitro puts in an admirable performance. It is superior to all cheaper/free options and likely offers better value than the much more expensive Adobe Acrobat. It can be purchased for a one off fee of $160 for the personal edition which compares well with Adobe’s $449.

Solid documents PDF to Word Converter Review

Solid Documents Solid Converter

Solid Converter User Interface

 

For the Thesis and Mobile Phone manual, Solid documents had little difficulty in providing accurate PDF to Word Conversion. For the research paper, where all others have failed, Solid documents almost aced the equation and graph conversion. The sole PDF to Word converter to come close. In the case of the graph this was achieved by treating it as a picture and simply copying that into the word document. Other converters tried to extract the graph text, failed miserably and as a poor quality conversion resulted. A good tactic from Solid Documents as long as the user does not need to edit anything on the graph. Where Solid Documents failed badly was the Author section of the research paper. Not only were the Author pictures not rendered completely but also some of the words were disjointed. The Solid Documents OCR is not optimized for this kind of scanned document and this was made apparent when converting the Research Paper.

  • Solid Documents PDF to Word Converter Review
    No problem for diagram and label conversion.

If not for that, Solid Documents would have been challenging Nitro Pro and even Adobe for the different documents covered in this PDF to Word converter review. Nevertheless, still worth consideration, especially given the reasonable price of $39.95

Windows PDF to Word Converter Review Summary

As we have seen during this best PDF to Word converter review, all four Windows apps can handle everyday documents without breaking a sweat. Both the Thesis and the more tricky mobile phone manual were converted from PDF to Word format more or less successfully. What really presented troubles to all three was the Research Paper. None could successfully convert all aspects of it including graphs, equations and text wrapped images. To make it even more difficult, the document was scanned which tests the Optical Character Recognition to the limits. It is this final, difficult document where differences between the packages emerge.

In the end, although none of the four were perfect I would rate Adobe Acrobat highest, with Nitro Pro coming in second


In the end, although none of the four were perfect I would rate Adobe Acrobat highest, with Nitro Pro coming in second. MS Word is a good free alternative if you already have the MS Office suite. Solid Documents deserves credit also for being the only one of the four to almost ace the Research Paper graph and equation combo. This was accomplished by treating the graph as a picture which I think is a good tactic for that particular translation. It fell down though on the OCR of the scanned document with more text translation errors than the competitors.

Overall we can see that for many documents near perfect translation is possible with dedicated software but even the best struggle with complicated PDF documents.

Online PDF to Word converter review

It is also possible to completely eschew the world of PC software when it comes to PDF conversion and leave it to the miracle of the “Cloud”. There are a myriad of PDF to Word converters online. At present many of these offerings are Freemium, so you can convert PDF to Word for free, but normally there is some form of limitation such as the number of pages in the document.

To use these “free” online PDF to Word converters, you upload your PDF file, it miraculously converts it on some distant server and makes it available again as MS Word document. If a wand and rabbit were thrown into the mix it would nearly qualify as a magic show. So, that’s the gist of how it works.

Let’s now cover some of the vendors/magicians and review the quality of their work.

Google Docs PDF to Word conversion

If you did not know already, Google docs features PDF to Word conversion. This can be accessed by right clicking on the Google Drive PDF file, select open with google docs and the file will be converted.

GoogleDocs PDF to Word Conversion

PDF to Google Docs Conversion Option

You can get the full step by step approach to converting PDF to Word Documents using Google Docs in the video below.

Overall, Google Docs proved disappointing for anything but the simplest text conversion. It certainly lags far behind the goliath of the productivity world, MS Office, whose PDF to Word conversion was much more superior. As can be seen from the screenshots below, virtually no aspect from any of the tested documents was faithfully reproduced.

  • Google Docs PDF to Word Conversion
    Even the simple Text Paragraphs were not translated accurately

Cometdocs PDF Converter Ultimate Review

Cometdocs Converter Ultimate

There are a couple of variants of Cometdocs PDF to Word converters,

The difference between the two is that Converter Ultimate can also convert to other a range of other formats including Excel, Powerpoint and JPEG.

This PDF to Word converter review will cover the latter with the performance of both being shown in the comparison tables later. In terms of the User Interface, the Cometdocs apps are the simplest, with a text list of the converted files and above that, some options for sourcing PDF files for conversion which includes Cloud storage options. Clicking on the “Phone”, PDF source option merely brings up some Description of how to export PDF files from other Apps while in those other apps. This is an inferior way of sourcing PDF documents compared to the likes of EasyPDF which can source the files directly while staying in EasyPDF. I also prefer the thumbnail view of EasyPDF to Cometdocs’ Text only representation. Two other small grievances. First is the insistence of the App to rate it, with constant pop ups after conversions. Tip to Cometdocs, customers don’t need this nuisance.

Second, the opaqueness of the Website which is a one page affair directing you to the iTunes store. This is not useful for people wanting to get details of the product.

OK, let’s now get to the PDF to Word conversion quality.

  • Cometdocs Converter Ultimate Review - Text paragraph

Cometdocs provides a preview of the converted document in the app. This was often catastrophic as you can see from the screenshots below.

  • Poor Word Preview from Cometdocs

Thankfully the final Word document had no resemblance to that preview.

The Thesis text paragraphs and pictures were faithfully translated without problems although I did note some problems with reference formatting on page 9. Ratcheting up the difficulty with the mobile phone manual, Cometdocs did an excellent job converting the PDF diagrams and integrated text and diagrams. Finally, the toughest challenge, the Research Paper. As with all other programs, Cometdocs PDF to Word converter struggled. That said, overall it still did better than other App/Web based solutions which did not even have usable text after the conversion. So, in that sense, although none of the images/graphs were available in the converted Research Paper Word file, Cometdocs still provided good OCR of the scanned PDF to provide a Word document with reasonably accurate text representation.


EasyPDF Review

EasyPDF PDF to Word Converter

The user interface of easyPDF is quite simple, but effective. The main user screen provides a thumbnail picture of all files, both PDF and the converted documents for quick and easy access. Files can be added directly from cloud storage solutions or even pulled directly from other apps such as Documents. Folder organization is not supported so you may have to rely on the search function if you get to the point of having many documents.

Easypdf is one of several cloud based solutions that had a game of two halves. The first half, converting the Thesis and phone manual went pretty smoothly. The second half, the research paper was an unmitigated disaster that would have warranted a half time scolding from the coach. The research paper was completely unusable. The text seems to have been overlayed at least twice. The graphs and equations unrecognizable. Instead of having a file of several hundred kb, a monster file of more that 10Mb was generated. As mentioned many of the Web/IOS Apps had exactly this output, so it would seem they have the same PDF to Word conversion engine running in the background.

  • EasyPDF Review Text Paragraphs

So, in conclusion, easyPDF did a fine job of PDF to Word conversion for simpler documents, but for more complex documents I would not use such a tool.

Smallpdf.com Review

SmallPDF PDF to Word Converter

I can quickly state that small PDF.com had no difficulty in translating the thesis and mobile phone manual. What surprised me was how it handled the tricky research paper. The resultant research paper conversion was good, very good.

Naturally I was suspicious. After checking, I discovered why. No conversion was done on the research paper. It was copied and pasted as a picture into word with no attempt to convert it. I could accept this sleight of hand for a free conversion but if paying for it, I would not be a happy camper. From the limited testing done here, I cannot say to what extent this approach is used where the document is simply copied and pasted as a picture. Given this approach, I would not advocate Smallpdf.com to convert a PDF to Word document.

Pdf2doc Review

Pdf2doc.com standard of PDF to Word conversion was of a lower standard compared to its peers, at least for the documents covered in this PDF to Word converter review. While it also managed the simple thesis conversion it started to struggle already with the mobile phone manual. One the mobile phone manual, it could not render the pictures correctly, resulting in blacked out diagrams. Other online PDF to Word converters did not have such difficulties. As for the Research Paper, it finds itself with a lot of company. Nearly all online solutions, with the exception of Cometdocs failed badly. Pdf2doc also failed badly with unusable, overlapping text but as said, this is no worse than its compatriots.

PdfOnline PDF to Word Conversion Review

Conversion of the Thesis was not possible with pdfonline.com due to the limitation on the number of pages in the document. So, the assessment will have to be done on the basis of the mobile phone manual and the Research Paper. As with several of the online PDF to Word converters, the Research Paper was unusable. The text was overlapping, the equations and graphs unrecognizable. In contrast, the mobile phone manual was quite a good PDF to Word conversion with no problems. This gives a little confidence that converting a simpler document, like the Thesis, could likely be done successfully.

Flyingbee PDF to Word Converter Review

Of the cloud based PDF to Word solutions, Flyingbee PDF to Word converter performed worst. The basic Thesis conversion suffered from overlapping text, the phone manual had distorted images and the research paper was a disaster with inverted colors and non-existent formatting. I would not advocate the use of this product for even simple conversions.

  • Flyingbee PDF to Word Converter Review

PDF to Word Conversion Times

Conversion times play second fiddle to conversion quality. Saving seconds on the conversion is worthless if it means a badly converted Word document that needs hours of editing. For the most part, all converters were able to translate the documents in under a minute with some notable exceptions. Both Cometdocs products seemed to take the scenic route when it came to conversion with times ranging up to four minutes. While waiting, drinking some more rice wine and contemplating the nature of the universe I pondered if the Cometdocs products were actually transcribing the documents by hand.

If there is such a monastical workshop behind Cometdocs PDF to Word converter then I commend them for their excellent, if time consuming work

If there is such a monastical workshop behind Cometdocs PDF to Word converter then I commend them for their excellent, if time consuming work.

Comparison of Conversion Times for PDF to Word Converters

PDF to Word Feature Conversion Summary

To summarize which formatting features each pdf to Word converter can handle I have thoughtfully prepared a table, see below. As can be seen, most of the tested apps can readily the tested features in the simpler Thesis and Mobile Phone PDF documents. For the scanned Research Paper, all PDF to Word converters failed to handle it perfectly. Then it becomes more subjective and detailed visual comparison is needed. Discussion of the individual document handling has already been covered earlier.

 

Formatting Accuracy Comparison for the PDF to Word Converters

PDF to Word Converter Pricing

Price Comparison of PDF to Word Converters

Best PDF to Word converter  Review Summary

Writing this in-depth article on the best PDF to Word converters has also been a learning experience and two items in particular strike me. First that there is no ideal PDF to Word converter. When confronted with a complicated PDF file, even the goliaths of the PDF to Word converter world tremble. The second finding from this investigation is that there is a marked difference between dedicated Windows software tools and free, online PDF to Word converters. This difference really comes to light when challenging PDF files are to be converted. For simple text files, you probably won’t detect a difference but for complicated PDF documents quickly expose the differences between the tools. On the basis of the most difficult conversion, the Research Paper, I will have to decide a winner.

What is the best PDF to Word converter?

The best PDF to word converter in terms of conversion accuracy is Adobe Acrobat Pro and I would give Nitro Pro second best. Both managed the Thesis and mobile phone manual with ease but came a cropper on the Research Paper. For the Research Paper, Adobe Acrobat did better overall in this best PDF to Word converter review.

What is the best free/budget PDF to MS Word converter?

Given the unmitigated disaster that most free PDF to Word converters made of the Research Paper, those vying for the Best Free PDF to Word Converter has been considerably thinned out. The only free offerings to make a reasonable job of the Research Paper were the Cometdocs Apps and MS Word, assuming you already have MS Office. Of these two, I think the best text formatting accuracy is Cometdocs but it has the disadvantages of poor image representation, much longer conversion time and woeful preview.

If you are now wondering which PDF to Word Converter to use I would suggest to first determine how complicated the PDF documents are that you want to convert. If they are pretty simple, then nearly all of the Converters covered here today would suffice so just pick one of the free options. If the document formatting is complex then you may need to opt for one of the paid solutions, such as Adobe Acrobat Pro or Nitro Pro. I would strongly recommend to test your PDF documents before committing and many of those tested offer trial versions, including Adobe and Nitro.

I hope this extensive best PDF to Word converter review has been useful for you and if so, please make to share on your choice of social network using the little buttons to the left of the screen. Cheers!


Summary
Best PDF to Word Converters Reviewed
Article Name
Best PDF to Word Converters Reviewed
Description
Which PDF to Word Converter is best? This article reviews the top Software and Web converters to find the best, saving you editing time and money!
Author
Publisher Name
Done Before Brekky

Brendan Toner

Let me welcome you to this alcove of the internet. In this little productivity blog, I detail the trials and tribulations of trying to use my time more effectively utilising the latest productivity tools and techniques. I hope you enjoy the articles, cheers! Brendan Toner, author of Done Before Brekky

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6 Responses

  1. Nick says:

    Great post! I’ve had pretty good luck with Nitro pro, but have definitively run into bugs similar to what you mentioned. I’ve been wondering how much better Adobe is, and whether it’s worth the price to upgrade to find out. It sounds like it’s just a small improvement over Nitro so you’ve saved me some $. Thanks! BTW I was referred to this article by Brooks at Document Snap, who linked this article in his monthly newsletter.

    • Brendan Toner says:

      Thanks Nick and many thanks to Brooks also. I am always glad if people find it useful and save cash to boot!

  2. Paul Dalton says:

    As I recall, Nuance has been offering PDF converter products for decades, so I am surprised you didn’t include Nuance’s Power PDF Advanced 2.0 in this comparison.

    I would be very interested to learn how it compares to the other products on your test documents.

    • Brendan Toner says:

      Hi Paul,

      thanks for stopping by. Linda also brought up Nuance and indeed I could have sampled that in place of the other mid-range offering, Nitro Pro. I may update the article again in the future with a few more converters and so I will definitely keep Nuance in mind for that. For the PDF documents I converted, they are also available on the web. This will enable software vendors or users to compare other products against the test results of those I have tested.

  3. Linda Phillips says:

    Curious … how come you didn’t look into Nuance PDF Converter Pro? I use it not only for conversion to word, but a lot more for conversion to excel … it seems to be a very good product.

    • Brendan Toner says:

      Hi Linda,

      I wanted to provide a comparison across a range of PDF to Word converters spanning mobile apps, web converters and dedicated software. For the dedicated software, I sought out a few products covering the low, mid and high end and I would say, at least pricing wise Nuance comes in there. In the case of the review, I took Nitro Pro to fill that slot but you are probably correct that Nuance could have fitted well also. Perhaps next time!

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