Converting Paper Documents to PDF Files

Bring your paper files into the digital age

Converting paper documents to PDF files is possible with a scanner and Adobe Acrobat or another software program that generates PDFs. Plus, if your scanner has a document feeder, it's possible to convert multiple pages to PDF at once. If you don't have a scanner or all-in-one printer, don't worry: there's an app for that.

Convert Paper to Digital Files With Adobe Acrobat

To convert paper documents to PDF files using Adobe Acrobat, connect your scanner to your computer by cable or wirelessly, then:

  1. Load the paper or papers you want to convert into your scanner.

  2. Open Adobe Acrobat and then select File > Create > PDF from Scanner.

    Adobe Acrobat, selecting Create > PDF from Scanner
  3. In the Scanner drop-down list, select your scanner or printer.

    Adobe Acrobat - selecting printer in Scanner dropdown list
  4. Keep the default scanner settings or choose a new setting. Select Scan.

    Adobe Acrobat - choosing scanner settings.
  5. After Acrobat has scanned and read your documents, select the Save icon in the Untitled.PDF tab.

    Adobe Acrobat - selecting Save icon.
  6. In the Save As PDF window, choose where you want to store the PDF (My Computer or Document Cloud). Then, if necessary, choose Compress PDF or Restrict Editing.

    When saving the PDF on your computer, select Choose a Different Folder to name and select Save to save the file in a folder.

    Adobe Acrobat - selecting File Options and folder.

Use Mac Preview to Convert Paper to Digital

Macs ship with an app called Preview. Many home desktop all-in-one printers and scanners are accessible in the Preview app.

  1. Load the document into your scanner or all-in-one printer.

  2. Launch Preview, and then select File > Import from [your scanner's name].

  3. Choose PDF as the Format on the Preview screen. Make any other changes to the settings, such as size and color, or black and white.

  4. Select Scan.

  5. Select File > Save and enter a name for the file.

Use All-in-One Printers

If you have an all-in-one printer and scanner unit, it probably came with everything you need to use with your computer to scan documents to PDF format. All of the leading printer manufacturers produce all-in-one units. Check the documentation that came with your device.

Scan Paper With a Smartphone or Tablet

If you don't have many papers to scan, you can scan documents with an app on your smartphone or tablet. For example, the Google Drive app includes OCR software that lets you scan documents and save them to Google Drive.

You can use Adobe to scan documents on your PC, and the Adobe Scan app lets you scan documents with your smartphone. Download the iOS app from the Apple store, or download the Android app from Google Play. There's a paid subscription plan for more advanced features; however, the free version includes enough features for most users.

Other apps that provide a similar service—both paid and free—are available. Search the App Store or Google Play for apps that include the scanning capabilities you need.

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