How to Convert PDF to Word Files on Mac

The easiest way to manipulate documents

Illustration of a computer with a document file on the screen.

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Given how popular both PDF and Microsoft World document file formats are, you'd think there would be a super simple way to convert PDFs to Word documents on macOS straight from the PDF file itself. Unfortunately, that's not exactly the case.

The main benefit of turning a PDF into a Word file is that it makes it easy to edit and format in Microsoft Word. When you're done editing it in Word, you can always convert it back to a PDF file via the Export function under the File tab.

To convert your PDF to a Word file, you'll need to use some extra tools. Here are three different ways to do it.

How to Convert PDF to Word Files Using A Free Web-Based Tool

The easiest and fastest way to convert a PDF to a Word file that you can open on your Mac is by simply taking advantage of one of the many free web-based converter tools that are out there. There are lots of them out there, but for this article, we'll be using Smallpdf.

Smallpdf's PDF to Word converter tool is free to use but offers many more tools and features with its premium plans. Two plans are available at $8 a month on the web or $12 a month on the desktop and web (plus a 14-day free trial for both plans).

  1. Navigate to smallpdf.com/pdf-to-word in a web browser.

    A screenshot of Smallpdf.com.
  2. Open the Finder on your Mac, navigate to the folder where your PDF is saved, select the PDF file and drag it into the blue space on the web page.

    A screenshot of the Finder app for Mac.

    Alternatively, select Choose File in the blue space on the web page to open a file upload window, select the PDF file from the appropriate folder and then click Open.

    If your PDF file is stored in your Google Drive account or your Dropbox account, you can click From Google Drive or From Dropbox in the lower right corner of the blue space to open Google Drive/Dropbox and select the file directly from your account to upload it.

    It might take several seconds or longer for the conversion progress to be completed depending on the size of your file and your internet connection.

  3. After the conversion is finished, select the down arrow beside the file name to instantly download it as a DOCX file.

    A screenshot of Smallpdf.com.

You can also select the envelope icon to generate a link on the web, the Dropbox icon to save it to your Dropbox account, or the Google Drive icon to save it to your Google Drive account.

How to Convert PDF to Word Files Using Adobe Acrobat Pro DC for Mac

It turns out that it's possible to covert a PDF to a Word file directly from the PDF document itself — but only if you're using a premium Adobe Acrobat Pro DC plan. This plan offers a complete PDF solution for both Windows and Mac starting at $15 a month with a seven-day free trial.

We'll be using the free trial version of Adobe Acrobat Pro DC in the following steps.

  1. Click the blue Start free trial button followed by the Get started button.

    A screenshot of Adobe.com.
  2. On the following page, enter your email address into the field labeled Enter your email and then use the dropdown list to select the plan you'd like to sign up for (monthly, prepaid annual, or annual paid monthly).

    A screenshot of Adobe.com.

    Click the blue Continue button when you're done.

    Don't worry, you won't be charged until your seven-day trial is up. If you just want to test it out, you can cancel the plan before the seven-day trial is up to avoid being charged.

  3. On the following page, create/sign into your Adobe account by entering your password.

    A screenshot of Adobe.com.
  4. Enter your payment information on the next page and then click the blue Start free trial button.

  5. Once your payment information has been accepted, click the blue Get started button.

    A screenshot of Adobe.com.
  6. Acrobat Pro DC will begin downloading to your Mac. Once the download is complete, double click on the downloaded file to start the installation and follow the instructions.

    A screenshot of Acrobat DC Installer.
  7. When the Acrobat Pro DC Installer window appears, enter your email and password and then click the blue Sign in button.

    A screenshot of the Adobe DC Installer.
  8. Answer the questions that Acrobat DC asks you, using the dropdown list to provide your answers. Click the blue Continue button when you're done.

  9. Click the blue Start Installing button. The installation might take several minutes.

    A screenshot of Acrobat DC Installer.
  10. Once the installation is complete, the Acrobat Pro DC application will automatically open. Select the Open File button to select the PDF file from a folder on your Mac.

    A screenshot of Adobe Pro DC.
  11. In the vertical menu on the right of your PDF file, select Export PDF.

    A screenshot of Acrobat Pro DC.
  12. On the next page, make sure that the Microsoft Word option is highlighted in blue. Optionally select the gear icon to make adjustments to your DOCX settings.

    A screenshot of Acrobat Pro DC.
  13. Click the blue Export button and then use the next window to choose where you want to save it on your Mac by clicking the recent folder suggested or the blue Choose a Different Folder... button.

  14. Optionally rename the file and click Save. Once the conversion is complete, the file will automatically open in Word.

If you don't want to pay for Acrobat Pro DC after your free trial is up, you can cancel your plan by navigating to account.adobe.com/plans, signing into your account, navigating to the Plans tab, clicking Manage plan and then clicking Cancel plan on the following page.

How to Convert PDF to Word Files Using An Existing Application on Your Mac

The final method involves using an application that comes already installed on Mac computers called Automator. This application is used to help you automate certain tasks by creating workflows.

Although it won't convert PDF files directly to DOC or DOCX file formats, you can use Automator to save PDFs as Rich Text files (TXT), which you can then use to open in Word.

The following instructions apply to Macs running on macOS 10.4 or later.

  1. Select your Applications folder to open it.

    A screenshot of the Applications app for Mac.
  2. Select the Automator application, marked by the robot image.

    A screenshot of the Applications folder on a Mac.
  3. In the window that asks you to choose a type for your document, select Workflow and then click Choose.

    A screenshot of the Automator application for Mac.
  4. In the vertical column farthest to the left side of the window, select Files & Folders.

  5. Now in the vertical column in the middle, click on Ask for Finder Items and drag it into the open space to the right of it. You'll see a new box appear inside of it.

    A screenshot of the Automator application for Mac.
  6. Now go back to the column farthest to the left again and select PDFs.

  7. In the vertical column in the middle, click on Extract PDF Text and drag it again into the open space to the right of it, beneath the other box. Another box will appear.

    A screenshot of the Automator application for Mac.
  8. In the Extract PDF Text box, select Rich Text instead of Plain Text for the Output.

  9. Click File > Save to give your newly created workflow a name and select the File Format dropdown list to select Application instead of Workflow. Then you can save it anywhere you want on your Mac.

    A screenshot of the Automator application for Mac.
  10. Go to the folder where you just saved the workflow app and double click on it. (It should appear as a robot icon.)

    A screenshot of a Mac.

    A file opening window will pop up.

  11. Select your PDF file and then click Choose. The PDF file will automatically be converted and saved as a Rich Text document in the same folder where the original PDF file was saved.

  12. Right click on the newly created Rich Text document, hover your cursor over Open With and select Word.

Whenever you want to convert a PDF to a Word file, you can use the workflow application you created in the above steps. Consider keeping it on your computer so you don't have to create a new one every time you want to convert a PDF to a Word file.