How to Edit a Scanned Document on Your PC

Edit PDFs in Word with these easy to follow instructions

Can you edit a scanned document in Word? Here's how.

If you have a scanned document and want to make changes to it, Microsoft Word offers a nice, easy workaround that can handle this task for anyone who doesn't want to invest in Adobe Acrobat. Keep reading to learn more about how to edit a scanned document in Word.

The instructions in this article apply to Microsoft Word 2019, 2016, and Word in Microsoft 365.

How to Edit a PDF in Word

You can edit scanned documents in Word as long as they're in PDF format. However, if the document was scanned as an image, you'll need to convert the image to a PDF first, then you can use Word to edit the converted PDF.

  1. Scan your document and save it as a PDF. Every scanner is a bit different, but all will offer this option.

    Scan your paper document and save it as a PDF

    If you already have a PDF, you can skip this step.

  2. Open Word, then locate and open your PDF. You might have to select the drop-down menu to the right of the File name field, then select PDF Files so Word looks for PDFs instead of Word files.

    Open your PDF in Word
  3. Word will warn you it's about to convert your PDF document to an editable Word file. That's exactly what you want it to do, so select OK.

    Word will convert your PDF to an editable Word file
  4. Word converts the document, making it an editable file. Now you can use the highlighter, add comments, change the text, add photos or tables, or change the margins. In fact, you can do anything to this file that you can do to any Word file.

    Now I can edit the document

What Types of PDF Content Can You Edit With Word?

Despite the warnings from Word that the file might not look like the original, it usually does a very good job of converting the text and format. It understands headlines and creates tab indents. In this fairly simple example, it understood every word.

But it's also surprisingly good at converting more complicated documents. It converts forms into Word Tables you can easily edit, inserts images, and makes a good guess at colors and other difficult items. As a general rule, though, the more complicated the document it, the more editing you'll have to do to it to get it to look the way you want.

How to Convert an Edited PDF File Back to PDF With Word

If all you wanted was to be able to edit a scanned document, you're done, but Word can also save your document as a PDF. So, if you are trying to edit a PDF—and want to end up with a PDF—but you don't want to pay for Adobe's full-featured version of Acrobat, Word serves nicely as a stand in—especially for simple documents.

  1. Make any needed changes to your document in Word. You can add tables, change fonts, make text changes, add pictures, and do anything you can do to a Word file.

  2. Save the Word document.

  3. When you're ready to create a new PDF from this edited file, seelct File > Save a Copy, decide where to store the file, then, from the File Type drop-down menu, select PDF.

    Save as a PDF in Word

    It will take a few minutes for Word to create a PDF version of your edited file.

Convert an Edited PDF File Back to PDF With Older Versions of Word

If you have an old version of Word, this isn't nearly as easy. You'll have to use OCR software to do the conversion from PDF to Text for you. However, the results won't be as beautiful, the process won't be as seamless, and your results—especially if your printout is messy or your font is unusual—won't be as crisp and easy to work with.

If you're using an older version of Microsoft Word, consider upgrading to a trial version of the newer software to see if it is better suited to your current needs.