How to Scan to a Word Document

Plus, convert a scanned PDF to Word

Photo of Android phone with Microsoft Office Lens app open, Document option selected. Finger about to tap to capture image.

There’s no need to retype a document to turn it into a Word file. You have at least two ways to turn a printed document or PDF into text you can edit in Microsoft Word.

Most installed desktop versions of Microsoft Word can open and convert PDF files into editable Word documents directly. Or, you can scan pages and open recognized text in Word with an Android or iOS smartphone camera or a desktop scanner.

The character recognition capabilities in Microsoft Word work best with documents that are primarily text. For example, Word would be likely to cleanly open and convert a contract comprised of several pages of printed text whereas Word may struggle to cleanly recognize text in a brochure where text is printed within or around images in anything other than a single column.

Scan Documents and Open with Installed Word

You’ll need a working scanner connected to a Windows or macOS system, along with a relatively recent version of Word. 

Word 2019, Word 2016, Word 2013, and Office 365 all support the ability to open and convert PDF files into Word documents. While Microsoft offers some instructions for converting PDF files into word for older versions, such as Office 2010 and Office 2007, the process is more complicated.

  1. Follow your scanner manufacturer’s instructions to scan your document to a PDF file. Save this file at a location you will remember on your computer.

  2. Open Microsoft Word.

  3. Select File > Open, then navigate to the location of your saved PDF.

  4. Select the PDF file, and choose Open. Word will open the PDF and convert recognized text into a document you may edit.

    Screenshot of Word (on Windows) with message
  5. Read the converted text carefully, as some letters may be incorrect. The system may display items not identified within the document as images.

    Screenshot of a single page document in Word. Bold words (e.g.,

Use Mobile Apps for Android or iPhone

On an Android or iOS device, you’ll need to install both the Office Lens app (install for Android or iOS) and Microsoft Word (install for Android or iOS). After you install each app, tap to open it, and then sign in with your Microsoft account. Once you’ve installed and signed in to both apps, you’re ready to scan pages.

  1. Tap to open Office Lens.

  2. Along the bottom of the app, switch the slider to Document. (The choices displayed may include Whiteboard, Document, Business Card, and Photo.)

  3. Position your camera to capture the text you want to scan to Word within view. Tap the button to capture the image.

  4. After a page image is captured, you can either rotate it or crop the edges, if needed. 

    Screenshot of single page capture in Office Lens on Android.
  5. If you have additional pages to capture, tap the camera icon (in the lower left) to take another photo. Repeat this process until you have no more pages to scan.

  6. Tap Done. The system will display your Export To options.

  7. Tap Word. (On Android, you will then need to tap Save.)

    Screenshot in Office Lens shows

    Wait for the app to recognize the text. The app may indicate “Waiting to transfer” or “Transferring” as it works. It will display the scanned document with a Word icon on the display.

  8. Tap the document, which will open your scanned file in a Microsoft Word document. For reference, the Word document includes the image you captured within the document.

    Screenshot of scanned document open in Word, with editable text.
  9. Review the recognized text to make sure the information is accurate.

Convert a PDF to a Word Document

If you lack access to Microsoft Word or your version of Word doesn’t open PDF files, you can still likely scan files to a PDF with an Android or iOS device, and then convert the documents into Microsoft Word.

  1. Follow the instructions in How to Scan Documents to Your Phone or Tablet to capture your pages into a PDF.

  2. Then, use a website service, such as CloudConvert.com or FileZigZag.com, to upload your PDF, convert it to a Word document format, then download it and save it to your system.

    Screenshot of .pdf to .docx file conversion at CloudConvert.com
  3. Once converted, open the .doc or .docx file in Microsoft Word to review the file for accuracy.