Clarifying the Limitations on Opening and Editing PDFs in Microsoft Word

In my blog post “The Truth About Saving a Fillable Form as a PDF with Editable Form Fields in Microsoft Word” posted on November 14th, I answered a question that may have led to some confusion with some readers.

“You can open and edit PDFs in Word?”

Yes, you can open PDFs in Word, and you can edit PDFs in Word if  it was made in an Office program and this is how, again, courtesy of the Microsoft Office Support page.

To clarify:

Yes, you can open and edit a PDF if the PDF was made in an Office program like Word, Excel or Publisher.

Warning: The converted document likely will not be a perfect match with the original PDF. (Page breaks, line breaks, and even image locations may be off.)

If accuracy regarding format and layout is paramount, then I would recommend using Adobe Acrobat. If it’s the content that matters to you, then Microsoft Word will continue to be a good alternative.

No, you cannot just open and edit any old PDF you come across using Microsoft Word. That’s the entire point of saving files as PDFs – to protect them from this very kind of tinkering.

Feel free to give it a try:




Now, if you have a PDF that you know was not made using Office program, but is (legally, ethically) yours to edit, and you don’t have a copy of Adobe Acrobat, then there are a large number of third-party PDF converter tools available to you. Some are free, others cost a few bucks. General consensus appears to be that the cheaper and lighter the tool, the less accurate the results.

If you’re looking at the “Edit or make changes to a PDF file” Microsoft Office Support page, I’m going to stop you now. First the link to the Office Store is broken, and second, the reference to the PDF converter that can be purchased through the Office Store appears to be out-of-date, as a search of “PDF converter” in the Office Store results in zero relevant App options.

As an Adobe Acrobat owner, I’ve not had the need to test out the free and paid PDF converter tools on the market.

Do you have a favourite PDF converter tool? Why?

Is there a PDF converter tool that you really disliked? Why?

I want to hear about it, so let’s chat.

2 responses to “Clarifying the Limitations on Opening and Editing PDFs in Microsoft Word

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