How to Convert PDF to Word on Mac

If you want to convert PDF to Word on Mac, you have five main options. 

Your first two options are built into the MacOS (Preview and Automator). The other three PDF-to-Word conversion methods require an internet connection (Google Docs, Adobe Acrobat, or an online PDF to Word converter).

1. Using Preview

Pro(s): very easy

Con(s): the format doesn’t transfer smoothly from PDF to Word, and it’s not technically a “conversion”

Unfortunately, there’s no way to neatly convert PDF to Word in Preview. However, taking the text from your PDF and moving it to Word isn’t difficult if you don’t need the formatting to be perfect. 

Here’s how to quickly take the text from your PDF and export it to Word (by copy-pasting it):

1. Right-click your PDF file

2. Select “Open With” and click on the Preview app

an image highlighting how to quickly access the Mac Preview app
Preview is great for looking at photos, but isn’t your best PDF to Word conversion method on Mac.

3. Use the “Command + a” keyboard shortcut to select all of the text

4. Next, use the “Comand + c” keyboard shortcut to copy the text of the PDF

5. Open Microsoft Word, then press “Command + v” to paste the text from your PDF to Word

Tip: When you paste your text, you can remove the formatting by using the shortcut “Command + Shift + v”. This is particularly useful when copying text from website pages into a Word document.

2. Launching Automator

Pro(s): better at maintaining your PDF’s format than simply copy-pasting your text

Con(s): not intuitive, more steps required

Automator is a tool you may not even know exists on your Mac. But it does exist, and it’s effective at turning a PDF into a plain or rich text file, which can then be opened with Microsoft Word.

Here’s how to change PDF to Word on Mac using the Automator app:

1. Use the LaunchPad to locate the Automator tool (it looks like a cool robot)

Mac Automator robot icon
See, I told you so!

2. Open Automator, select “Workflow”, and click the blue “Choose” button

screenshot of what you see when you first open the Mac Automator application
Don’t be intimidated by all the options. Workflow is what your Automator should be preset as.

3. Click “PDFs” in the sidebar (there should be a little red PDF icon next to it)

4. Make sure your PDF file is visible on your desktop, then drag it into the empty Window inside the Automator app

5. Click and drag “Extract PDF Text”, and drop it below your PDF file window

6. Set your Output to “Rich Text” (to retain formatting), and select where you want your new file to save by using the “Save Output to” dropdown 

7. Click “Run” in the top right corner of Automator, and your new text file will download to wherever you saved it. Finally, you can open your new text file within Word as a DOCX file.

full view of Mac's Automator tool
A lot of settings to adjust, but Mac’s Automator gets the job done.

3. With Google Docs

Pro(s): free, straightforward, most people are familiar with Google’s range of web apps

Con(s): the formatting of complex PDFs doesn’t always transfer perfectly

If you already have a gmail account, then you have access to Google Docs. Converting a PDF into a Google Doc is easy, at which point turning your file into DOCX takes only a couple of clicks.

1. Open Google Docs (you can type “docs.new” into your Chrome search bar to automatically open a new Google Doc)

2. Click the “File” dropdown, then click “Open

3. Select the “Upload” tab, and click the blue “Select a file from your device” button

image highlighting the blue select a file from your device icon in Google Docs
Google Docs is an excellent, free file conversion tool (although its options are limited to text, docx, and PDF files).

4. Find your PDF, and “Open” it

5. Click “Open with Google Docs” at the top of your document

Image highlighting the Open with Google Docs button that you need to click to make your PDF open in Google Docs
Your screen should look like this. You can use the dropdown menu, or directly click the “Open with Google Docs” text.

6. Now that your PDF is a Google Doc, all you need to do is click “File”, hover over the “Download” submenu, then click “Microsoft Word (.docx)” to export your newly converted DOCX to your browser.

a screenshot highlighting how to save your Google Docs as a Microsoft Word (.docx) file
Straightforward and easy, thanks Google!

4. Via Adobe Acrobat

Pro(s): clean and pretty straightforward converter tool

Con(s): requires an Adobe Acrobat subscription

The Portable Document Format (PDF) was created by Adobe in 1992, so it makes sense that they have their own PDF-to-Word conversion tool.

To convert your PDF to Word using a Mac or any type of computer, you can use the Adobe Acrobat software (and the free trial lasts seven days, so take advantage of it if you want).

1. Open your PDF using Adobe Acrobat

2. Click “See All Tools” (it’s in a small rectangle box near the top right of your screen on Mac)

3. In the right sidebar or on the center of the screen, click the teal “Export PDF” icon

a screenshot within the Adobe Acrobat application, highlighting where you can click to "Export" your PDF to a new file type (in this case, Word)
Adobe Acrobat’s interface has come a long way from its early days. Looking fresh.

3. Make sure “Microsoft Word” is selected, and click “Export

4. Choose where you want to save your new Word document, and name your file

Adobe Acrobat convert PDF tool, highlighting how to convert a PDF to Word
Adobe Acrobat is pretty easy to use, and its colorful UI helps guide you to where you want to go.

5. Using a PDF to Word converter tool

Pro(s): easy, free

Con(s): requires an internet connection 

The easiest way to convert PDF to Word on Mac is with an online PDF converter. Here’s how to change a PDF to Word using most PDF conversion tools available online.

1. Open the PDF to Word converter page

2. Click “Choose File” (or drag and drop it on the window)

a screenshot of Big PDF Converter's pdf to word tool, the easiest way to convert PDF to Word on Mac
Why mess around with the other PDF to Word Mac converters when you can just use a simple online conversion tool?

3. Select the PDF you want to convert to Word, and click “Open

4. Click “Download”, and your new Word document will automatically download to your browser (or you can save and export it to your Google Drive if you prefer)

And that’s it! Now you know how to convert PDF to Word on Mac in five different ways (assuming you have an internet connection, which you needed to access this guide).

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