Opening PDF from Word Files Snafu

Opening Files Snafu: a reader asks…

I have a Mac and used Microsoft Word to create a document. I then saved it as a PDF. Now when I try to open that document, it opens in Adobe Acrobat. But I want to edit it – I can’t open it in Word. Every time I try to open it, it comes up in Acrobat. What am I doing wrong? I no longer have the original Word document.

The quick answer is you’re not opening a Word document anymore, so you’ll have to import the PDF into Word in order to edit it. There are two ways to do this:

The first way is to open Microsoft Word, and then from within that app, open the PDF. Start up Microsoft Word and then use the Open link, navigate to where the PDF is on your computer, select it and then click the Open button. Word will use an online service to convert the document back from a PDF to a Word document.

The second way uses Finder to locate the PDF, and instead of tapping on it, use the 2-finger tap (aka “right-click”) – this opens a menu. Move your cursor to “Open With” and a sub-menu pops up with various apps you can use to open the document. Select Microsoft Word. If that’s not on the list, use the bottom option “Other” which opens your list of installed applications – scroll down and select Microsoft Word and click the Open button. Similar to the first way, Word will use an online service to convert the document back from a PDF to a Word document.


Your re-converted document may not look exactly like you designed it in Word originally, especially if you placed images, graphics, tables, or other items. This works best with simple documents that only have text. So you might have some work to do to get the document back to looking as it was originally.

When you created the source document in Word, that was your editable document. Once you saved the document as PDF (which stands for portable document format, from Adobe), you were no longer using the original source document. PDFs are created simply to let you send the documents out for viewing and printing – a PDF looks the same no matter what type of computer, tablet or smartphone is used. But it’s generally not for editing.

I should mention that you might have the Adobe Acrobat (DC) app on your computer, which allows you to edit PDFs (and costs money). But this is not the same as the word processing you’re used to in Word. Or, you might have the free Acrobat Reader app on your computer, which lets you view and print PDFs. You can also use Acrobat Reader with certain PDFs that were designed (in Acrobat) to do more things such as filling out and completing a form, or e-signing a document. But in general, PDFs are only for “finalized” documents, not for documents that may still be edited. For the latter, you need to retain the original Word document.

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