How to OCR (convert scanned) PDF files

OCR (Optical Character Recognition) is a technology that allows you to convert scanned PDF files (or images) into editable and searchable text. This can be helpful when you have scanned documents that you want to edit or search for specific text within. Here’s how to OCR a scanned PDF using Adobe Acrobat, one of the most commonly used PDF software:

Method 1: Using Adobe Acrobat (Paid Software)

  1. Open Adobe Acrobat on your computer.
  2. Open the scanned PDF file you want to OCR by clicking “File” > “Open” and navigating to the file location.
  3. Go to “File” > “Save As” and choose a new name for your document to avoid overwriting the original file.
  4. After renaming the document, go to “File” > “Save As” again, but this time choose “Microsoft Word” or “Excel” as the file format. This will convert the scanned PDF into an editable Word or Excel document during the OCR process.
  5. A dialog box will appear asking if you want to recognize text in this file. Click “OK” to proceed.
  6. Adobe Acrobat will perform OCR on the scanned PDF. Depending on the document’s size, this may take some time.
  7. Once the OCR process is complete, you will have a new Word or Excel document that contains the recognized text. You can edit, search, and save this document as needed.

Method 2: Using Online OCR Tools

There are several online OCR tools available that allow you to convert scanned PDFs into editable text documents. Here’s how to use one of these tools (such as Smallpdf):

  1. Visit an online OCR tool like Smallpdf ( or Adobe’s online OCR tool (
  2. Upload the scanned PDF file you want to OCR.
  3. The online tool will automatically recognize and extract text from the scanned PDF.
  4. After the OCR process is complete, you can download the converted text document, typically in PDF, Word, or other editable formats.
  5. Open the converted document in your preferred software and make any necessary edits.

Please note that the accuracy of OCR depends on the quality of the scanned document and the OCR software used. Complex fonts, low-quality scans, and handwritten text may result in less accurate OCR results. Additionally, some online OCR tools may have file size limitations or may require an internet connection, so be sure to choose a tool that suits your needs.