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The best free PDF to Word converter 2020: make editing PDFs a breeze

The best free PDF to Word converter
(Image credit: Future)

A great free PDF to Word converter will let you transform PDF documents into Word files that you can edit easily without specialist software, while keeping all of the original formatting.

PDFs, or portable document format files, were developed to make it easier to share documents between different computers and operating systems with minimal editing or modification. PDFs first started gaining popularity thanks to how easy it was to share and print them.

As the PDF format became mainstream, interoperability with Microsoft Word, the leading word processing application, grew tremendously, and a slew of PDF to Word converters were developed. Each of these converters has specific strengths and key selling propositions, and we’ve reviewed the best free PDF to Word converters below.

If you need to keep your PDFs in their current format, also check out our guide to the best free PDF editors.

The best free PDF to Word converters at a glance

  1. WPS PDF to Word Converter
  2. Wondershare PDFElement
  3. Nitro PDF to Word Converter
  4. UniPDF
  5. Free Online OCR

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WPS PDF to Word

Image credit: WPS/Shutterstock (Image credit: WPS/Shutterstock)

1. WPS PDF to Word Converter

An accurate and impressive free PDF to Word converter

Operating system: Windows, Android

Splits and merges documents
Batch conversion
Maintains original layout
Five-page limit

WPS PDF to Word Converter is great for quickly converting from PDF to Word, even if you have batches of documents and want to retain your original formatting. It works on Windows, has an Android app, and has an online converter as well. In our test on Windows 10, images, tables, colors, and even non-standard fonts were preserved in documents created using this product, as was the layout and spacing.

One pain point that people often face is splitting and then merging different sections of a PDF document into one file. With the WPS PDF converter, you can choose the pages you want to convert, order them however you wish, and export a new document in a number of different formats, all with your original formatting and layout intact.

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Wondershare PDFElement

Image credit: Wondershare/Shutterstock (Image credit: Wondershare/Shutterstock)

2. Wondershare PDFElement

A full PDF conversion suite in one neatly designed package

Operating system: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android

Great for image-rich PDFs
Supports multiple file types
Document protection
Five-page limit

With this free PDF to Word converter, you can create, convert, edit, and even sign PDF documents. It works on Windows and Mac and has a full-feature word processor much like MS Word that gives you a great deal of control over the documents, text, and images you want to manipulate. You can insert comments anywhere in your file, have someone else review and sign the document once it is ready, and easily share it with collaborators.

There were a few interesting advanced features with this product as well. For example, you can protect specific sections of your document so that only recipients who have the required permissions can see that information, and you can even download an app for iOS and Android to work on your PDF conversions on the go.

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Nitro PDF to Word Converter

Image credit: Nitro/Shutterstock (Image credit: Nitro/Shutterstock)

3. Nitro PDF to Word Converter

Great for text, but not a good choice for image-heavy documents

Operating system: Windows

Easy to learn and use
Creates, edits and converts
Review and annotate documents
Only five conversions per month

With Nitro PDF converter, you can upload batches of files, but your converted files are emailed to you so you need to provide an email address to receive your documents. Also, it is only available as a 14-day trial, and you are restricted to five conversions per month. This is a pretty tight limit that seriously restricts the usefulness of the product, in addition to the fact that it only works on Windows.

This free PDF converter converts text accurately but images are sometimes distorted in the output file. Other potential problems include random spaces or unexpected line breaks appearing in your final document. However, these issues are pretty minor and can be corrected manually unless you have large batches of files to convert at a time.

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UniPDF

Image credit: PDF to Word Converter/Shutterstock (Image credit: PDF to Word Converter/Shutterstock)

4. UniPDF

Works well with simple documents, but struggles with formatting

Operating system: Windows

Images preserved quite well
Small, lightweight app
Some text formatting lost
Three-page limit

This free PDF to Word converter was designed for Windows and saves you from issues related to long upload or download times that are commonly seen with various online tools. Since the application works right from your personal terminal, you do not have to trust your documents or information with a third party, which is important if you work with sensitive data.

UniPDF’s conversion accuracy leaves much to be desired, though. In some cases, the converted text can be dramatically different in size compared to the original, and columns sometimes run into each other. Accordingly, UniPDF is best for users who have only the simplest of documents to convert to Word.

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Free Online OCR

Image credit: Online OCR/Shutterstock (Image credit: Online OCR/Shutterstock)

5. Free Online OCR

OCR produces documents that look perfect with a little tweaking

Operating system: Windows, macOS, Linux (in browser)

Great for hand-written notes
Can handle large files
Struggles with colored backgrounds
No batch conversion

Free Online OCR is an online application that first extracts text from PDFs and then converts that text into a Word document. Once your Word file is ready, you are sent a link from which you can download your file. Since it is an online app, multiple systems can use it concurrently, and since output files are shared via an online link, the application is somewhat easier to use than services that require an email address to receive your files.

Since it was designed to work with images, this free PDF to Word converter does a great job of preserving the format and text of source files. It even accurately captures headers and footers.

The software does have a shortcoming when it comes to capturing text that is on a colored background. The application sometimes misses this kind of text and leaves empty spaces and unsightly page and line breaks where there are none in the original document. Also, since it works as an online tool, uploading documents for conversion can take some time.