The Best Way to Turn Your Word Doc Into a PDF

Microsoft Word has come a long way since the time of Clippy the Microsoft Paperclip. The word processor now has a number of useful features, including its built-in PDF converter powered by Adobe.

It’s possible to save and share PDFs across PowerPoint, Excel and Word, using any device. This includes Windows, Mac and mobile devices.

The conversion process is super quick and easy. We’ll guide you through it in just a few simple steps. Plus, you’ll learn how to convert Word docs into PDFs outside of Microsoft Word and what to do if you run into any problems.

Why Save a Word Doc as a PDF?

Back in the day, PDFs were invented as a means of easily sharing documents between different computers and operating systems. And we still use PDFs for this purpose today.

When you apply for a job, submit a college essay, send a business proposal etc, the recipient will most likely ask for your doc in PDF format. This is so that they can open and view your important document easily and in the correct format, no matter which program you used to create it.

So, convenience is perhaps the biggest reason to convert your docs to PDF. Here are a few further benefits:

Integrate Other Elements and Media

PDFs can be more than just plain text. You can incorporate images, graphics, audio, animation, video and more. These elements may complement your text and improve your document overall. It’s also possible to add hyperlinks or buttons that’ll take users to further resources that could prove useful.

Secure Your Documents

People often send PDF files in view-only format. This makes it difficult for others to alter or delete your document after you’ve created it. Furthermore, you can protect PDF files with a password. This is worthwhile if you’re sharing sensitive information.

Reduce the File Size

You may be concerned that your PDF, with all of its lovely graphics and so on, will be too big to share. But, the truth is, it’s super easy to compress a PDF document and maintain the quality of the original. You don’t even need an extra tool to do this. You can reduce the size of the PDF when you save it in Microsoft Word.

All in all, PDF is the best document format for sharing. It’s convenient plus your files are compact and secure.

How to a Save Word Doc as a PDF on Any Device

Saving your Word doc as a PDF is extremely simple once you know how. Here’s how to do it on any device or operating system:

1. Windows

Step 1. Go to File.

Step 2. Select Export.

Step 3. Click Create PDF/XPS Document.

2. Desktop App

Step 1. Go to File.

Step 2. Select Share.

Step 3. Click Share as attachment.

Step 4. Select PDF.

Step 5. Choose where you want to save your PDF.

3. Mac

Step 1. Click File.

Step 2. Click Save As.

Step 3. Click the dropdown menu next to File Format.

Step 4. Select PDF.

Step 5. Click Export.

4. iOS

Step 1. Tap the File button.

Step 2. Tap Export.

Step 3. Tap PDF.

5. Android

Step 1. Tap the Share button.

Step 2. Tap Share as attachment.

Step 3. Tap PDF.

Step 4. Select where you want to save your PDF.

How to Customize a PDF in Microsoft Word

Before you hit save, you may want to tweak your PDF settings. Here are some of the useful customizable options:

Include Tracked Changes

If you’re collaborating on a doc with another person, then you may wish to include tracked changes on the PDF when you share it. You also might need to do this if, for example, you work as an editor or a teaching professional and you need the person on the other end to see the changes you’ve made.

To include tracked changes in your PDF, in the Options menu, select Document showing markup under Publish what.

Include Bookmarks

PDF bookmarks act as a sort of table of contents for your PDF. If you have a lengthy document with multiple sections, you may wish to add bookmarks for easy navigation. When you convert a Word document to PDF, you can either retain the bookmarks you created for the original Word doc or create bookmarks for the PDF using the headings within the document. In the Options menu, check the box that says Create bookmarks using then select Headings or Word bookmarks.

Improve Accessibility

Screen-reading software translates text and images to speech for the visually impaired. You can improve your doc’s accessibility by making it easier for screen-reading software to read. To do this, check the box that says Document structure tags for accessibility in the Options menu.

Convert Only Some Pages

There are many instances in which you may not need to turn your entire document into a PDF. Say, you have a large document, but you only need to share one key page or section with another person. It’s possible to convert and save only the necessary pages as a PDF. All you need to do is set the page range in the Options menu by selecting the appropriate numbers next to Pages From and To.

Set a Password

As mentioned above, you can password-protect your PDF for security purposes. To set a password, in the Options menu, check the box next to Encrypt the document with a password under PDF Options. Naturally, you need to choose a password that’s strong and unique to ensure its efficacy.

Other Ways to Convert Word Docs into PDFs

If somebody sends you a Word doc but you don’t have Microsoft Word, there are few alternative ways to convert the doc into a PDF. Take a look:

1. Use Google Drive

You can save Google docs in a variety of formats including PDF. Therefore, you can convert your Word doc by uploading it first to Google Drive then saving it as a PDF. Here are the steps:

Step 1. Click the + New button.

Step 2. Click File upload and choose the correct file.

Step 3. Open the file in Google Docs.

Step 4. Go to File then Download.

Step 5. Select PDF Document.

2. Use a PDF Converter

There are a bunch of free tools you can use to convert Word docs into PDFs. Some of the most popular options include PDF Converter, Smallpdf and Soda PDF. These tools all work in pretty much the same way. You upload the file directly in your browser, the tool converts the file and then you can download it again.

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When choosing a PDF converter, the most important thing you should look for is security. Some tools keep your docs safe by encrypting your files and then destroying them from their servers once your download is complete.

3. Use a Free Microsoft Word Alternative

If you don’t want to splash the cash on an Office 365 subscription, there are some decent free alternatives available. Examples include Apache OpenOffice, LibreOffice and WPS Office. You can open a Word doc with one of these programs and then save it as a PDF.

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If you want to use a Word alternative as more than just a PDF converter, then you’ll need to check out which program has the best features, the simplest interface and so on.

Common Problems When Turning Word Docs into PDFs

For most users, converting a Word doc to PDF will be as simple as a few clicks. However, there’s always a chance that you’ll run into an issue.

Forums and message boards are littered with people who are struggling to turn their Word docs into PDFs. There are two main problems that come up time and again:

  • Formatting Issues – The layout of the PDF is different from the original Word doc. For example, the text has been rearranged, the margins are a different size or the pagination is off.
  • Conversion Issues – Word is unable to convert the doc into a PDF, so trying to save it as a PDF simply doesn’t work. You might see an error message.

Thankfully, there are some workarounds and ways to troubleshoot any issue you may have when attempting to convert your doc:

1. Change the file from .docx to .doc before converting to PDF.

2. Try a PDF converter tool instead of using Word to create the PDF.

3. Check if a third-party integration is the problem by starting Microsoft Word in Safe Mode.

To do this, hold the CTRL key and double-click the Microsoft Word app, then click Yes when the dialog box asks if you want to start in safe mode. If you can convert your doc in safe mode then an add-in is the problem. Disable all add-ins then enable them one by one to figure out which add-in is causing your problem.

4. Repair your Office installation in your computer’s Control Panel.

You may not be able to convert your file if there’s an issue with the Microsoft Word application. But, the good thing is that Microsoft 365 comes with a tool to fix itself. Here’s how to access the tool on Windows 10:

Step 1. Right-click the Start menu.

Step 2. Select Apps and Features.

Step 3. Select Microsoft Word and click Modify.

Step 4. Select Online Repair or Repair depending on your installation type.

Step 5. Follow the instructions to carry out the repair.

5. Configure PDF Options to fix formatting errors.

In the Options menu, check the box that says ISO 19005-1 compliant (PDF/A). This will ensure that your PDF saves as a top-quality version which will look the same on different computers.

If the font looks different in your PDF to the original Word doc it may be because the font can’t be embedded. In this case, the PDF reader may substitute it for a different font. If you wish to retain the original font then you can use a bitmap image of the text instead. In the Options menu, check the box next to Bitmap text when fonts may not be embedded.

6. Find the corrupt element.

There may be a specific problem within the document. In most cases, this will be a corrupt element (e.g. a graphic, table or font) or an element the program is unable to convert.

The following troubleshooting process may help you locate the element that’s causing your problem:

Step 1. Create two copies of your Word doc.

Step 2. In the first copy, delete the second half of the doc and in the second copy, delete the first half.

Step 3. Try to convert both docs to PDF. If one copy fails, you know the problem is in that half of the document.

Step 4. Keep repeating the process to narrow down the problem area.

When you’ve honed in on the problem element, you may wish to delete or change it.

How to Convert a PDF to Word

Got a PDF you want to edit with Word? Or maybe you converted a file to PDF and want to change it back? The process of converting a PDF file to a Word doc is also rather simple. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Windows

Step 1. Locate the PDF file and right-click.

Step 2. Select Open with.

Step 3. Select Word.

Step 4. A dialog box will appear explaining that Word will now convert your file and it may look different from the PDF. Click OK.

2. Mac

Step 1. Locate the PDF and click.

Step 2. Click File in the top-left corner.

Step 3. Select Open with from the File menu.

Step 4. Choose Microsoft Word.

Final Word

Converting a Word doc to a PDF is not only beneficial but also unavoidable in some cases. It’s one of those things you need to know how to do if you want to share documents in a way that’s accessible for everybody.

There’s a whole lot of information here. The process of saving a Word doc as a PDF is simple. But, you may wish to return to this guide if you have any issues or need to customize your doc using advanced settings.

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Bryan Wise
Bryan Wise,
Former VP of IT at GitLab

Incredible companies use Nira