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How do I convert a Word document into a PDF file?

PDF, or Portable Document Format, is Adobe’s solution for creating documents that can be read almost anywhere. By downloading Adobe’s free reader, a PDF file can be read on almost any computer, and even portable devices such as PDAs.

But how do you create a PDF in the first place?

As is often the case, there are several answers…

This article is completely superseded by the face that “Save As PDF” is now ubiquitous in all current versions of Windows and other operating systems.

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The “official” way is to purchase a copy of Adobe Acrobat. Acrobat’s purpose in life is to create PDFs. It installs several tools, including a Word macro that makes creating PDFs from Word a single-click operation. It also installs a Windows printer driver that will allow you to create PDFs from any application that can print.

Adobe also has an on-line solution Create Adobe PDF Online, that will allow you to create PDFs. It’s a subscription service, but the first five PDFs are included in a free trial.

A Google search turns up many PDF conversion programs, ranging from free to inexpensive. Their capabilities vary, so it would be wise to investigate and try a few before investing any money.

Yet another solution is the free Open Office. Open Office is a free suite of office applications, including a word processor much like Microsoft Word. Open office can read Word documents and can create PDFs. Again, the feature set is similar, but not identical to Word and Acrobat, so compatibility may still be an issue. But the price is right, and it’s a well supported open source application with a very active user community to help.

For the record, if you’re planning on professional PDF content creation as part of a business strategy, the investment in Acrobat is probably worth it. No issues of compatibility or missing features that way. If you’re just experimenting, then the free or inexpensive converters are a good way to.

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54 comments on “How do I convert a Word document into a PDF file?”

  1. I have acrobat profesional 6.0 and would like to be able to be abe to edit and/or revise scanned docs that were prepared for internal office use but were not save to docs. I have read the instructions on the Acrobat “help” program and even bought a guide book. Both only go so far and I cannot get any help online.

  2. I guess I’m not sure exactly what you’re asking. What you haven’t mentioned is that you may also need an “OCR” program, for Optical Character Recognition, to turn those scaned images back into editable text. I’ll warn you that it’s a lot of work.

  3. hi,

    how do i repair my microsoft word to be able to convert word docs to pdf? i was able to do this before but now, i couldn’t seem to convert word docs into pdf anymore. i tested if this is the case with excel, powerpoint and html files, but they are working perfectly.

    i’d really appreciate if you can help me on this. thanks.


  4. Please read the article you just commented on. Word (and Excel) do not convert to PDF natively. You must have one of the PDF creation tools installed.

  5. Hello Leo. At the top of this page you say that you can download adobe’s free reader. Is that a trial to buy program or is it a free download? If its a free download where can I download it?
    Let me know please and thanks a lot for your help. Rianna

  6. For the mean time, this is an issue but come along Microsoft Office 2007 and its all change. I’ve been testing the beta of Office 2007 and can tell you that there is a built in “save as PDF” feature, much like OpenOffice – if you can find it in the completely redesigned user interface!

  7. I have a very strange problem. When I try to convert a doc. file to pdf, my Adobe Acrobat professional 6.0 simply opens my MS Word 2003 and stops there. No error message or anything… Also, I cannot integrate Adobe in Word. Any suggestions? Help appreciated, Kiril.

  8. Kiril Josifovski – Open Word, click Tools, select Templates & Addins then tick the pdf maker box. This will activate the Adobe link & sort your problem.

  9. For some reason, when I convert a web page to a printable pdf file it comes back in a “landscape” format rather than portrait which is what we want. I have tried three attempts and they all come back in a landscape format. How do I fix this?

  10. It depends on how you’re “converting” it. If you’re printing to a PDF print driver, check printer settings for that driver – chances are that’s simply set to landscape.

  11. To Rick P: THANK YOU for the solution to getting Word to create a PDF. I have spent days trying to figure out why my Adobe suddenly stopped converting Word files. THANK YOU THANK YOU!

    Hash: SHA1

    Not in general, no.

    You might be able to copy/paste text if the specific PDF file you have allows

    Alternately you can try feeding images of the pages through some kind of OCR

    But neither solution is easy or guaranteed.

    Version: GnuPG v1.4.6 (MingW32)


  13. Go and download free primo pdf converter
    it works with your acrobat 6.0 standard.
    this free program will solve your problem of converting any ms word document into pdf format.

    “i cannot convert my word document into pdf. Onthe contrary my excel and power point work fine. I am using acrobat 6.0 standard and office 2003 with sp2 and all the patches have been updated.”

  14. I need to convert a Word 2000 manuscript into a PDF file to send to a publisher. They only accept documents created in Word so changing to a different document program is out of the question. I have been researching articles on this for the last couple of weeks and can’t find anything that will work unless I have to pay a fee to install something else on my computer. According to something I printed out during a Google search there should be an Acrobat menu bar as well as Acrobat icons in my MS Word program. They do not exist. So it also gave me the option of selecting Adobe PDF through my printer window however there is no setting for that either. So I am stuck wondering what to do now. I have Adobe 5.0 on my computer as well as Acrobat 8.1.2 I am using Windows XP pro editon on my computer. Can anyone help me with this? I am willing to try whatever suggestion you can make as I have spent hours on this already. Is my best bet just to go with the subscription service “create Adobe PDF online?” Thank you for any help you can give.

  15. Leo…I read your article, even visited the site you mentioned…Open Office…a lot of the comments attached to your article pertained to difficulties converting a Word document to a PDF. Here is the SOLUTION…
    1. Open Up Word;
    2. Click on “Help” in Word;
    3. Click on “About Microsoft Word”;
    4. Click on “Disabled Items”;
    You will see…”The items listed below were disabled because they prevented Word from functioning correctly”;
    5. You will see a notice – “Adobe PDF Was Disabled”;
    6. Highlight that statement;
    7. Click “Enable”.
    8. Click “Close.”
    PLEASE NOTE THAT YOU WILL SEE A COMMENT – “You may have to start Word to enable these changes.”

    If you follow the above INSTRUCTIONS….you should not have any problems at all. It only took me hours and hours to figure out why my Word was not converting to a PDF, wherein Excel was giving me no problem at all. THE PROBLEM IS IN THE SETTINGS I HAVE DESCRIBED ABOVE IN WORD AND NO WHERE ELSE….GOOD LUCK EVERYONE !!!!!


    THIS IS TOTALLY FREE…You’ll be happy about that!

    1. Go to “” – It’s FREE AND SAFE.
    2. Type in “PRIMOPDF” in their search window.
    3. Download the software you need..very quick.
    4. You will be getting PrimoPDF 3.2 version.
    5. At the top of the screen for Primo you will
    see the Red Adobe PDF button.
    6. Open it up….find your Word document and you
    are done…just save your PDF and print.


  17. I use pdf995 for years; it is technically a printer driver – you will be prompted for a file name to save to. If you don’t want to pay the license of US$ 9,95, you will get a nag screen in your browser. So far, I didn’t do things I could not convert nicely this way. If your program can print, you can use the “printer” pdf995 – that’s all. It may be Windows only, though.

  18. Turns out if you get Office 2007, you are all set. For both converting to PDF (via save as feature) and also converting from PDF to Word!!! I just found this out today and I’ve been using 2007 for a while. Here’s how to do it:
    1) Save as pdf – there’s actually an add-in from Microsoft here:
    or go to the download site and search for: Microsoft Save as PDF or XPS

    2) Converting PDF to word doc. Right click a PDF file and choose “open with” then select Word 2007 (sorry doesn’t work in 2003). Now the first time you do this, it will install a converter in the typical way that office installs components that are not already installed (you will need access to the original CD or network install source unless the install files were cached locally during installation). Here’s the interesting tidbit, Word is just installing the SolidPDFConverter program (which indicates that MS bought a license for this program and incorporated the feature into Office software). Why would I say such a thing, because the installer box says as much during the install “Installing SolidPDF Converter…”

    That’s it. Upgrade to 2007 and you’d be all set I think. It may only come with a particular flavor. I’ve used the converter both ways in “Office 2007 Pro” and “Office 2007 Enterprise”. Anyone have a software matrix and could say what other 2007 flavors support this feature?

  19. Thank you for the very helpful information! I appreciate all the comments here – they helped me solve my problem. Great answers for the everyday user.

  20. Leo: For those of us who use Firefox, there is a wonderful PDF add-on/plugin, Foxit, that is as good if not better than Adobe, WITHOUT ALL OF THE HAZARDOUS SECURITY HOLES IN ADOBE. Besides Foxit Reader, the company also offers PDF Creator and other PDF programs. I recommend Foxit highly. ec

    I’ve recommended FoxIt for a long time. Foxit Reader – A Faster Free PDF Reader


  21. I have a Word 97 document in which I have added a color background to the pages. However, when I convert this document to a .pdf using Adobe Acrobat 8, the color background doesn’t print in the .pdf. (I have made the necessary adjustments in Word to print the background using a traditional printer.)

    What is the solution to this problem?

    Thanks for your help!

    Mike Garee

  22. I am writing a novel and intend to use Print of Demand. The printer wants the file preferably in pdf format (cheaper for me. In their self publishing guide the printer recomends the freewhere PDF program I down loaded that and it has done the job an

  23. This very simple if you have a software named “Adobe Acrobat 3D Version 8”. Just right click on word or excel file convert to PDF, you file will open in PDF format after conversion then you can save.

  24. I have many floppy discs that can’t be read, would this help me to read them? I have spreac sheets and word processing files unable to open

    This has nothing to do with unreadable media, sorry.


  25. This comment is geared for developers, not end-users. We need to print PDF document programmatically without the use of any other plugins or programs (such as Open Office, Adobe Acrobat or MS Word). We’re looking into jWordConvert, a library that can convert Word documents to PDF.

  26. I use advanced word to pdf 5.0,it is pretty good.convert word files to pdf Documents,Converted quality is fairly good: with text content, page layouts, images,and text hyperlinks preserved.I chose it because it is a standalone application, I could run this program independently and needn’t extra install Microsoft Office or Adobe Acrobat which costs hundreds of dollars.

  27. Dear sir,
    I want a program wich converts word to pdf including it’s source code.can u help me on this?


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