How to Edit Scanned PDFs: A Full Guide

Tips • Nov. 10, 2023

edit scanned pdf

We all might have come across a situation where we had a hard time editing scanned documents. If you remember, to make a scanned document editable, we all had arguably gone through the hassle of using multiple software, only to get disappointed with non-editable outcomes.

However, with intuitive software and advanced document editors, transforming a scanned PDF into an editable file has become a straightforward task. Say goodbye to tiring approaches and check out the below optimal ways that use OCR to edit your scanned PDFs with ease.

Key Takeaways

  • Modern OCR technology simplifies the conversion of scanned PDFs into editable documents, eliminating the need for multiple software.
  • Adobe Acrobat DC offers a straightforward OCR feature for editing scanned PDFs on Windows platforms.
  • PDFelement provides an affordable and user-friendly alternative for PDF editing with customizable OCR settings.
  • PDF Expert caters specifically to Apple users, offering specialized OCR capabilities for seamless editing on iOS and macOS devices.
  • The effectiveness of OCR is software-dependent, with options ranging from desktop applications to online tools for varying user needs.

Edit scanned PDFs on windows with Adobe Acrobat DC

Adobe’s suite of applications is arguably the first suggested one if it is about managing documents. While Adobe offers multiple applications to work with PDFs, we have considered Adobe Acrobat DC to edit a scanned PDF on Windows.

Apart from OCR, Adobe Acrobat DC allows you to effortlessly edit, annotate, compress, merge, sign, and protect PDFs, streamlining document management across devices.

Here is how to edit scanned PDFs with Adobe Acrobat DC:

  1. Start by launching Adobe Acrobat DC on your Windows computer and opening the scanned PDF file you wish to edit.
  2. Begin by navigating to the Tools menu and selecting Edit PDF. Doing so will activate Acrobat’s OCR feature, which automatically converts your scanned document into an editable format.
    Acrobat edit
  1. Next, keep an eye out for a notification in the upper-right corner indicating the OCR language used. If it’s not the language you need, click on Settings either in the prompt or the right pane to make the change.
    Acrobat ocr
  1. Now, click on the text area you want to edit and begin typing. The font of your new text will automatically match that of the original scanned document, creating a consistent look.
  2. So, once you’re done with your edits, go to File> Save As to save your document with a new name, which keeps all the changes you’ve made.

Pro Tip: After saving, if you want to adjust OCR settings or edit the entire document at once, look to the ‘Scanned Documents’ section in the right pane. Here, you can tweak the OCR language settings, choose to use system fonts, and make all pages editable at once.

Edit scanned PDFs with PDFelement

While Adobe Acrobat DC does the job exceptionally well, if you’re looking for an alternative, we would suggest Wondershare PDFelement as it is affordable and feels complex while editing PDFs on it.

Also, you can annotate PDFs, create and convert documents, legally sign, combine files, protect with passwords, edit content directly, compress to reduce size and organize pages efficiently.

Do you find Adobe Acrobat DC difficult to work with? Here is how to edit scanned PDFs with PDFelement9:

  1. Start by downloading and installing PDFelement9. If you have already done it, open it and wait for the home screen to appear.pdfelement
  1. Now, navigate to OCR under Quick Tools and open the scanned PDF document to convert it into an editable file automatically.pdfelement ocr
  2. If the result is not to your liking, make changes to OCR settings, and you’re good to go.

Edit scanned PDFs on Mac with PDF Expert

The methods outlined above are widely considered among the best for Windows users. Although the software mentioned also has Mac versions that function well, for those deeply integrated into the Apple ecosystem, we recommend PDF Expert, one of our favorite Mac PDF editors.

The reason behind this is it is designed for Apple devices, offering seamless compatibility across iPhones, iPads, and Macs.

Also, you can effortlessly edit PDF texts, images, and links, annotate documents, convert PDFs to various formats, fill out forms, merge and reorganize pages, sign documents electronically, and customize your reading and editing experience.

Do you have to edit a scanned PDF on Mac? Here is how to do with PDF Expert:

  1. Start by downloading and launching PDF Expert on your device.
  2. Begin with opening your PDF file in the app by dragging and dropping it into the app window.
  3. Doing so allows you to access the Scan & OCR feature found at the top of the app window.
  4. Next, select the Recognize Text If your document is a scanned image, you’ll be prompted with a message indicating there is no selectable text.
  5. Now, click on Recognize. Before doing so, ensure the correct language is selected for the OCR to work correctly.
  6. So, choose the language of your scanned document and specify which pages you want to OCR, then click Apply.pdfexpert ocr
  1. After this step, the app will process the document using OCR technology to identify and convert the text.
  2. Finally, you’ll be able to select, copy, and highlight text, as well as search for specific words or phrases within the document.

Edit a scanned PDF document free online

Alternatively, if you’re not into editing and want to add text or sign the scanned PDF, some online platforms like pdfFiller can arguably be your best choice. Here are steps on how to use it to edit scanned PDFs:

  1. Open any browser of your choice and navigate to pdfFiller’s scanned PDF editor.
  2. pdffiller
  1. Once done, upload the PDF file, and you’re ready to edit and work on the PDF file. Next, after making changes, save the work, and you can download the PDF right away.

Convert scanned PDF to editable PDF or word

Considering all the above approaches are platform-dependent, we have looked for an approach that works with arguably all platforms, and we have come across Investintech’s Online PDF OCR.

While other online PDF OCR tools are reliable, and you can use any of your choice to edit scanned PDFs, we have considered Investintech’s Online PDF OCR for simplicity.

Are you trying to edit scanned PDFs through the web? Here are the steps below:

  1. Start by opening any browser of your choice and navigate to Investintech’s Online PDF OCR.
  2. After it is loaded, drag the scanned PDF to the provided box or click on it and select the File to upload the document.
  1. Wait for the tool to finish the conversion, and after you see the text Done!, click on the Download file to work with the File on arguably any platform that supports Word editors.

Wrapping up

Congratulations on editing scanned PDFs, and we hope that the several approaches provided by us have helped you comfortably work with the PDF on the platform of your choice.

If you’re using software and not online tools to edit scanned PDFs, ensure you create a backup of the PDF, as sometimes, the OCR might fail to recognize text, leaving you with an irrecoverable semi-editable version of the PDF file.


What is a scanned (image) PDF?

A Scanned PDF is generated by converting a paper document into an electronic format through scanning. Using a scanner, the document is captured as an image and saved as a PDF file. Unlike native PDFs, a scanned PDF’s content is essentially a visual snapshot of the original document, lacking searchable or editable text. To enable search and editing capabilities, Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software is essential, as it identifies and extracts text from the image.

How does OCR technology function?

OCR, or Optical Character Recognition, works by analyzing the shapes of letters and numbers in a scanned document and translating them into editable text characters. It’s like teaching your computer to read handwriting or printed text so you can edit, search, and manage it digitally.

Does OCR performance vary across different platforms?

The effectiveness of OCR doesn’t inherently change with the platform but relies on the capabilities of the software being used. Whether you’re on a PC, Mac, or mobile device, the quality of OCR results will depend on the software’s ability.

Should I use desktop software or online PDF tools for editing scanned documents?

Choosing between desktop software and online PDF tools for editing scanned documents depends on your needs. Desktop software offers offline access, advanced features, and security but may require installation. Online tools provide accessibility, collaboration, and automatic updates but depend on the internet. Consider complexity, budget, and security to make the best choice for your tasks.