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How to Edit Scanned PDFs: A Comprehensive Guide


Scanned PDFs are a common file format used in various fields, from academic research to business document management. Editing these files can often be challenging due to their image-based nature. However, with advancements in technology and optical character recognition (OCR) software, editing scanned PDFs has become more straightforward. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore different methods and tools to help you edit scanned PDFs efficiently.

Why Edit Scanned PDFs?

  1. Text Corrections: Amend text errors or update information in scanned documents.
  2. Annotations: Add comments, highlights, and notes for better document collaboration.
  3. Reformatting: Adjust layout and format for improved readability and professional presentation.
  4. Data Extraction: Extract specific data elements for further analysis or integration into other documents.

Methods to Edit Scanned PDFs

Using OCR Software

OCR software converts image-based text within PDFs into editable and searchable data. Below are steps to edit scanned PDFs using OCR:

Steps to Edit Scanned PDFs with OCR:

  1. Choose OCR Software: Some popular OCR software includes Adobe Acrobat, ABBYY FineReader, and Google Docs OCR.
  2. Open Scanned PDF: Load the scanned PDF into the chosen OCR software.
  3. Run OCR:
    • Adobe Acrobat: Click on "Tools" > "Enhance Scans" > "Recognize Text" > "In This File."
    • ABBYY FineReader: Open the PDF and select "Scan to PDF" > "Recognize" button.
    • Google Docs: Upload the PDF to Google Drive, right-click the file, select "Open with" > "Google Docs."
  4. Edit Text: Once OCR processing is complete, you can edit the recognized text directly within the software.

Using PDF Editing Tools

PDF editors often come with built-in OCR capabilities and advanced editing features.

  1. Adobe Acrobat Pro DC
  2. Nuance Power PDF
  3. PDF-XChange Editor

Steps to Edit using PDF Editing Tools:

  1. Install and Launch Editor: Download and install the preferred PDF editor. Launch the application.
  2. Open Scanned PDF: Import the scanned PDF file.
  3. Run OCR if Needed: If the editor supports OCR, run the text recognition feature.
  4. Edit Document: Use the editing tools to modify text, images, and format as needed.

     # Illustrative Example for Adobe Acrobat Pro DC
     > Open the PDF in Acrobat
     > Select 'Edit PDF' tool in the right pane
     > Click on text or images to modify them.

Using Online PDF Editors

For quick edits, online PDF editors offer a convenient solution without the need for software installation.

  1. Smallpdf
  2. PDFescape
  3. Sejda PDF Editor

Steps to Edit PDF Online:

  1. Visit Online Editor Website: Navigate to the chosen online PDF editor.
  2. Upload Scanned PDF: Click "Upload" or "Choose File" to import the scanned PDF.
  3. Run OCR if Available: Utilize the OCR feature if provided by the online tool.
  4. Edit PDF: Make necessary edits using the provided options for text, images, and annotations.
  5. Download Edited File: Save and download the modified PDF to your device.

Tips for Effective PDF Editing

  1. Maintain Original Quality: Ensure the OCR software or editing tool preserves the quality of the scanned document.
  2. Backup Original Files: Always keep a backup of the original scanned PDFs before making edits.
  3. Use Annotations: For collaboration, use annotations and comments instead of direct text edits to retain the original content.
  4. Review and Proofread: After editing, thoroughly review the document to ensure accuracy and completeness.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

OCR Misinterpretations

  • Issue: OCR might misinterpret certain characters or text.
  • Solution: Manually correct text errors after OCR processing or use advanced OCR settings for better accuracy.

Formatting Problems

  • Issue: Formatting might not be preserved during editing.
  • Solution: Use professional PDF editors like Adobe Acrobat Pro DC for better format retention.

Limited Features in Online Tools

  • Issue: Online editors may lack advanced editing options.
  • Solution: Opt for desktop software for more comprehensive editing capabilities.


Editing scanned PDFs doesn't have to be a daunting task. With the right tools and methods, you can transform scanned documents into editable formats swiftly and effectively. Whether you prefer using desktop software, OCR utilities, or online editors, the key is to choose a solution that meets your specific needs. Start enhancing your workflow today by selecting the best tool for editing scanned PDFs.

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