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How to convert a PDF to Excel for free

Something as simple as converting a file into a spreadsheet shouldn't be so difficult. PDFs have become the standard format for sharing documents, so how can you convert a PDF to Excel when you need it as a spreadsheet?
Written by Maria Diaz, Staff Writer on

Several websites can convert a PDF to Excel for you for free, albeit with some ties involved. One of the top sites that will let you convert a PDF into an editable Excel file is adobe.com. Another option is to import the data from a picture directly in Excel. 

Having tried many, many options out there, I can tell you one thing is certain: You're unlikely to get a flawless result with any option. You will more often than not have to edit and redo some, if not all, of the formatting of your document to get it to look how you want it. The video above shows what a train wreck of an experience it was to add a PDF (one that originally was an Excel spreadsheet, no less) to Excel using Excel's Import Data from Picture feature. 

On the flip side, the most accurate option in my experience is Adobe's PDF to Excel tool. It consistently gives me the best results. So the steps we'll outline here will cover how to convert a PDF to Excel through Adobe.

How to convert a PDF to Excel

How to convert PDF to Excel
Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

Step 1: Go to adobe.com. Select PDF & E-Signatures, then Online Tools.


If you have a free account, then signing in will give you more access to their online tools.

Step 2: Scroll down until you find the PDF to Excel tool. 

Select PDF to Excel on the options
Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

PDF to Excel will be a visible option under Convert from PDF.

Step 3: Upload the PDF, and it will convert to an Excel spreadsheet you can download.

Upload the file to convert to Excel

The drawback to this method is that you can only do it for free twice a month. The biggest pro is that it gives you the best converted result of the free options available.

PDF on the left and converted spreadsheet on the right
Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

You can see how the original spreadsheet compares to this converted version and that it's pretty darn close. The data transferred accurately and the formatting remains pretty similar to the original. 

How can I convert a PDF to Excel using Microsoft Excel?

Excel can technically extract data from an image, so you can go to Data, then Data from Picture and then select the PDF you want to convert. But as shown on the video, you may be required to redo the formatting and reorganize any misplaced data from your file.

How can I convert an Excel spreadsheet to a PDF?

Exporting a spreadsheet as a PDF is very straightforward, just click on File, then Save As, and select PDF from the File Format dropdown list. 

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