Recently, a colleague asked, “What would be the best way to convert a 200+ page PDF file to a format like Rich Text Format (RTF) or Word? GoogleDocs won’t work because the file is 33megs and the limit is about 10 megs.”

The following approaches–which I used on a GNU/Linux machine at the command line–will convert the PDF to text, but depending on formatting, you will get just text without anything else (looks atrocious):

Approach #1 – Use LibreOffice to convert PDF to ODT
This is a command line option…what you actually type in on a computer running GNU/Linux and that has Libreoffice installed.

  • libreoffice –headless –invisible –convert-to odt –outdir ~/dir  ~/dir/filename.pdf

Approach #2 – Use AbiWord to Convert PDF to RTF, Txt, etc.
This is a command line option…what you actually type in on a computer running GNU/Linux and that has Abiword installed.

  • abiword –to=rtf *.pdf
  • abiword –to=txt *.pdf
  • abiword –to=odt *.pdf
  • abiword –to=doc *.pdf
Since these approaches did convert the PDF to text, but did so in raw format (no formatting), I decided to split the PDF file into individual pages, then import each into GoogleDocs for mass conversion.
Approach #3 – Use PDFChain “Burst” tab to split PDF into 1 pagers (e.g. Page001.pdf, Page002.pdf) then upload to GoogleDoc for Conversion
1) Install PDFChain, cross-platform PDF file manipulator
2) Select the “Burst” tab and then identify file you want to split into multiple pages and then determine output directory.
3) Upload individual files to GoogleDoc then convert each page (yuck). You can also combine pages with PDFChain, so you can “group” them for conversion. You know, combine Pages 1-100 provided they don’t exceed GoogleDocs’ conversion limits. And, the conversion does look MUCH nicer when GoogleDocs does it since images and formatting appears to be kept.
Approach #4 – Try CloudConvert – PDF to Anything BEST OPTION, WEB-based
1) Upload the PDF to Dropbox
2) Paste in the URL to the Dropbox file then convert to whatever format you want…for fun, I chose ePub since that format is pretty open. Could just as easily gone to Doc, etc.
Here’s what that looks like:
Of the options, the best was CloudConvert because it worked very well, keeping original formatting, is not specific to an operating system (e.g. GNU/Linux), and allows you to save converted file directly to Dropbox, GoogleDrive, or to your own computer/device .

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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