Editing a scanned PDF doc with Acrobat

Another question I got asked was how to edit a PDF doc, especially one that has been scanned in. The short answer is: Yes, you can edit a PDF doc with Acrobat, provided it has not been protected. In general, you can use the TouchUp Text Tool (under the Tools/Advanced Editing submenu) to select and edit the text.
If the doc is scanned in as a bitmap, you can use Acrobat OCR-Text Recongition feature to turn the text image into selectable text. Most likely, the text font won’t be recognised and if you use TouchUp Text Tool to select and edit the text, Acrobat will tell you that you don’t have the right font to let you edit the text.
Don’t give it up just yet. If the TouchUp Text Tool allows you to select the text, then there is still hope.You can then use the TouchUp Text tool to right-click the selected text to bring up the Properties dialog box. Select the Text tab and there you can change the font to any system fonts that you have. Bingo! You can now edit the text as usual.
Note that the apprearance will differ depending on the replacement font you choose. Still this little tip may come in handy when don’t have the original file to work with.

19 Responses to Editing a scanned PDF doc with Acrobat

  1. Mike says:

    I’ve tried this again and again with scanned PDF docs that were scanned from Excel, Word, and PDF docs. I sure thought I was following your instructions to the letter but I simply can’t get the documents into a form that I can edit. Do you have any other ideas?

  2. Brian Chau says:

    Mike, can you select text in the pdf doc? If not, the pdf is a bitmap image only and you would need to do OCR first to turn it into real text. Open the PDF in Acrobat and do OCR there. Make sure you select “ClearScan” setting a the PDF Output Style. BTW, I don’t know that you can scanned from Excel and Word. And my article didn’t refer to PDF form, simply PDf doc.

  3. Shanti says:

    Thank you for your 2nd comment/posting. I been looking for a solution to edit a pdf doc (not a form)in Acrobat 9 pro. All I found was general directions to Touch Up tool or other ways, which I tried and almost gave up in my mind.
    Changing “PDF Output Style” in OCR to “Clear Scan” and the font in text properites made it work. I appreciate you time & effort to post the solution.

  4. john Donaldson-Allen says:

    Oh dear all I want to do is delet text from the file and leave a blank one anyone any ideas in nice easy english?

  5. Sonny says:

    I want to edit a pdf doc in Acrobat 9 but the “Comment and Markup Tools” are grayed out. How can I change the settings so I can access the tools?

  6. Brian Chau says:

    Has there been security applied to this pdf? Has it been signed? In both cases, you may not be able to make any changes to the pdf.

  7. Ajay says:

    Hello Brian,
    I do not see option “Clear Scan” in OCR PDF output.
    I can only select from one of three options i.e.: “Searchable Image (Exact)” , “Searchable Image (Compact)” & “Formatted text and graphics”.

    What may be the reason for this?
    Also, when i edit text, some of text is not recognized (OCR Suspects) and due to these , formatting is very difficult.

    Thanks in advance,


  8. shafik says:

    hello, i am totally new to computers. just had a document scanned in pdf. i dont know how to edit this document. could you ps walk me thru step by step

  9. lakshay says:

    hey Brian,

    it would be real gud if u can help me find the clear scan option… have managed to stick to your comments and reslts have been fruitful…

    kindly advice

  10. 78fj40 says:


    I’ve been struggling with this for awhile.

    The document I’m trying to edit is not scanned.

    I can highlight and select text, however when I select the touchup icon, it does not allow me to highlight or get a cursor to modify text. There is no signature, there is no security settings. I’m using a registered copy of Acrobat ver. 8.2.5 on Win XP.

    From the properties tab it states it was produced using Adobe Acrobat 8.25 Paper Capture Plug in, on PDF version 1.3(Acrobat 4.x)

    The fonts listed in properties are Arial, ArialBold, and ArialItaliac

    I don’t know where to turn.

    Can you please help.

  11. Deborah says:

    Brian Chau’s solution using OCR output style worked for Acrobat 9 Pro! Click documents | cursor to OCR text recgonition | click recognize text using OCR | under settings, highlight PDF output style | click edit | click second arrow | highlight clearscan | click ok until you get to your document | highlight text | right click & cursor to properties | choose your font | type text.

  12. Chris says:

    I have tried this method and it has worked for me…excellent. I had spent quite a while trying to figure this out. I am really pleased, Thank you

  13. Bob E says:

    I am following your instructions on making scanned PDF documents editable. I had success up to and including the “Clear Scan” setting. But then when I try to edit text I get a series of strange error messages such as “Text is rotated not horizontal or vertical”, “document contains rederable text”. These are things I have never seen before.
    I have an Epson GT-S50 scanner and I am trying to covert all of my paper files to electronic files. I am using Windows Vista 32 bit and have Acrobat X Pro installed.

  14. Fiona Kay says:

    “Clearscan” tip worked for me! Thank you so much!

  15. G K Rana says:

    I want to delet a specific page from a PDF file

    • Steve Adler says:

      select the pages panel. then select the pages you want to delete and press your delete key. That should do it.

  16. Sinan says:

    Brian, thanks for the nice tip you have provided. As I understood, this method works for only the selected protion of the text with touch-up tool. What I want to do is replace the ClearScan-created custom fonts with well-known system fonts “for the whole document” at once. Is this possible?

    In fact, I just don’t understand why Acrobat does not do this (outputting the closest system font to the image as the result of OCR operation) by default, or feature this action not even optionally, at the first place.

  17. Ramin says:

    You can use adobe acrobat reader. From Menu select Document. Then OCR Text Recognition. Then Recognize Text Using OCR.