PDF & Microsoft Office
There are two types of PDF files – raster PDF and vector PDF. If your drawing will not convert, it is probably a scanned drawing saved as a raster PDF file. Unfortunately, there is no useful data in a raster PDF file for us to extract about the objects or text. When a drawing is scanned, it is reduced to a flat image, comparable to a snapshot or a photocopy. There’s nothing you can do except trace over it manually or with tracing software (raster-to-vector software). One way or another, you need to recreate it.
Our software is designed to convert vector PDF files. These files are created on computers using save, export, print-to-file, etc. These vector PDF files contain a rich data set and all the information we need to accurately extract the drawing and render it in a format Visio or AutoCAD, etc can digest.
For comparison sake, below is a snip of a raster PDF file at 500% where the characteristic “jagginess” or pixelation of raster PDF files can easily be seen. Below it is a snip of a vector PDF file which is remarkably smooth and clear even though it has also been zoomed to 500%. This visual method is a very easy and accurate way to determine if your PDF file is a raster or vector. Most people get both types of files so pdf2cad or pdf2picture may be useful for some of your files.
A sample vector PDF file at 500% – notice how smooth the lines are and how clear the text is. This type of file is best converted with vector-to-vector software like pdf2cad and pdf2picture.
Converting PDF to Visio
In order to convert PDF to Visio, you need to use a tool which will transform the PDF file into a vector graphic. Most solutions out there will only provide you with a bitmap image file. This is not useful since none of the PDF objects or text can be accessed. There are several tools available which generate vector formats for Visio. Try one of the programs below to ensure success:
- Insert PDF, a Visio add-in that adds “Open PDF” to the Visio Toolbar
- pdf2picture, a desktop program which transforms PDF into editable Visio formats
- PDF FLY, an advanced conversion program for technical professionals and writers
By default, pdf2picture and PDF FLY give more control over the conversion while Insert PDF simply opens the PDF file in Visio. Both pdf2picture and PDF FLY create files that Visio can import using the native Windows Metafile format (WMF). It’s also possible for Visio to open DXF and SVG files although we find that WMF yields the best results in most instances.
Resources for Converting PDF to Visio
Edit PDF in Visio Step-by-Step
The following steps show how to convert PDF to Visio. Screenshots are based on pdf2picture. If you are using the Insert PDF add-in, skip to Step 3 (Insert PDF add-in instructions).
Open the converted file in Visio using “Insert Pictures”. You can also drag the file onto a Visio page. Adjust your paper size and orientation if necessary. You should now see the converted drawing on your screen. Important! The drawing imports as one object. You need to ungroup it if you wish to edit, remove or add parts of the drawing.
Ungroup the drawing and right-click on the graphic and select “Group, Ungroup” to generate objects. Now, select and change the individual elements and text. When ungrouped, Visio will highlight every individual object in pink. To deselect everything, click anywhere on the page outside of the drawing boundaries. When you convert PDF to Visio using this method, you see every object and each word outlined. Now, you can select and change the area or object you want using all the familiar Visio features. Depending on the original drawing design, when you convert PDF to Visio, there may be many levels of groups. If you find that you can not edit an object, right-click and ungroup again (and again, if necessary) until you have the level access you want.
Save as a Visio Drawing. That’s it. Once you save the drawing, it is now in the native .vsdx format and ready to save or share with your colleagues.
Keys to Successful Conversion of PDF to Visio
Is your drawing scanned?
Before converting, make sure that your PDF file is not a scanned image. If it is, it is not editable at the object level. Only computer-generated PDF files produce editable objects. To see if you have a scanned PDF, open it in Adobe Acrobat and magnify it to 1000%. If the lines look smooth, you’ll have success but if the lines look jagged or boxy, you won’t. Understanding PDF types is crucial as you learn how to convert PDF to Visio> How to determine what type of PDF file you have.
Text as curves
Some CAD drawings use “plotted” characters. This text becomes a series of pen strokes or “curves” in a PDF losing all character information. Because you can’t edit plotted text, you will be limited to a graphical representation once you convert PDF to Visio.
If you can select text in the original PDF file, then it will be editable in the Visio file. If it doesn’t look quite right, the specific font may not be on the target system or it may go by a different name. The font mapping feature handles these issues when you convert PDF to Visio. This happens because of font incompatibilities across systems. As odd as it seems, the very same font can have a different name on two different PC’s. Because of this, we offer font-mapping. Using this feature, you can create a link between the two font names so the text appears as intended in Visio.
If a font in the PDF file does not exist in Visio, we’ll choose a close substitute. This will be one of the standard PostScript fonts installed on all PC’s. Usually, it will be close enough and you can adjust the point size in order to get close. If you want the correct font, you can license it from any font supplier like Adobe, FontShop, fonts.com, or Monotype, to name a few.
Objects or shapes?
When creating a PDF, application specific definitions about shapes and scale disappear. VisualIntegrity has developed many options to recover or compensate for these limitations. More information is available on these options in the product’s Help file.
Mind your Memory
Many Visio drawings coming from PDF contain a large number of objects. This is especially true if you are trying to open a complex CAD drawing in Visio. You’ll need a well-equipped PC. Every file is different so it’s hard for us to make general recommendations. If you find that the file is slow to open or takes a while to refresh, you’ll need more memory. It’s not unusual for a converted PDF file to contain more than 50,000 individual objects. This may sound intimidating but pdf2picture makes quick work of it!
Ungroup and Ungroup Again
One of the top questions we get if from people who open the WMF or SVG file in Visio and don’t know to ungroup the page. When first opened, the diagram displays as one group to prevent unintended editing. To start working on the individual elements, ungroup per the steps above. This is the key step for using PDF successfully in Visio.
Regroup before Resizing
If you want to scale the drawing, always “regroup”. Do this by selecting Grouping, Group so that everything. Grouping makes one entity out of many and ensures that everything scales proportionally.
We have seen PDF files which contain hundreds of thousands of objects. These are not the norm and require a very capable system as well as a lot of patience when ungroupng. Regular success is high with less than 50,000 objects but when the count is much higher, it can hit a wall. If you have a file that won’t open or ungroup in Visio, please contact us to see if we can help.
Choosing an Import Format
If you use the Insert PDF add-in for Visio, your diagram will open in the native Visio format. But, if you use a stand-alone program like pdf2picture or PDF FLY, you’ll need to choose a format to hand-off to Visio. The best options are WMF, EMF, SVG and DWG. Depending on the type of diagram or drawing you have, WMF is almost always the best choice because it’s closest to the Visio format. The exceptions are CAD drawings with layers. Visio has special options for converting CAD objects and they may be useful for your files. Performance may take a hit because CAD files are usually larger than WMF files.
Ask for Free Advice
If you try to convert a PDF but are not getting the results you expect, ask us to troubleshoot it for you. It’s free and we are happy to help you achieve optimal results. Send the file you are having trouble with along with any comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. The most complete requests receive priority.
Contact Us About Converting PDF to Visio
Please let us know if you have questions or if you have problems finding the right steps for using PDF in Visio. We’re happy to help!
Download Tip Sheet: Using pdf2picture output (WMF) in Visio)
SVG in Visio is a versatile format for print and Web
Now, you can easily use SVG in Visio and other ps applications. Scalable Vector Graphics, the W3C and HTML5 standard (SVG) is one of the vector output formats in pdf2picture. Just select the PDF files you want to convert and choose SVG as the output format. The resulting file can be opened directly giving you an easy and accurate way to use SVG in Visio.
Using SVG in Visio is a perfect way to unlock PDF content.With the move to HTML5 applications, more and more programs are integrating internal SVG suppport. Visio is one of them. Now, you can convert any PDF file into SVG and open it in Visio in just a few steps which are outlined below. We are finding it to be a better choice that WMF for fonts support and text placement. Here’s how you do it:
The key steps:
1. Use pdf2picture to convert your PDF file to SVG
2. To open in Visio, choose Scalable Vector Graphics
3. Once in Visio, right click on the drawing and Ungroup (ignore any errors Visio may present). You may need to delete an exterior container and right click to ungroup again.
5. When fully ungrouped, you should see pink. Click anywhere outside the margins of the drawing and this will deselect all objects.
6. You are now ready to select and edit whatever you want, including the text.
Products for using PDF in Visio
If you want to edit the graphics in a PDF file in Microsoft Office or Visio, you’ll want to try pdf2picture. It operates in both vector and image mode and you can choose which is most appropriate at the time of conversion. Vector mode explodes the file into editable text and objects while image mode makes a high-fidelity copy of the file in an MS Office friendly format.
pdf2image is also available as a low cost option when you just need to use raster image formats. It is ideal for those who work on websites or printed publications like newsletters, brochures and customer bulletins.
To use the graphics produced by either pdf2image or pdf2picture in MS Office, you use Insert > Picture > From File… to add the converted graphics into your document. If you used vector mode (Windows Metafile WMF/EMF), you can now edit text and graphic elements using the Office drawing tools.
Note: Neither pdf2image or pdf2picture are for converting Word documents or reports heavy in text.
The software has been designed to be very easy to use and involves just a few simple steps:
- Select the PDF file you want to convert
- Change or customize settings by clicking on the Options button
- Change the name and location of the output file, if desired
Ungroup File to Access Objects and Text
- Group when working on the graphic as a whole. Move, resize, rotate
- Ungroup to work on a specific element or area of the graphic. Once done, regroup to ensure integrity
- Nest objects to make work on a complex drawing easier. When you ungroup the drawing the first time, nested groups remain grouped. In the example below, each color represents a nested object. Ungrouping one nested object for editing leaves the others safe from changes.
We’ve made a tip sheet on ungrouping files to modify objects and text in PDF files for each Microsoft Office application. Please download the ones that are of interest to you or visit the pdf2picture online tutorials.
pdf2picture converts PDF files into bitmap images as well as WMF, the native vector graphics format for Microsoft Windows. All of the Microsoft Office applications, including PowerPoint and Visio allow import of a variety of graphic types using “Insert, Picture from File”. Depending on the job, you’ll want to convert using either vector or image mode:
Vector Mode– If you want to edit text or modify the graphic, you’ll want to choose a vector format – either WMF or EMF. Once you have your scalable file, follow the instructions to insert it onto a slide as editable objects. If you notice any problems with the appearance of your text, please see our font troubleshooting tips for how to map them. The fonts defined in the original file may not be on the target system or have a slightly different name.
Image Mode – If you want a true replica of the original file and do not have a need to modify the information, then choose image mode (PNG, GIF, JPEG). It will create a smaller file with high-fidelity.
In pdf2picture, WMF or EMF should be chosen if any of the following are of primary importance:
- ability to magnify with losing sharpness
In the following case, image mode should be chosen when:
- No further editing is required
- Image will not be scaled up in size
- An absolutely identical match is required
- to lock or protect the information from editing or copying
After conversion, if you can not edit text, chances are that the text was already stored as graphics in the PDF original. It was probably converted to curves or plotted as pen strokes when the PDF file was created. It is no longer text, just vector curves that look like text. This often happens for example with PDF drawings are created from CAD, EDA or GIS applications as well as with print advertisements from a DTP-package to ensure font display accurately. Text is often converted to curves to ensure accurate print results and to protect against font incompatibilities. Once the text has been turned into curves, there is no way for pdf2picture to retrieve it as real text. If the text is still searchable in the PDF file, we can produce it as editable text in the conversion output.
Tip: To see if the text is searchable and convertable or not, open your PDF file in Acrobat Reader and try to “Select” some text. If you can mark it, you can convert it.
If the characters are converting but not displaying properly, you likely have a font mapping issue. To comply with the licensing regulations of font suppliers, our software can not embed fonts in the vector output formats. Instead, we reference the fonts by their names. If the fonts, with the same names, are on the target PC, the file will open and display perfectly. If the same fonts are not on the PC that opens the file, which is much more likely, the text will not display properly. To complicate things, often, one font may go by several different names. Arial Bold, for example, may be referenced as “EHJPKB+Arial-Bold” in the original file. This font may be normal Arial Bold but the target application does not know it unless you tell it. This is known as font mapping. If the font is not mapped correctly, the closest font will be substituted. In this example, “EHJPKB_Arial-Bold” must be mapped as “Arial” with font style “Bold”. In order to learn more, please read the Tech Note: Font Mapping
In case of SVG or EMF as output format we support kerning. Please contact us if you need more information how to configure thus. Turning this option on could improve the WYSIWYG of the text strings.
There are two important issues at play here.
First – make sure you choose the correct image format for your file type. If your PDF file is mostly text, you should choose GIF or PNG since they render images with few colors sharply. JPEG is better suited for photographic images which use many colors.
The second consideration is resolution or “dots per inch” (dpi). The resolution you choose determines the quality (and the size) of the output. Although a high resolution will yield a super-sharp image, it will also product a large file size which may impact performance. The rule of thumb is to use the lowest resolution which delivers the quality you need. Some guidelines are:
- For screen display (web or office) – use 96dpi.
- For images that will be printed on laser or inkjet printers – use 150 dpi
- For images that will be printed professionally – use 300 dpi
If you want to adjust the resolution, simply increase the dpi setting in the Options menu.
The font glyphs of the 13 standard PostScript fonts are included.
If you need to convert to an image format or the text to curves/polys (= emulate) in a vector format either the font must be one of the 13 standard fonts or the font should be embedded within the PDF or PostScript file. Contact email@example.com if you want to add font glyphs.
13 Standard PostScript fonts:
- The image formats used on web sites are JPEG (or JPG), PNG and GIF. JPEG is best for images with many colors such as photos. GIF is best for line art, illustrations and drawings with limited color. PNG is the most versatile and can be used quite broadly on web-sites.
- The image formats used in documents follow a similar rule. GIF, TIFF and PNG are best for images with fewer colors and JPEG is used for images with many colors such as photos. The best test is to use pdf2image to convert to a few different formats and then view them both on-screen and in print to see which gives you the desired result.
- It’s also important to determine what formats your application can import. If the program you want to use only accepts BMP, then you need to convert to this format, even if it produces larger files than PNG.
- If you are generating images for use on web sites, convert at 72 dpi (dots per inch) or 96 dpi. These settings match screen resolution pixel for pixel for the best match and sharpest display.
- For general office printing, choose 150 dpi. This will generate a crisp image with the smallest file size.
- For office publishing and high quality laser printing, choose 300 dpi. The files will be larger but the images will be very clear.
- For professional printing, choose 300 dpi – 1200 dpi. It’s best to ask your printer who will recommend the best resolution to match his equipment.