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 raster PDF (scanned drawing) – jagged and grainy at 500% – you need raster-to-vector software to trace or recreate this or you’ll need to manually redraw it.

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.

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Open and Ungroup PDF files in Visio

To edit PDF drawings in Visio, you can choose between Insert PDF, a handy Visio add-in, or one of our desktop programs, pdf2picture or PDF FLY. The desktop apps will give you more advanced control over conversion options while Insert PDF will quickly open the PDF file, ready to edit, right on a Visio page.

Both pdf2picture and PDF FLY can create files that Visio can import using the native Windows vector graphic format (WMF). It’s also possible for Visio to open DXF  and SVG files generated by Visual Integrity’s programs although we find that WMF yields the best results in most instances.

Steps for using PDF in Visio.

Perform the following steps for using PDF in Visio. Screenshots are based on pdf2picture. Skip Step 1 if using the Insert PDF add-in.

1.    Open the file using one of the methods below:

  • Choose Open, File and then select File Type:  Windows Metafile from the drop-down menu. It’s the last choice at the bottom of the “File Types” drop-down. Once you see your file on-screen, you are ready to move to Step #2.
  • Alternatively, if you want to import the file into an existing document or presentation, open that file and select Insert Picture…., From File and choose the file from your hard drive or network file system

2.    You should now see the converted drawing on your screen. Important! The drawing is imported as one grouped object and needs to be ungrouped if you wish to edit, remove or add parts of the drawing. To Ungroup your drawing, right-click and select Grouping, Ungroup.

3.    When ungrouped, Visio will highlight every individual object in pink. In order to deselect everything, you need to click anywhere on the page outside of the drawing boundaries.

4.    Once the drawing is ungrouped and the objects are deselected, you may select whatever you want to change and it will appear with editing handles.

Tips for using PDF in Visio

TIP! If you want to scale the drawing, make sure you “regroup” it by selecting Grouping, Group so that everything is scaled proportionately.

Contact Us if you have problems. The best way to get help is to send the file you are having trouble with along with any comments to We’re happy to help!

Download Tip Sheet: Using pdf2picture output (WMF) in Visio)

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WMF files can be created in several ways on Microsoft Windows systems:

  • Most applications support WMF and/or EMF in their Save As or Export menus.
  • Ever since Office 2003, you can select graphics, in an application right-click on them, choose Save as Picture… and then select Windows  Enhanced Metafile.
  • In earlier Office versions, you could copy graphics to the clipboard and use VBA routines to save them as WMF or EMF disk files.
  • If you are a software developer, you can feed your GDI display or print code directly to the META FLY library or save them as WMF or EMF files first.

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There are two basic formats for graphics – vector and image. Vector graphics are made up of objects, lines, curves and text while images are made up of a collection of dots or pixels. Images are also referred to as bitmaps or rasters.

Visual Integrity can convert most PDF files into either vector or image formats. It’s important to know which is best for the job you are doing.

If you need to break a PDF file down into objects and text for editing, then you want to choose a vector format. The vector formats supported in our software are DXF, PDF, PS, EPS, SVG, WMF, EMF, CGM, HPGL and MIF.

If you do not need to edit the file and simply want a sharp copy to insert into a document or to publish on a web-site, you’ll want to go with image formats. The image formats that we support are TIFF, GIF, PNG, JPEG and BMP. If you will be printing the graphic on a laser or ink-jet printer, convert at 150 or 300 dpi (dots per inch) resolution. If publishing to a web-site, use 96 or 72 dpi is best for screen display. Keep in mind that the higher the dpi (resolution), the larger the file size. It’s best to use the lowest resolution which achieves the level of quality you want.

Note! Scanned images can not be transformed by vector mode into lines, text and other vector objects because they are not vector source files. Instead, you will get an exact replica of the PDF as an image that can be used as a tracing layer which aids in the duplication effort. To convert scanned images into vector objects, you need a special class of software called “raster to vector”.

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