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WMF

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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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.

Send us a test PDF file to convert to Visio (Free)

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).

  1. Convert the PDF file to WMF, EMF or SVG using pdf2picture or the Insert PDF for Visio add-in. WMF and EMF usually provide the best results. If you are using the add-in, then skip to Step 3.

  2. 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 PDF file in Visio

  3. 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.

    Ungrouped PDF file is editable in Visio
    Select and change a Visio object

  4. 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.

Font Mapping

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.

Font Substitutes

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.

Performance

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 support@visual-integrity.com. 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)

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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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