There’s no shortage of free PDF readers, but software that will convert PDFs to other formats is much harder to come by. That’s why we’ve gathered together all the best free PDF converters in one place, picking only the most versatile.
- Need a new PDF reader? Check out our top recommendations
Most PDF readers have a few free conversion options thrown in as a bonus, but these are often very limited. For example, the otherwise superb Foxit Reader features a PDF-to-Word button in the top right of its interface, but this is in face a link to its online conversion tool. You can extract the text from PDFs and save it in TXT format, but the conversion options end there.
Similarly, Nitro PDF Reader enables you to extract images or save the words from a PDF as plain text, but the conversion options end there.
To convert PDFs into a variety of different formats (including Microsoft Word, JPG, PNG, HTML and EPUB), you need a dedicated tool. These are the best.
- We've also picked out the best paid-for PDF to Excel converters
With a huge range of supported file types, a smart interface, and optional batch conversion, Icecream PDF Converter is the best free PDF converter around.
Icecream PDF Converter can save PDFs in DOC, DOCX, JPG, PNG, or HTML format (among others), and can handle up to 10 pages at a time. You can divide a multi-page PDF into several documents rather than one large one, or convert just a few pages from a larger document (great for extracting only a specific chapter, for example).
Icecream PDF Converter also eliminates the need for a separate PDF printer driver for creating PDFs. It can convert files in any supported format, with optional password protection and customizable metadata, and the free edition lets you convert up to five documents in a single batch.
A lifetime license for the unlimited Pro version costs US$19.95 (about £15, AU$25), but the free edition will be more than enough for most home users.
PDFMate PDF Converter Free is another powerful PDF converter, with a slightly different feature set to Icecream PDF Converter. It looks great, borrowing its style from the premium edition, and is very easy to use.
PDFMate uses optical character recognition (OCR) to convert up the three scanned PDFs to editable text – ideal if you want to archive a handout from a meeting or conference, or need to archive receipts or bank statements.
PDFMate can also convert PDFs to images, plain text, HTML, DOCX, or EPUB format. You can only convert to DOC format if you upgrade to the Pro edition for US$39.95 (about £30, AU$50), but you can rearrange page elements so the converted files look good when printed (the default settings are tailored for standard US letter paper size).
Some of the more advanced features are exclusive to the premium edition too, but the free offering doesn’t skimp on options and is another excellent choice for home users.
DocuFreezer is free for non-commercial use, and is another solid option for converting common file types to and from PDF.
It’s not quite as feature-packed as Icecream PDF Conveter or PDFMate, but isn’t held back by restrictions on page and document counts. In fact, its batch processing tool can handle whole folders of documents or images at once.
DocuFreezer can save PDFs in popular image formats – JPG, PNG, and TIFF. The options don’t stop there, though – you can also convert text documents, spreadsheets, and presentations to JPG format so they look identical on any device, and are suitable for uploading to a website.
You can choose color settings for the converted files to ensure you don’t need to spend time tweaking them afterwards. You can also adjust the resolution of the image file, so you can be sure it’s high enough for printing, or low enough for sharing online – whatever your needs dictate.
As you can tell from the name, WPS PDF to Word will only turn your PDFs into DOC or DOCX files, but that's all you need if you want to edit them without the expense of a dedicated PDF editing tool.
Its conversions are excellent, preserving formatting and images almost perfectly. Your converted documents should only need a little tweaking in your preferred word processor to look just like the originals.
WPS PDF to Word is also capable of splitting and merging PDFs – extremely useful if you're working with large documents – and there's a great selection of customizable options, including how to treat OCR files.
The only drawback of the free version is the five-page limit. For larger tasks you'll need to upgrade to the full edition for US$29.95
We typically prefer desktop PDF software to online tools; they're faster, don't depend on a fast internet connection, and don't involve submitting your documents to a third party.
If you can look past these drawbacks, Free File Converter is a very convenient free conversion tool. It doesn't just accept PDFs; it can take pretty much any file you can throw at it and convert it to a more useful format.
It's handy if you need to convert a small PDF to an image file in a hurry, but because it's a jack of all trades, it's not so good with the more complicated task of converting PDFs to Word documents. You'll keep the text, but lose images and formatting.
It's a handy site to have bookmarked, but if you need to convert a lot of documents then there are better tools around.