Quick and easy way to insert a PDF graph or diagram into a Microsoft Word Document without losing too much quality

I had to solve this one for my boss today, and thought I would make a quick post with the solution I found.

The Image Quality Problem

In our line of work, when we want to include a PDF in a Word document, 9 out of 10 times it is a diagram or a graph. Word does not take kindly to this (I’m using Word 2010, Your Mileage May Vary). The image quality of an imported PDF document is greatly reduced when inside a word document.

The solution I found is to print the PDF diagram to a PNG image, using the Bullzip PDF Printer, and then to insert the PNG image in the Word document. I’ll use a series of screen shots to illustrate the problem and the solution.

Below is a screenshot of the original PDF diagram. Isn’t it lovely?


Inserting the PDF directly

There are two ways of directly inserting this PDF in a Word Document. One is to simply drag and drop the PDF file onto Word, the other is to use Insert – Object. Whichever way you choose, the result has really low quality:


(In case you’re wondering, I took the above screenshot after printing the Word document to PDF, so that is the actual output quality.)

Converting the PDF to PNG before inserting it

If we first print the PDF to PNG and then import it to Word, the result looks like this:


Much better!

How to do it

First of all, download and install Bullzip PDF Printer from here. It’s excellent, and it’s free! After installation, it will show up as a printer on your machine.

Next, open the original PDF diagram in Acrobat Reader, and go to File – Print. On the Print dialog, set the Printer to Bullzip PDF Printer. Also set the Size Options as shown below, to avoid ending up with lots of white space around your diagram:


After hitting Print, the Bullzip PDF Printer – Create File dialog will pop up. Here the important thing to change is the Format, which we set to PNG:


You can also set the output File Name. After hitting Save, you are left with a *.PNG file at the location of your choosing. You can now simply drag and drop this image onto Word to have much higher image quality than the PDF would have given you. There you go!

The way it should be

All of this back of forth between Python (which I used to generate the plot), Acrobat Reader, Bullzip and Word makes me miss them good-ol’-days, when I was working on my thesis.

Back then, working on a Linux machine,  I had Python generate plots and export them to *.eps (Encapsulated PostScript) files, which could be linked directly into my LaTeX document for perfect output to a *.ps or *.pdf document. The greatest advantage of that approach is that updates to the plot can be pushed all the way to your final document by running a single script, with no manual PNG printing, changing of settings, or dragging and dropping. That really is the way it should be, especially when working with plots and diagrams that depend on data, which might change at the last minute.

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10 Responses to Quick and easy way to insert a PDF graph or diagram into a Microsoft Word Document without losing too much quality

  1. Jennifer Lloyd says:

    Thank you so much for that solution to inserting higher quality pdf documents into Word documents.

  2. Mac Guy says:

    This is to bad for the Windows version of MS Word, that it is not easier. 😦 I was searching for the best way to do this in windows hoping on letting my windows based colleagues know how to insert PDF vector based diagrams into Word.

    On my mac with MS Word for Mac 2011, a simple drag and drop of a PDF with a vector based diagram creates a vector based image in Word. Then printing the Word file to PDF creates a crystal clear vector image no matter how far you zoom in!

    If you have access to a mac with MS Word installed on it, I would suggest using it to import PDF diagrams.

  3. Sara Horrell says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! You’ve made a technical numpty very happy!!

  4. Your Face says:

    Amazing. Very important post. Microsoft word is a joke for not having this built in functionality already!

  5. Eric Brisson says:

    Thank you! So many Google results later, I found your article. Well it WORKS! You can then crop and resize the image and get a fine result. Thank you for taking the time to post this tip.

  6. cbourassa says:

    @Macguy, have you experienced the drag and drop of a pdf into 2011 word and only the first page transfers?

  7. SC Nancy says:

    This was a life saver. My husband’s head almost exploded trying to do this functionality. I agree with Your Face. What a joke trying to import a pdf into Word.

  8. Jill May says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’ve been spinning my wheels for hours. You’re a lifesaver.

  9. Stephen Phillips says:

    Adobe Reader (Free) and Adobe Acrobat Pro both have a built in tool to capture a selected area within your PDF to the Clipboard as a high resolution image. It is called the Snapshot Tool, and you can add this tool to your toolbar as a handy button. Right-click the toolbar at the top where all the button icons are (Reader/Acrobat) then Edit > Take Snapshot. This adds a button that looks like a camera with a marquee around it. To use simply click on the tool and draw a marquee around what you want to capture – the selection is then added to the Clipboard as an image.

    By default the quality is poor but you can set your preferred default resolution Edit > Preferences (Ctrl+K) > General – then tick ‘Use fixed resolution for Snapshot tool images’ and enter your preferred pixels/inch. Use 220ppi for Word as any pasted images over this threshold is compressed by Word (this default behavior is set in your Word Options and can be changed).

    This option is by far the best when it comes to quality as the Snapshot Tool reads the document itself and does not care what your monitor resolution or current zoom is. So basically the capture method is the same as using the Snipping Tool / Snagit; but not restricted to 110ppi as it is with these methods. It literally makes no difference how far you are zoom out when you capture the area.

    If you must have this capture as an image file you can paste the images from the clipboard into Microsoft Office Picture Manager (if you have it). Alternatively just paste into Word and then Right-click the image and choose Save as Picture.

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