How to Edit a Scanned Document

Scanning documents is a great way to cut down on your physical document storage, but if you scan the document as an image you may be wondering how to edit it. With the right software, you can convert any scanned document into a format that is compatible with any word processor. Read this guide to find out how.


  1. Image titled Edit a Scanned Document Step 1
    Scan your document. Prepare to scan the document by smoothing out any creases in the paper and erasing stray marks. If it's very old or in bad shape, the scanner may have difficulty capturing the text in a readable state. Scan the document in any of the major formats, including PDF, JPG, or TIFF.
    • Newer scanners may come with software that will automatically convert the document into an editable format.[1]
    • If you have Office 2003 or 2007 installed, use the Microsoft Office Document Scanning program to perform the scan. This program will convert the text as it scans. The program is not available in newer versions of Office.
    • The TIFF format will give you the most success when using an OCR conversion program.
    • Scan in black and white if possible. Scanning in black and white will make it much easier for the OCR program to convert the document. Only color scan if you absolutely need any images on the document.[2]
  2. Image titled Edit a Scanned Document Step 2
    Install an OCR program. OCR (Optical Character Recognition) programs attempt to match characters from an image with characters in their databases. They then reconstruct the document into a format that is editable in any word processor.
    • There are several free and paid OCR programs available online. There are also websites that perform OCR functions for small files.
    • Adobe Acrobat has OCR built-in, as does Evernote.
    • Depending on the quality of the scan, you may encounter several errors after converting.
    • OCR programs will often not maintain the formatting of the original document, instead only returning the test in plain-text format.
  3. Image titled Edit a Scanned Document Step 3
    Open the scanned document in your OCR program. The process varies depending on which program you are using, but generally you just need to open the file and the program will convert it for you, and then save the results as a new text file.
    • Most OCR programs let you choose which format to output the converted to. Choose a format that works with your preferred word processor.[3]
  4. Image titled Edit a Scanned Document Step 4
    Remove the formatting codes from your document if they present a problem. For instance, if the document was slightly askew when it was copied, the OCR program may have inserted numerous changes in tab settings, line spacing, and fonts. You can remove the codes by using a simple word processor such as Notepad that doesn't recognize the formatting codes, or by cutting and pasting the document without the codes.
  5. Image titled Edit a Scanned Document Step 5
    Edit your new document. Once you have finished processing the scanned document with an OCR program, open it in your preferred word processor and begin making corrections. There will likely be several spots that were converted incorrectly, so you may have multiple changes to make to spelling and formatting.
    • Use spellcheck to quickly find errors that occurred in the conversion process. You will still need to search for formatting errors and words that are considered spelled correctly but are actually incorrect.


  • If your computer or software bundle doesn't come with an OCR program and you don't want to purchase additional software, you can find freeware or shareware OCR programs online. An OCR program may be available on your printer.

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