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I have a PDF file that I need to use as a figure in a Word document. I can insert the PDF without problems, and I can export the document as a PDF from Word, retaining all details in the figure.

But if I save the document as standard .docx, close it, then later re-open it, the figure gets converted to a low-resolution bitmap image, and the vector data is permanently lost. This happens only with certain PDF figures, not all of them.

Is there a workaround? Does anyone know what property of the PDF is causing this to happen, so I can try to avoid it?

The behaviour is the same in Word 2011 and in Word 15.26 for Mac.


Note that Word for Windows works differently. This question is specifically about the Mac version. Linked objects are a Windows-specific feature and do not apply to the Mac version, which supports PDF directly, without the need for third party software such as Acrobat.


This is an example of a "bad" PDF file that triggers the problem (created for the purpose of demonstration). Steps to reproduce the problem: Create a new Word file, then drag and drop the PDF into it. It will render in high resolution, and it will be resizable. Now save the file, close it, and reopen it. Now it is rasterized at low resolution, and even worse, it has JPEG compression artefacts. Here's a screenshot:

enter image description here

  • How did you insert the PDF in the Word document. As picture, as object ? – Tonny Jul 20 '15 at 12:38
  • @Tonny Drag and drop, which I assumed to be the same as Insert -> Picture. I now tried both Insert -> Picture and Insert -> Object with the exact same result. What's the difference? – Szabolcs Jul 20 '15 at 12:42
  • Picture and object can be quite different, depending on the actual type of the inserted file. E.g.: On the Windows version of Word PDF is always object, not a picture. I don't have a Mac here. I see if I can reproduce the behavior later when I'm at home. – Tonny Jul 20 '15 at 14:07
  • @Tonny I strongly suspect that the Windows version is significantly different. PDF is sort of a native format for Macs as the OS X graphics API mirrors how PDF works. Even stuff copied to the clipboard is typically PDF (where it would be EMF on Windows). PDF has been natively supported by Mac Office for a long time. – Szabolcs Jul 20 '15 at 14:39
  • I'm well aware of that, but how the details work out exactly isn't something I will hazard a guess at without trying some things myself first. – Tonny Jul 20 '15 at 14:56

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