PDF with outlined text data to Adobe InDesign – 3 steps

Converting PDF containing outline text to InDesign


Recovering content from a PDF file is never a straight forward process. PDF files can be created by any different software and there is no uniformity in the created PDFs. As an example, a InDesign generated PDF is not the same as a Canva generated PDF. Then there are PDF files that only contain scanned data. Finally, there are PDF files created digitally, but, the text are outlined. This article specifically addresses how to convert the contents of PDF files wherein the text are outlined.


When text is outlined, the text is converted to a series of vector paths. Thus, the original text is lost. When a PDF is created wherein the text is an outline, converting such a file using PDF2ID directly will yield vector paths in the resulting InDesign file (when text data is expected).

So the question, is how can we recover the text in such a case? There is no single software or solution that allows us to achieve what we want to. Rather, through the usage of 3 distinct pieces of software we can achieve about a 90% success rate when the 3 separate software are used properly . The 3 distinct pieces of software we are going to use are PDF2Assets, Acrobat DC and PDF2ID. Each software plays an important role.

Recovering outlined text as real text from a PDF to Adobe InDesign

We are directly specifying the steps below along with the role each software plays.

1. Convert every page in the PDF file to an image type such as JPEG or PNG.

The very first step is to convert each page of the PDF to a JPEG or PNG using the PDF2Assets application (this seems counter intuitive but it’s the most important first step). PDF2Assets is an application for batch extracting images and graphics assets from PDF files, but it also has the capability to convert every page in a PDF to a JPEG or PNG type. The image below depicts in detail the steps required in  –

Convert  PDF with outline text to images using PDFAssets
PDF2Assets is an application that batch extracts images and graphics from PDF files.

2. Gather the images from PDF2Assets and create a new PDF using Acrobat DC and perform an OCR on it.

The next step is to create a new PDF file using Acrobat DC by using the JPEG or PNG images that PDF2Assets created from Step #1 above (again, this seems counter-intuitive, but it serves a purpose).
Once we have a PDF that is filled with images, we can use the OCR functionality of Acrobat DC and create a highly accurate PDF containing the text data! The image below depicts the steps in Acrobat DC to do this –

Use Acrobat DC to perform an OCR
Acrobat DC has the capability to create text from image based PDF files.

3. Convert PDF with OCR data to InDesign using PDF2ID

Now that we have a PDF file with the OCR performed on it we can now use PDF2ID to convert the PDF file to InDesign type. Once the PDF is converted to InDesign type, we can either hide or delete the images layer as PDF2ID creates a layered InDesign file with the text and images in separate layers!

PDF2ID will convert the PDF file effectively to InDesign type
As PDF2ID creates layers, the InDesign file is extremely flexible.

We have now successfully been able to convert the PDF file to InDesign with live text!
You can further extract the graphics and images using PDF2ID from the original PDF file that contains outlined text and merge the contents and we have a perfectly working InDesign file.


Summing up, we have now have a solution in place when working with outlined text data in a PDF file. In this case we were able to solve the situation by combining PDF2Assets, Acrobat DC and PDF2ID in an effective and logical way!