Microsoft Doesn’t Have PDF Editor: Why?

Here’s why Microsoft doesn’t have a PDF editor:

Microsoft never formally explained why they haven’t launched a PDF editor, but it’s probably because they never deemed it to be a cost-effective solution.

Developing PDF editors is expensive, and it’s a saturated market.

Microsoft probably never saw large profit potential for undergoing the development process.

So if you want to learn all about the reasons why Microsoft didn’t launch a PDF editor, then this article is for you.

Let’s get right to it!

Microsoft Doesn't Have PDF Editor: Why? (All the Info)

Why Doesn’t Microsoft Have a PDF Editor? (3 Possibilities)

I can’t give you a perfect answer on this one.

Microsoft doesn’t have an official statement about why they don’t have a PDF editor.

So, we can go with a little bit of speculation, and I’ll take you through the most compelling arguments.

Before that, though, I think the best answer is actually the most obvious.

Microsoft doesn’t have a PDF editor because the company doesn’t need one.

Microsoft has absolutely dominated the PC market for decades.

It might not be the most popular operating system in the world anymore, but it’s still a vast and wildly successful tech company.

So, we can just look at the scoreboard.

Microsoft has done just fine without a PDF editor, and it’s unlikely that making such an editor would really have changed where the company is today.

Still, I promised you some speculation, and I don’t want to disappoint.

Perhaps the real reason that Microsoft never launched a PDF editor was to avoid additional antitrust regulations and rulings.

You see, Microsoft has been sued for being a monopoly more than once since it came into being.

I’m going to break down two of the most significant lawsuits in the company’s history below. 

But in general, Microsoft might have held back plans for a PDF editor to avoid being hit with even more antitrust actions.

Those procedures are expensive in the best cases, and losing them is devastating to a business model (Microsoft arguably lost over a billion dollars just from the two suits below).

It’s fair to say that Microsoft lost a lot of money over antitrust regulations and rulings.

They might have decided that more suits weren’t worth the potential earnings that would come from a PDF editor.

#1 Microsoft Corp. vs. Commission

The first lawsuit in question was between Microsoft and the European Union.

Lawsuits like this can get a little complicated, so I’m going to avoid going too deep into the legalese.

I’m instead going to focus on the main points of the suit and what happened because of it.

This suit actually started in 1993.

For those keeping track, the EU formed at the end of 1993, so yeah, this one is convoluted.

The first complaint happened when the U.S. company Novell accused Microsoft of unfair practices.

Basically, they were saying that Microsoft’s licensing model was effectively raising prices for Novell’s software.

It’s complicated, but Microsoft ultimately settled that suit.

In 1998, Sun Microsystems (the makers of Java) sued Microsoft to get them to disclose some of their interface mechanisms for Windows NT.

This second suit opened the doors for a formal EU investigation, and the previous suit with Novell was referenced by the EU commission.

To summarize a rather long story, the EU ultimately made a ruling in 2004.

They ordered Microsoft to stop bundling Windows with Windows Media Player, and they had to pay out $794 million in fines.

It was a big loss for Microsoft.

But, you might have noticed that none of these things are directly tied to PDF editing. Well, that’s where the speculation comes in.

Some think that Microsoft, after being sued by Sun Microsystems, was eager to avoid a similar complaint from Adobe (the leading maker of PDF-editing software).

So, they might have scrapped any plans they had for a native PDF editor to stay out of trouble.

It’s speculative, but considering the massive fines slapped on them by the EU, it’s at least an understandable train of thought.

#2 United States vs. Microsoft Corp.

The other major lawsuit we want to consider actually happened before the one you just read.

In 2001, the United States government went after Microsoft, accusing the company of being a monopoly.

There was a lot involved in this one too, but the essence of the argument was that by bundling Internet Explorer with Windows, Microsoft was effectively creating a software monopoly.

I’m going to skip the deeper arguments because they’re pretty hard to follow, and they don’t actually matter that much for our discussion today.

Regardless of how you feel about the suit, the courts ultimately found Microsoft guilty of being a monopoly.

The company was broken into two entities.

One handled Windows, and the other company handled everything else.

It has remained that way since (although the Microsoft business model continues to grow more complicated over time).

Once again, you might notice that there was no mention of PDF in this lawsuit.

It wasn’t an issue, and that’s because as of the time of the lawsuit, Microsoft had never formally released a dedicated PDF editor.

That means we’re back in the land of speculation, and the gist of it is the same.

Microsoft was already broken up for being a monopoly.

If they continued to expand into other software domains, they might face additional suits and additional unfavorable rulings.

Making a PDF editor probably wasn’t worth the risk—especially since Adobe already had such a huge market share for PDF software.

#3 Partnership With Adobe

That brings us to the final speculation.

It’s entirely possible that Microsoft avoided PDFs specifically to be nice with Adobe.

The two companies formally announced a partnership in 2016, but there were many talks of other partnerships long before that.

In this speculation, Microsoft didn’t avoid PDFs because they were afraid of a lawsuit with Adobe.

Instead, they saw Adobe as a partner or a potential partner, so cutting into such an important aspect of their business model would be too alienating and kill any collaboration.

Doesn’t Microsoft Have PDF Editing Though?

I just spent all of that time explaining why Microsoft doesn’t have a PDF editor, but now we need to backtrack.

Is that really the case?

Microsoft makes a lot of things, and their various software packages have innumerable features.

Are we really sure that absolutely none of those features can edit a PDF?

In a direct sense, Microsoft does not have a dedicated PDF editor.

There is no Microsoft analog to something like Adobe Acrobat.

Microsoft makes it very easy to read PDFs.

If you download one, it will open by default with your browser (usually Microsoft Edge these days), but you can’t edit the PDFs in that setup.

On top of that, you can’t exactly open a PDF with Word in order to type whatever you want to update it.

So, it’s fair to say that Microsoft really doesn’t have a PDF editor.

But like I just said, Microsoft software includes an absolute ton of features.

If you know the right features, you can find a workaround to effectively edit a PDF using nothing but Microsoft tools.

Contrary to what I just said, you actually can use Word for this.

I’ll walk you through the whole thing in the next section.

Editing PDFs With Office

As I was saying, you actually can edit PDFs with Office, but it’s indirect.

I’ll walk you through the process, and then you’ll see that Microsoft has had effective workarounds for PDF editing for many years.

They probably never felt the need to make a direct PDF editor for the reasons above and because so many of their customers were satisfied with workarounds.

Here’s how the process works.

You can make any document you want with any of the Office products.

You can use Excel to make spreadsheets, Word to make text documents, and so on.

Each of these software tools is capable of saving your work as a PDF.

So, you can create PDFs with Office, and it’s very easy.

All you have to do is choose PDF as the format when you save the document.

In that sense, you’re editing PDFs by creating them.

But, that might not be satisfying.

You might need to edit a PDF that already exists.

Well, you can do that too with the workaround.

The various software items in Office are able to convert PDFs into editable files.

You’ll want to choose the right program (Excel for spreadsheets, etc.).

Once you do, you can open the PDF, and your software tools will convert it accordingly.

So, let’s say you have a letter written in PDF that you want to edit.

You can open that PDF in Word, and it will be converted into a Word document.

Once that is done, you can edit the PDF however you see fit.

Once you finish your editing, you can save the document as a PDF again.

There are clearly extra steps, but you can see how this ultimately gets the job done, and this workaround has existed with Microsoft for a decade or more.

They really don’t need a PDF editor on top of this—especially when you consider how saturated the market is for PDF editors these days.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.

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