How to Embed a PDF File in Excel

By Heather Wilkins

Data sets in Excel carry more meaning when the reader can see supporting documentation, such as reference material or a presentation about what the data means. You can provide that documentation by embedding a PDF file into your spreadsheet. The reader can then open and view it and, in some cases, make changes to it.

Embed a Static File

To embed a PDF file into your Excel worksheet, click the cell in which you'd like the top left corner of the PDF to appear. On the Insert tab, click the "Object" button, then select "Adobe Acrobat Document" from the the Create New tab. Browse to and select the PDF you want to embed. The first page of the file appears in the worksheet, and you can resize it using the resizing handles on its box. If you would rather have only a PDF icon show up on the spreadsheet, click the "Display as Icon" check box in the Object box before selecting the PDF file.

Embed a Changing File

If you are going to be making changes to the PDF file and you want your reader to have the most up-do-date version, the embedding process is a little different. On the Insert tab, click the "Object" button, then from the Create from File tab, click the "Link to File" check box. After you browse to and select your file, it is embedded and displays as a Adobe Acrobat icon with the filename. Double-click the icon to open the most recent version of the PDF file.

Make Changes to an Embedded File

If you want your reader to be able to change the file and have those changes reflected in the the Excel file's embedded PDF, use the process for embedding a static file. The reader can open the file, make changes and save it, either with a new filename or the same one. (Using a new filename can help you keep your files organized.) The Excel worksheet will open the new PDF file.If you follow the process for embedding a changing file, your reader can open the file, make changes and save it under a different filename or the same one. However, the Excel worksheet will still open the original document instead of the changed one.

File Size

When deciding how to embed your PDF, take the resulting file size into consideration. Embedding the PDF with a visual of its first page is like attaching the whole PDF to the worksheet. However, embedding the PDF with an icon or creating a link to the PDF has a much smaller size penalty, adding only about 5KB to the file size.