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How to copy text from a PDF

Whether online or offline, there are several ways to copy text from PDF, each with its upsides and disadvantages.

pdf

Creating, editing, and copying documents is essential, especially for work, school, and business transactions. Without this functionality, too much time and effort will be wasted in re-typing and redoing what should be an easy task. 

Before copying any text, you must determine whether you’re allowed to make any changes to the document or copy text from PDF.

If it’s password-protected, enter the correct code, or contact the document owner if you’re having trouble.

With proper tools and some knowledge, you’d be able to copy text from PDF documents using different strategies, as discussed below. 

How to check PDF document access   

pdf element banner
Image: Wondershare

To ensure you’re not violating copyright issues, highlight the document you want to copy from and click “Document Properties.”

This action will direct you to the “Security” tab, where you can check if you’re allowed to print, copy, and perform other changes to the file. 

Focus on “Content Copying” and whether the succeeding phrases say “Allowed” or “Not Allowed.” If it says the latter, you won’t be able to proceed with the following steps.

If you’re allowed to duplicate the document content, you may proceed and copy text from PDF through the following: 

Option # 1: Using PDF reader

pdf
Image: Wondershare

You can use this application if copying only a portion of the document. For copying a section of the text, you may perform these steps: 

  • Access the PDF file through a PDF reader 
  • Click the mouse’s right button and pick “Select Tool
  • Drag to highlight the text or click the image you want to be duplicated
  • Click the right button once again and select “Copy” to send it to the clipboard  
  • Open the application where you want to copy it, then click “Paste

If you want to copy the entire file without spending too much time and effort, take these steps: 

  • Open the document using the program. 
  • Click “Edit” then “Copy File (To Clipboard)
  • Select “Copy” then “Paste” to another application 

Note that PDF readers mostly work on Windows operating systems. Hence, if you’re using Mac OS, it’s best to check the compatibility of the software.

Option #2: Using preview for Mac OS 

apple macbook pro 13 m2 on purple background
Image: KnowTechie

This program is built-in for Mac devices and perfect for users who want to view PDF documents or images.

Here’s how to access and copy text from PDF. 

  • Open the Applications folder and look for the Preview app to access the file 
  • Choose the text selection key on the upper left side of the screen
  • Click the mouse to select the text you want to copy
  • Duplicate the text by clicking “Edit” then “Copy
  • Open the application where you can paste and edit the text 
  • Paste the text from the PDF document into the new file

Option #3: Using third-party PDF tools 

Several third-party applications can be downloaded or accessed online to copy text from PDF. Some apps have limited features, while others have more comprehensive functionalities.

A few tools offer limited promotions, including a free trial e signature for users who sign up and download. These programs can be loosely classified into these categories. 

Online PDF reader

You may use your browser to access and copy text from PDF files. 

  • Right-click the file and select “Open With
  • Choose the browser from any of the options 
  • Select the text you want to be duplicated    
  • Use the “Copy” and “Paste” commands to complete the exercise 

Some available programs can help you not only with copying but in editing your PDF document. Watch this video to find out more:

PDF extractor 

Offline, a user can use pre-installed software to select texts and images from a PDF document that can be copied and used in other applications.

You may use this software if you plan to use the content in as many non-PDF applications as possible. These programs have varying user interfaces but are often intuitive to use.

Typically, a third-party app will require the user to:

  • Prepare the PDF document(s)
  • Open it on the software 
  • Select the text or image to copy 
  • Transfer the text duplicate to another app   
  • Follow the instructions on your screen (if applicable)

PDF converter 

This software enables users to convert any PDF document into a format that supports editing, copying, and printing. These tools are either available for online use or can be downloaded for offline usage.

PDF converters will often ask users to:   

  • Upload the PDF file to be converted
  • Choose the format output   

You may also copy text from PDF and later edit it by downloading a browser extension.

Option #4: Using the Snapshot tool 

To copy text from a PDF you don’t intend to edit, but rather convert to an image and use in other applications:

  • Click “Edit” then choose “Take a Snapshot
  • Using your mouse, click the area you want to duplicate and drag it
  • Release the button once you’re done
  • Press the “Escape” or “Esc” button to exit the screen and open another application
  • Click “Edit” then “Paste” to create another copy of the image

Doing the steps above is handy when you want to show a message or a section of the document you want to quote or highlight.  

Option #5: Using an OCR tool 

An Optical Character Recognition (OCR) tool works similarly to a converter.

It’s one of the easiest ways to copy text from PDF documents that need to be edited or scanned images such as an electronic signature, to be used in other file formats.

This is an attractive option if you want to convert any of your PDF files without messing with their integrity.

There are other third-party OCR software, free and paid tools that you can download. If using the former, users will have to:  

  • Open the PDF file and click “Edit PDF
  • Choose the text (or image) you want to be duplicated 
  • Click “Edit” then “Copy
  • Open the application you’ll use to edit the content 
  • Paste the text or image copied from the PDF file 
  • Select “File” then “Save As” to save the file    

Option #6: Using Google Drive 

google drive logo
Image: KnowTechie

Apart from online apps, you may also use Google Drive to copy text from PDF through these steps: 

  • Open the site on your browser
  • Choose “New” then Click “File Upload
  • On the new tab or window, click the PDF file name you want to convert
  • Click “Open
  • Right-click the uploaded PDF file
  • Choose “Open With” then click “Google Docs
  • Check whether the text in your PDF file was correctly uploaded and fix any errors
  • Select the text you want to copy 
  • Click “Copy” then “Paste” to another editable application

Conclusion 

Whether online or offline, there are several ways to copy text from PDF, each with its upsides and disadvantages. To choose which one works best, consider your requirements and needs.

An OCR tool or other built-in software may be utilized for texts and images that need to be preserved.

PDF files are beneficial; hence, if you’re planning to do more than copy the readers on the file, look for an application with more comprehensive features.    

Have any thoughts on this? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Chris has been blogging since the early days of the internet. He primarily focuses on topics related to tech, business, marketing, and pretty much anything else that revolves around tech. When he's not writing, you can find him noodling around on a guitar or cooking up a mean storm for friends and family.

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