By Megon VenterFri. 10 Nov. 20233min Read

How to Copy Text from a PDF

Discover useful tips on how to copy text from a PDF on both your Windows and Mac operating systems.
How to Copy Text from a PDF

Extracting text from a PDF isn't always as straightforward as it is with plain text documents. This complete guide delves into the art of copying text from a PDF for the average user, exploring best practices for a seamless process, highlighting the benefits of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) tools, and addressing frequently asked questions.

Megon Venter
B2B SaaS Content Writer
Megon is a B2B SaaS Content Writer with 7 years of experience in content strategy and execution. Her expertise lies in the creation of document management tutorials and product comparisons.

How to Copy Text from a PDF on Windows

Use our powerful PDF editor to copy different texts from PDFs and turn it into an editable document on your Windows operating system.

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Method 1

Step 1: Open Your PDF File

Image Source: PDF Reader Pro

Step 2: Highlight Text

Use your mouse button to drag and highlight text. 

Image Source: PDF Reader Pro

Step 3: Right-Click on Text

Click the content copying option from the list of options. 

Method 2

Step 1: Use our Powerful OCR Function

Step 2: Select the Pages You Want to Copy Text From

Click OCR to extract the text from these pages. 

Image Source: PDF Reader Pro

Step 3: Click "Copy" or Export as Other

Copy your text to use in another document or export it as a text file or PDF. 

You can also check our recommendations on What is Copy Editing?


How to Copy Text from a PDF on Mac

Copy text from all kinds of PDFs, even PDF image files, using PDF Reader Pro on your Mac operating system. 

Method 1

Step 1: Open Your PDF File

Drag your document into the drop zone or click "Open File"

Image Source: PDF Reader Pro

Step 2: Click and Drag Over Text

Drag your cursor over the text you want to copy to highlight it.

Image Source: PDF Reader Pro

Step 3: Copy the Text

Right-click and select copy to use the clipboard. 

Image Source: PDF Reader Pro

Method 2

Step 1: Use the OCR Function

Click OCR on the menu bar to extract text.

Image Source: PDF Reader Pro

Step 2: Select the Pages to Extract

Choose the current page or entire document and click "OCR".

Image Source: PDF Reader Pro

Step 3: Save Your New File

Click the copying button or select an output option like a PDF or text document. 

Image Source: PDF Reader Pro

"With PDF Reader Pro, the ability to convert, edit, and sign PDFs has never been more accessible and user-friendly."
Johan Müller
B2B SaaS Content Writer
Source: LinkedIn

You can also check our recommendations on How to Make a Copy of a Word Document.

Best Practices: Copy Text from a PDF

Copying text from a PDF document may seem simple, but to ensure accuracy and maintain formatting, here are some best practices to follow:

1. Use Select Text Mode: Most PDF file readers offer a "Select Text" mode. Activate this mode to easily select and copy text. Ensure that the text you need is highlighted before copying.

2. Select Desired Text: Carefully select the specific text you want to copy. To copy a single word, double-click on it. For a sentence or paragraph, click and drag to select the text. 

3. Verify Text Flow: After content copying, paste the text into a text editor or word processing software to verify that it flows correctly and is free of any unexpected characters or formatting issues.

4. Enable OCR for Scanned PDFs: Scanned PDFs, which are essentially images, require Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to convert the images into selectable and copyable text. Use OCR software or online tools for this purpose.

5. OCR Language Settings: When using OCR, ensure that you select the correct language for the text. OCR software is language-specific, and selecting the right language improves accuracy, especially on PDF image files.

6. Retain Formatting: When copying text, you may lose some formatting. To retain formatting, consider using specialized PDF-to-Word conversion tools that can maintain the original layout.

7. Secure PDFs: If you encounter a secured or password-protected PDF, you'll need to enter the password to access and copy the text. Always respect copyright and access permissions.

8. Document Integrity: Remember that some PDFs contain scanned images of text rather than selectable text. In such cases, OCR is essential to extract the content.

9. Check for Hyperlinks: Be aware that copying text may or may not include hyperlinks. Some PDF readers and editors may not copy hyperlinks with the text.


Benefits of the OCR Tool

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) tools are indispensable when dealing with scanned or image-based PDFs and for batch processing files. Here are the key benefits of using OCR for text extraction:

"Harnessing the power of PDF Reader Pro's OCR technology has turned hours of work into minutes, revolutionizing the way we handle documents."
Theodore Cipolla
B2B SaaS Content Marketer
Source: LinkedIn

  1. Image File to Text Conversion: OCR technology transforms scanned images, handwritten text, or printed text in images into machine-readable text. This makes it possible to copy and edit the content.

  2. Preserves Document Structure: OCR software aims to retain the document's structure, layout, and formatting, ensuring that the extracted text mirrors the original file format.

  3. Searchable Text: Once OCR, our built-in tool, is applied, the text becomes searchable, allowing users to find specific words or phrases within an array of PDF files.

  4. Accessibility: OCR makes content accessible to individuals who use screen readers, improving the accessibility of scanned documents through different output formats.

  5. Multilingual Support: Many OCR tools support multiple languages, making it possible to extract text from document files in various languages accurately.

  6. Bulk Text Extraction: OCR software can process large batches of documents, making it an efficient solution for businesses and organizations dealing with extensive archives.

You can also check our advice on How to Copy and Paste from a PDF.

How to Copy Text from a PDF: FAQs

While we hope you find all the accurate solutions you need in our detailed guide, our FAQ section has more information about security restrictions and more. 


Can I Copy Text from Any PDF File?

You can copy text from most PDFs, especially those with selectable text. However, for scanned or image-based PDFs, you'll need OCR tools to convert the text into a copyable format and you will need to be mindful of password restrictions. 


How Do I Enable OCR?

The built-in tool, OCR, can be enabled through OCR software or online converter services. Some PDF editors, like PDF Reader Pro or Adobe Acrobat, also have built-in OCR functionality. You can also use our batch conversion feature.


What if I Encounter a Password-Protected PDF?

Password-protected PDFs require you to enter the password to access and copy the text. Ensure you have the necessary permissions to access the document with our PDF software.


Does Copying Text Affect Copyright?

Copying text from a PDF for personal use or research purposes typically doesn't violate copyright. However, if you intend to redistribute or publish the text from the file editor, you must respect copyright laws. Ensure you use caution when using online editor tools. 


Why Do I Lose Formatting When Copying Text?

When copying from an individual file, formatting may be lost because PDFs aren't primarily designed for adjustment through editing software. To preserve formatting, consider converting the PDF to a Word document.


Do OCR Tools Work for Handwritten Text?

OCR tools are primarily designed for printed text, and their accuracy with handwritten text can vary. For handwritten text, specialized OCR PDF software may be more suitable.


By mastering the art of copying text from a PDF and understanding the benefits of OCR tools, you can efficiently extract content from PDFs, whether they contain digitally created text or scanned images. These skills are invaluable for research, education, and business, enabling you to work with PDF content in a flexible and convenient manner.

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