How to Copy Text from PDF on PC and Online

PDF is a standard format for sharing information across platforms and devices. Yet, one common frustration persists: the inability to easily extract text from these seemingly locked files.

Knowing how to efficiently copy text from PDF files is a valuable skill, whether you're a student needing to quote a passage for a research paper or a professional tasked with extracting key information from a report.

In this article, we delve into the various methods available to copy text from PDF documents with ease. From simple techniques built into popular software to advanced third-party applications, we explore step-by-step instructions to empower you to edit your PDF text.

Icecream PDF Editor

In need of a hassle-free and productive approach to extract text from a PDF? With the help of Icecream PDF Editor, copying text becomes a breeze. Featuring a user-friendly interface, it enables effortless text selection from all types of PDFs.

Look how to pull out text from PDF:

  1. Download and install the Icecream PDF Editor.
  2. Open the PDF file. Hit the "Edit" tab located on the top.
  3. Choose "Select" from the left toolbar.
  4. Utilizing this tool, simply press and move your cursor across the desired text to copy. The selected text will be highlighted automatically.
  5. Once you have picked all the needed text, tap "Edit" and select "Copy" or press "Ctrl+C" on your keyboard.

In case you experience any problems while copying content from a PDF, verify that the document is not encrypted or saved as an image. In these cases, copying text may not be possible.

Pros:

  • Features an intuitive interface that makes it easy for users to navigate and perform various tasks without a steep learning curve.
  • Free PDF editor for Windows offers a range of editing tools, including image and text addition, annotations, and highlighting, allowing users to make modifications to PDFs effortlessly.y
  • Enables users to merge multiple PDFs into a single document, providing flexibility in managing content.
  • Allows users to add password protection to PDF files, ensuring confidentiality and security when sharing sensitive documents.
  • Supports filling out interactive PDF forms, streamlining the process of completing them digitally.

Cons:

  • Lacks OCR (Optical Character Recognition) capabilities.

Adobe Acrobat Reader

Acrobat Reader is a widely used PDF software that allows users to view, edit, and share PDF documents. The option to copy and paste from a PDF is one of the functionalities of the program.

Check how to get text from PDF:

  1. Install the reader from its official website.
  2. Launch the app and open the PDF document from which you want to copy text.
  3. Select text from PDF. You can do this:
    • By clicking and dragging your cursor over the text.
    • By pressing once at the beginning of the text and then holding down the "Shift" key while tapping at the end of the page.
  4. Once you have selected the text, right-click on it and hit "Copy" from the drop-down menu. Another way to perform this action is by pressing the keyboard shortcut "Ctrl+C" (Windows) or "Command+C" (Mac).

Copying text from a scanned PDF in Acrobat requires additional steps because such files typically contain graphics instead of plain text. However, with its OCR feature, you can convert the scanned text into editable one and then copy it.

Here's how you can do it:

  1. Open the PDF.
  2. A notification bar may appear at the top of the document, prompting you to enable OCR.
  3. If not, navigate to "View" > "Show/Hide" > "Customize Toolbar" > "Scan/OCR" > "Recognize Text".
  4. After OCR is complete, you can now select the text you wish to copy.

Pros:

  • Offers built-in OCR, allowing users to extract text from scanned PDFs.
  • Has a "Copy with Formatting" option, minimizing the need for manual adjustments after copying.

Cons:

  • Encounter compatibility issues when copying text from PDFs with complex layouts or non-standard fonts.
  • Access to the OCR feature requires a subscription to the Pro version, which may not be feasible for users with limited budgets.

Google Drive

With its cloud-based storage platform, Google Drive enables users to store and share files online. It offers a convenient and efficient way to manage documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and other types of files. One of its useful features is the ability to grab text from PDF.

Here are the instructions:

  1. Commence by opening your Google Drive account and uploading the desired PDF.
  2. Once the file is uploaded, right-click on it and select "Open with Google Docs". This will convert the PDF into a Google Docs file.
  3. Click and drag to pick the text you want to copy. Alternatively, use keyboard shortcuts like "Ctrl + A" (Windows) or "Cmd + A" (Mac) to select all text.
  4. Right-click on the selected text and choose "Copy" from the context menu, or press the hotkey "Ctrl + C" (Windows) or "Cmd + C" (Mac).

Pros:

  • Widely accessible and can be used on various devices and platforms.
  • Facilitates collaboration by allowing multiple users to access and edit PDFs simultaneously.

Cons:

  • The necessity to change the PDF into a Google Docs document before text extraction.
  • Requires an internet connection for accessing and working with documents.
  • You need to have Google account.

Why can't I copy text from PDF?

There could be several reasons why you're unable to extract text from a PDF:

  • Document Restrictions. The file may have copy protection or security settings applied by the author or creator, preventing users from copying text.
  • Scanned Document. If the PDF contains images instead of editable text, you won't be able to copy text directly. Scanned files require OCR to convert the pictures into plain text before copying.
  • PDF Viewer Limitations. Certain PDF viewers have limitations on text copying functionality. Ensure you're using a capable PDF reader that supports text selection and copying.
  • Document Corruption. In rare cases, the document itself may be damaged, leading to issues with text copying. Try opening the PDF in a different viewer or repairing the file if possible.

FAQ

It's essential to remember to respect copyright laws when copying text from PDFs, ensuring that the information is used responsibly and ethically.

Can I copy images or tables from a PDF?
Yes, you can also extract images and tables using the same method as copying text (right-click or use Ctrl+C).
Is there a way to copy an entire page from a PDF?
Yes, you can use the "Select All" option (typically located in the "Edit" menu) to highlight and copy all of the content on a page.
What do I do if the copied text is garbled or jumbled up?
This could be due to compatibility issues between the font used in the PDF and your computer's system fonts. Try changing your settings or using a different program to copy and paste text from PDF.

How to copy text from PDF: conclusion

Throughout this guide, we've explored various methods and tools for extracting text from PDFs. These range from straightforward solutions built into basic viewers to complex solutions that provide OCR capabilities.

We've highlighted the importance of understanding document restrictions, dealing with scanned images, and selecting the right tools to ensure efficient and accurate text extraction.

By following our step-by-step instructions, readers can enhance their productivity and streamline their workflow when working with documents.

Rean Uehara

Expert Tech Writer

Rean is a tech enthusiast, digital marketer, operations specialist, and eCommerce coach who focuses on distributed teams. He began working remotely on web-related projects in 2010 and has never looked back. His articles published on Hongkiat, so his authoritative opinion on technology can be fully trusted.
4 min read
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