Previously, copying text from PDFs to Word or any other type of document has been difficult. Users have found it annoying to deal with the misformatted selected text because the text is useless and cannot meet basic editing needs. This article seeks to address how to copy text from PDF for easier editing.

Copying Text from PDFs with Desktop PDF Programs

This section will mainly talk about how to copy and paste from a PDF on Windows and macOS, by using SwifDoo PDF and Mac's Preview respectively. 

How to Copy Text from PDF on Windows

SwifDoo PDF

As a versatile desktop PDF program, SwifDoo PDF is both an eligible PDF editor and converter on Windows 7 to 11. If you need to copy text from a PDF document and paste it anywhere, there are usually two methods to achieve this goal, i.e. directly copying text and converting the PDF into an editable format.

Copy Text

For those whose work involves a large number of PDFs every day, a desktop PDF program can greatly improve working efficiency and productivity. The basic feature of a professional PDF tool includes directly copying text from a PDF document, and SwifDoo PDF is no exception. Here’s how to copy text from PDF:

Step 1: Download SwifDoo PDF from the official website, and install the program on your device;

Step 2: Launch the software and upload the PDF document as needed;

Step 3: Place your cursor at the place where you want to copy;

Step 4: Drag over an area to select the content, and use the shortcut key Ctrl +C or right-click the selected text and choose Copy Selected Content.

                                                                            Free Download

However, if you attempt to directly copy and paste from a PDF, the problem of formatting remains. As the following image shows, the indent of the left picture is different from that of the right one. If you are required to copy text from a PDF, you may need to readjust the scattered formatting and the process is time-consuming. That’s why we need to learn how to copy text from PDF to Word conversion.conversion-result-comparison


Converting text is a preferable option while editing, as it retains document integrity and keeps as much of the original formatting as possible. By converting text rather than copying, users don’t have to be concerned with misformatting and misused fonts. Let’s look at how to copy and paste from a PDF utilizing the SwifDoo PDF converter:

Step 1: Launch the PDF program and click PDF to Word;

Step 2: Add your PDF document to the workplace;

Step 3: Confirm the output path and choose Start;

Step 4: Open the converted Word file and start copying text. swifdoo-pdf-converter

Though converting a PDF document into an editable PDF is a feasible solution, it is not the most straightforward method to copy and paste text from a PDF. On top of this, when your PDF is a scanned copy or image-only PDF, this approach may fail you as the conversion result is not editable and copiable, therefore users cannot copy text from this PDF.

When you need to copy and paste text from an image-only PDF, the only workaround is OCR. Learn what OCR is and how to apply OCR:

How to OCR PDF and Convert It into Text

How to OCR PDF and Convert It into Text

The only way to recognize text in scanned PDFs is to utilize OCR technology. This post will list several OCR tools to convert PDF to editable text.


Another case is, when users need to copy text from secured PDFs, it depends on the type of password. If this PDF is safeguarded by an open password, there is no way around it but to enter the password when copying the text. In case this PDF file is under the protection of a permission password, SwifDoo PDF is the PDF editor you ought to utilize. Just open the secured PDF in SwifDoo PDF and click "Password Removal" to remove the permission password from the PDF, then copy and paste it from the PDF.

How to Copy Text from PDFs on Mac

For Mac users, you don’t need to rely on any additional software to copy text. Apple’s built-in word processor and PDF viewer have it all and fulfill your needs for copying and pasting from a PDF to plain text, emails, or other documents.

Step 1: Open your PDF file with Preview;

Step 2: Click Text Selection in the tab Choose Text;

Step 3: Navigate to the text where you need to copy, and left-click the mouse to select the text;

Step 4: Choose Edit to select Copy.

If you need to save a part of the page as a separate image, Preview can help with that as well:

Step 1: Choose Tools to select Rectangular Selection;

Step 2: Use your cursor to drag over an area on the page;

Step 3: Click Copy in the Edit menu.

Copying Text from PDFs with Online Tools

Google Chrome

An Internet browser not only allows you to search for something but can help you view a PDF document. Let’s take Google Chrome for example as it has the biggest share in the market. Here's how to copy and paste on Mac:

Step 1: Right-click the PDF file to choose Open with;

Step 2: Select Google Chrome to open the PDF;

Step 3: Navigate to the word or phrase you need to copy and left-click your mouse;

Step 4: Click Ctrl + C or right-click the selected text to choose Copy.

Text Extractor

Thanks to the rapid development of technology, we can choose some professional online PDF text extractors to export your PDF as pure text, and copy and paste from a PDF, for instance, This online program is not only a text extractor, it can extract graphs, fonts, and charts within a PDF. What impresses me is this tool requires no registration and payment. Take a look at how to copy text from PDF:


Step 1: Type the URL on any browser;

Step 2: Upload a PDF file from the local computer or enter the URL of the PDF;

Step 3: Click Start to extract the text within the PDF file;

Step 4: Choose Text to copy the text from the current PDF. 


Tips: This powerful text extractor enables you to copy images, fonts, and metadata in this PDF document. However, the biggest disadvantage of this application is its file size limit of 25 MB.

Reasons That May Cause Failures in Copying Text

At times, users may face difficulty in copying text from PDF due to the way the document has been saved; such as secured or encrypted PDF, or image-only. The following details methods to deal with these situations.

Image-only PDF

First things first, what is scanned PDF or image-only PDF? This type of PDF is often created by scanning physical paper documents or converting camera photos to PDF without the use of OCR technology.

The content is completely locked within an image and has no underlying text layer. Simply put, this document only contains the scanned image and is not searchable and editable. The only solution to copy text from a scanned PDF is to perform OCR.

OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition, which is to recognize text by converting images of typed or printed text into machine-encoded text. In this way, you can copy text from scanned PDF. PDF applications like SwifDoo PDF, Foxit PDF, and Nitro PDF, provide good-quality OCR results.

Secured PDF

At times, someone may send you a PDF file and you find it un-editable. Usually, this is because the sender may have set certain editing permissions for the current file so that you are unable to edit or copy any text from secured PDFs. Many developers have noticed this trend and have provided an “Unlock PDF” feature to remove PDF password security and permissions. Distinguished from the above-mentioned SwifDoo PDF, iLovePDF is an online program that can copy text from a secured PDF.


Step 1: Enter iLovePDF’s URL on the search bar and click Unlock PDF;

Step 2: Upload the secured PDF and choose Unlock;

Step 3: Select Download unlocked PDFs and the password protection is successfully removed.

Now, you can copy and paste from secured PDFs easily.

Wrapping Up

Traditionally, we may reckon it is the same easy to copy and paste from a PDF as we usually do in MS Office products. The truth is, due to the types of PDFs, how to copy text from PDF is not that simple, especially when we work with scanned PDFs and password-protected PDFs. Hope this article has well resolved your problems related to copying and pasting from PDF documents. 

Common FAQ about Free Methods to Copy Text from PDFs and and Paste It

Q:How do I copy text from a picture?

It was almost impossible to copy text from a picture in the past. However, now there is a professional PDF program that can help. Take SwifDoo PDF for example:

Step 1: Download SwifDoo PDF and install;

Step 2: Launch the program and drag the picture to the operation panel;

Step 3: Click Image to PDF under Convert;

Step 4: Once completed, open the new file;

Step 5: Click Recognize Document to make the current document editable.

However, this solution applies to images with less complicated formatting, such as forms. 



Roche has been an active PDF user for 6 years and tried different types of professional PDF tools (both online and desktop version) since at his bachelor degree. Now, Roche works as a columnist for SwifDoo PDF over the course of the last one year, and provides useful and practical solutions pertaining to various PDF topics for users from different features.

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