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Home / Blog / Free Methods to Copy and Paste Text from a PDF [2022 Newest]

Free Methods to Copy and Paste Text from a PDF [2022 Newest]

By Roche | Follow twitter | Updated on October 30, 2022 | Deutsch
Previously, copying text from PDFs and paste it to clipboard has been difficult due to the non-editability. Users find it annoying to deal with the misformatted selected PDF text because the original PDF contains complex interactive elements. Thus, it deserves to know how to copy and paste from a PDF. This article seeks to address such problem for easier editing.

As PDF has become a popular file format in both life and work, we need to more frequently copy text from a PDF like we do in a Word file. However, the seemingly easy PDF copy and paste is complicated sometime, particularly when we deal with scanned PDFs.

This post 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. 

SwifDoo PDF: An Easy Solution to PDF Copying

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 PDF 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 words from a 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.

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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 want to copy PDF text this way, you need to readjust the scattered formatting and the process may be time-consuming in some cases. That lays the foundation for the next part: why we need to learn how to copy text from PDF by saving the PDF as a Word file.

Copy text from PDF

Convert PDF to Word for Smooth Editing Experience

Converting PDF to editable Word is another preferable option to make a PDF copyable, as this method retains document integrity and keeps as much of the original formatting as possible. By converting document to editable file 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 PDF text. 

SwifDoo PDF converts PDF to Word to copy text from PDF

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. If your original PDF document is formatted in a right manner, the first method is the simplest one to copy text from PDFs.

Download for PC

How to Copy Text from PDF Images

Once your PDF is a scanned copy or image-only PDF, these approaches may fail you as the results are far from satisfactory. The converted file is neither editable nor copyable, therefore users cannot copy anything useful from this PDF.

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

Best OCR Software: How to OCR a PDF and Convert It into Text

Best OCR Software: How to OCR a PDF and Convert It into Text

OCR is used to recognize text within image-based PDFs. This post introduces several best OCR software to convert scanned PDFs to editable and searchable PDFs.


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.

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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.

Copy and Paste Text from PDFs Online

As browsers and online tools emerge to deal with common PDF-related needs, your demand for making a PDF copyable can be met without the registration and sign-in process. Let's take Google Chrome and Text Extractor to demonstrate how to copy words from PDFs online:

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;

Copy and paste from PDF in Chrome

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, ExtractPDF.com. 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 words from a PDF:

Text Extractor 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. 

How to extract and paste PDF text

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 Cause Failures in PDF Copying and Pasting

At times, users may face difficulty in copying text from PDF due to the way the document was saved; such as secured or encrypted PDF, or image-only. The following elaborates on methods to deal with these failures in copying and pasting from a PDF.

How to Copy Text from 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.

How to Copy Words from Secured PDF

At times, someone may send you a locked PDF file. Usually, the sender may have set certain editing permissions before sharing so that the recipients 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 protection. Distinguished from the above-mentioned SwifDoo PDF, iLovePDF is an online program that can copy text from a password-protected PDF.

How to copy text from a locked 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 make a PDF copyable is not that seemingly simple, especially when we work with scanned PDFs and password-protected PDFs. Hope this article has well resolved your problems related to PDF copying and pasting. 


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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