How to copy text from an Adobe PDF file

Updated: 08/08/2017 by Computer Hope

PDFFrom time to time, users need to copy text from an Adobe PDF. The following sections contain step by step instructions on how to do so based on the program you're using and its version. To proceed, select the link that applies to you from the below list.

Warning: Not all browsers and online readers support copying text from a PDF. Most of the time, you'll only be able to select certain portions of the PDF or none at all. We suggest downloading the file and opening it in the Adobe Reader program for best results.

Online PDF reader

  1. Open the PDF in your online reader or Internet browser by clicking the link to the file.
  2. Select the text you want to copy by holding down the left mouse button and dragging across the text. Again, this may not work in many online programs.
  3. Press and hold the Ctrl key and the C key on your keyboard. You can also right-click with your mouse and select Copy in the drop-down menu.
  4. Open a word processor or text editing program.
  5. Paste the copied text into a word processor or other text editor by pressing and holding the Ctrl key and the V key on your keyboard. You can also right-click with your mouse and selecting Paste in the drop-down menu that appears.

Copying text in Adobe Reader DC

Secured PDFNote: Before trying the steps below look at the top title bar. If the document says (SECURED) as shown in the picture to the right the PDF file it is copy protected and will prevent you from copying the text following the steps below. See our copying text from a secured PDF section for steps on how to bypass the PDF security.

  1. Open the PDF in your online reader or Internet browser by clicking the link to the file.
  2. Select the text you want to copy by holding down the left mouse button and dragging across the text. Again, this may not work in many online programs.
  3. Press and hold the Ctrl key and the C key on your keyboard. You can also right-click with your mouse and select Copy in the drop-down menu.
  4. Open a word processor or text editing program.
  5. Paste the copied text into a word processor or other text editor by pressing and holding the Ctrl key and the V key on your keyboard. You can also right-click with your mouse and selecting Paste in the drop-down menu that appears.

Adobe Reader X or later

  1. If you've opened the PDF in your Internet browser, hover your mouse cursor over the open document to look for an option to download it.
  2. Once you've downloaded the file, open it in Adobe Reader.
  3. In the opened PDF document, right-click with your mouse and select the Select Tool option in the pop-up menu (it has a check mark to the left of the option when selected).
Select Tool option in Adobe Reader

  1. Select the text you want to copy by holding down the left mouse button and dragging across the text.
  2. Press and hold the Ctrl key and the C key on your keyboard. You can also right-click with your mouse and select Copy in the drop-down menu.
  3. Open a word processor or text editing program.
  4. Paste the copied text into a word processor or other text editor by pressing and holding the Ctrl key and the V key on your keyboard. You can also right-click with your mouse and selecting Paste in the drop-down menu that appears.

Note: If you are unable to highlight any text from a PDF document using the steps above, it likely has copy protection or all of its text is an image. Only professional (paid) versions of programs and remedy this issue.

Adobe Reader 9 or earlier

  1. If you've opened the PDF in your Internet browser, hover your mouse cursor over the open document to look for an option to download it.
  2. Once you've downloaded the file, open it in Adobe Reader.
  3. In the PDF document, click the Select tool in the toolbar, as seen in the following image.
Watermark

  1. Once this option has been chosen, highlight the text you want to copy and click Edit and then Copy. You may also right-click the highlighted text and click Copy or Copy to clipboard.
  2. Paste the copied text into a word processor or other text editor by pressing and holding the Ctrl key and the V key on your keyboard. You can also right-click with your mouse and selecting Paste in the drop-down menu that appears.

Note: If you are unable to highlight any text from a PDF document using the steps above, it likely has copy protection or all of its text is an image. Only professional (paid) versions of programs and remedy this issue.

Copying text from a secured PDF

Copying secured PDFNote: A PDF file is often secured to prevent you from copying the content because the author or company who produced the PDF is protecting their Copyright. If you're attempting to copy any part of a PDF for anything other than personal use it is against the law. If you need to copy text for personal use or for accessibility reasons the steps below can help you bypass PDF security.

When security is added to a PDF, it is designed to help protect a PDF from doing anything the author of the PDF does not want to happen. For a PDF it is possible to add the following document restrictions.

  • Printing: Allowed or Not Allowed
  • Document Assembly: Allowed or Not Allowed
  • Content Copying: Allowed or Not Allowed
  • Content Copying for Accessibility: Allowed or Not Allowed
  • Page Extraction: Allowed or Not Allowed
  • Commenting: Allowed or Not Allowed
  • Filling of form fields: Allowed or Not Allowed
  • Signing: Allowed or Not Allowed
  • Creation of Template Pages: Allowed or Not Allowed

Tip: To view a PDF security properties in Adobe Reader click File, Properties, and then click on the Security tab.

To bypass or reset the PDF security settings we will be using Google Chrome to print the PDF as a new PDF which will not have any of the original PDF security settings.

  1. Open Google Chrome. If Google Chrome is not installed on your computer, you can follow our how to install Google Chrome steps.
  2. Drag the PDF file you want to convert to Chrome which should open the PDF in Chrome. If the PDF is trying to open as a download and not in Chrome see our steps on how to open a PDF in Chrome instead of as a download.
  3. Once the PDF is open in Chrome, click the printer icon or use the Ctrl+P keyboard shortcut.
  4. In the print window, click the Change button and change the Destination to "Save as PDF."
  5. Click the Save button.
  6. Once the file has been saved open the PDF in Adobe Reader or any other PDF reader, and you should be able to copy and paste the text following any of the steps mentioned on this page.

Additional information