How to Copy Text from Scanned PDF

Scanners are useful in many ways. Scanning documents is a simple task to do. With as many documents that are processed every day, it is only natural that the question of “How to copy text from scanned PDF” comes up.

Many times, we find ourselves needing the information that is on those documents for other projects. Sometimes the information is very little, thus does not take much time to just type up.

However, most of the time you will need large excerpts from the documents you scan. This can take a lot of your time if you choose to type or write this information down elsewhere.

Paraphrasing is often not a very good option either. Producing an accurate copy from the documents you scan is important in several environments.

You may even need to copy the text for an important project you are doing. The good news is that copying text from a scanned PDF is not as hard as it sounds and can be done in multiple ways.

Understanding PDF Files

Before we begin discussing how to copy text from a scanned PDF, we should focus on what PDF files are, how to create them, and how to work with them. PDF files are document files created to store information like Microsoft Word files.

The PDF file format is used when you want to scan a document and store the information in an editable file format. PDF is the perfect file format to store your scans in that you have plans to edit or use in any way.

There are many software out there that you can use to work with PDF files. We will try to focus on Adobe Acrobat here though. Adobe Acrobat comes preinstalled on most Windows computers.

This makes it easy to use and get to if you are not familiar with installing new software. Adobe Acrobat has an easy to understand user interface made specifically for working with PDF files.

It is important that when you scan your documents in, you save them in this file format. You should also make sure your computer has Adobe Acrobat or other Adobe products made for working with PDF files.

Once you have met those two conditions, you are one step closer to copying the text from the scanned PDF documents you have.

How to Copy Text from Scanned PDF

Let’s get down to learning how to copy text from scanned PDF files. There are many methods or techniques you can use to do this. We will go over just a few of those methods. Afterward, you will fully understand how to do this for any future projects you may have.

Copying Text Without Adobe Acrobat

Since some people may not have Adobe Acrobat, we should begin by focusing on copying the text without using Adobe Acrobat. Working with PDF files is a bit more complicated without Adobe Acrobat, but not by too much.

Anything you scan on to your computer is typically converted to an image. This is also true for PDF documents. The document is simply composed of images of the scanned document.

By these means, the only way to properly convert this image into text is with image recognition. Acrobat has this function already built in so if you are looking for an alternative, you need to focus on OCR services online.

OCR services can convert the text in an image into text you can copy or edit. There are multiple services that you can use. Below is a list of a few services that are available:


To use any of the sites, all you will need to do is visit the website, upload your PDF document, and click convert. This will convert the image in your PDF file into text (often it will convert the file into a Word document for your editing needs).

There are limitations to this method, however. Since you are using an online service, there are likely to be file size restrictions. If so, you will need to find a PDF software like Adobe Acrobat to use.

You also must deal with slow upload speeds and other possible crashes due to the service being online. Although mostly unlikely, you should be aware that issues can arise with online services.

Copying Text with Adobe Acrobat

As we discussed before, Adobe Acrobat was built with PDF files in mind. This means that there are several functionalities that you can use to copy the text in the scanned PDF document.

Since the software already has built-in OCR or Image Recognition, you only need to do a few things to get the text from your scanned documents. To keep it short, here is a systematic method.

  1. Open your PDF document in Adobe Acrobat
  2. Here you have a few options you can use
    1. Paper Capture: This option will make your PDF searchable. With multiple options, it is one of the most versatile methods to use to copy the text of your document. The default settings are fine to use with this option though. To use this option, go to the top bar menu and click on “Tools” and then “Paper Capture”.
    2. Enhance Scans: Like Paper Capture, this option uses image recognition to allow for you to copy the text in your PDF document. After opening your document, click on the “Enhance Scans” button in the right sidebar menu to use this option.
    3. Edit PDF: This option is for editing PDF documents, however, you can also use it to copy the text from the document. This button is located on the right sidebar menu as well. After clicking on edit PDF, Adobe Acrobat will convert your PDF into text in which you can then copy it.
  3. After your image has been converted using any of these options, you will notice that you can now copy the text in your PDF document.


Learning how to copy text from scanned PDF documents can be valuable information down the road. No matter what you might need to copy the text for, you now should see how easy you can go about doing so.

With multiple ways to edit and work with PDF files, the task should not be as intimidating to you anymore.

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