Copy text and images in a PDF document

September 20, 2008

Did you know that you can copy text and images from a PDF document displayed in Adobe Reader? Most people think you can’t unless you purchase full Acrobat, so here’s how.

  1. From the menu, select Tools > Select & Zoom, then choose the Select Tool (for text), or the Snapshot Tool (for an image)
  2. Click and drag your cursor over the text or image you want to copy from the PDF file.
  3. Once selected, press Ctrl+C to copy your selection to the clipboard where it’s ready for pasting into another application such as Word.

That’s it! With the Select Tool you will lose some formatting and tables, but you will get the text; with the Snapshot Tool, anything you select (including text) is converted to an image.

Update (3 November 2008): This no longer works in Adobe Reader 8.1.2, even though the right-click menu option would indicate that it’s meant to work.

Update (17 November 2009): This works again in Adobe Reader 9.2.0.

[This article was first published in the September and December 2002 CyberText Newsletters; steps updated for Adobe Reader 8.0 in January 2008]


  1. This doesn’t work! I found the tool. When I go to the editor, the copy is not lit, same with paste.

    Using control c is just a shortcut for the above. And yes I tried this too MULTIPLE times.

    I have a project where I need to copy governmental data. To KEY this in my hand is INTOLERABLE

    ihave seen other sites from googling that say the same thing.

    I think Adobe is a piece of TRASH. I say we contact all non-for profits and INSIST — INSIST they stop using this piece of trash! It is simply against the public’s interest!

    I am VERY angry at Adobe. This used to work. What a TRASH company!

  2. After receiving your message, I tried this in Adobe Reader 8.1.2 and you’re right – it doesn’t seem to work any more. You can right click on the selection and the shortcut menu says you can copy using Ctrl+C, but it’s definitely not working me either. I’ll update the post.

  3. I am able to copy but when I paste the text into word it comes in as little boxes and not as letters. I try to change the font but it doesn’t work. I am using Adobe Reader 9.2 and trying to paste into Word. I am on a Mac.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.


  4. It sounds as thought the font is not recognized on your Mac. As you’ve found, changing it later probably doesn’t work. I know there’s an option to embed fonts when a PDF is created, but I’m not sure whether that would have helped or not. Can you get access to the original (before it was a PDF)?

  5. Hi Rhonda: I think that you are correct about the non recognition of the font and unfortunately I cannot get access to the originals in time for my deadline. I solved the problem (sort of) by having my boss copy and paste into a word doc and send them to me. For some reason his mac (which is older than mine) does recognize the font.

    Thank you for your speedy response to my query. At least I now know that I am not crazy! :-)

  6. This worked, I needed a logo from PDF file and was able to copy it.


  7. To be able to get the text of the pdf, I use that snapshot tool and copy the image in the program GT Text.
    Is super fast and easy! GT Text then tranlates the image text to normal text and copies it in the clipboard.
    So snapshot, control paste in gt text, copy text to clipboard. Boala!

  8. Thanks for sharing, Dave — it sounds like a clever little program. I know my EditPlus text editing program won’t do that.

    It’s also available free from Softpedia, where the write-up is a little more understandable than the write-up on the original website: http://www.softpedia.com/get/Multimedia/Graphic/Graphic-Others/GT-Text.shtml


  9. try free ocr which coverts images into text easily

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