Copy text from PDF: How it works

Copy text from PDF: How it works

PDFs are practical because they cannot be changed so easily and require little storage space, even with many images and the like. However, if you still want to copy texts from PDFs, this can cause problems. We reveal how easy it is possible.

By Sebastian Weber

Anyone who shares their document as a PDF with others usually wants to prevent the file from being edited. Nevertheless, it may be that the recipient wants to process the text and therefore has to copy it into Word and Co. This is fundamentally simple, but there are cases where a few tricks are needed.

Check security settings

Before you try to copy text from a PDF into Word or Excel and other programs, you should check the security settings.

The easiest way to do this is to open the PDF with Acrobat Reader, which can be downloaded free of charge from the manufacturer's website . But be careful: Even though Acrobat is the inventor of the PDF format, Acrobat Reader is actually only used to open and view PDFs. Editing is only possible with the paid program Acrobat Pro.

If you have opened the PDF with Acrobat Reader, then right-click anywhere in the document and then select "Document Properties".

A window will open where you select the "Security" tab. There the program lists all possible restrictions and which setting the creator of the PDF has chosen. Here you can also see whether copying of content is allowed or not.

Copy texts from PDF to Word and Excel

In the event that copying of content is permitted, this works very simply: mark the text in the PDF that you want to transfer to Word or Excel and Co. After that, right-click on the highlighted text, select "Copy" and then switch to Word or another program of your choice. Once there, right-click again and select the "Paste" option.

Alternatively, after selecting the text in the PDF, you can also use the shortcut CTRL and C to copy, while in Word you press CTRL and V to paste. In most cases, however, copying content from a PDF to another program does not adopt the formatting optimally. Accordingly, you should always check the copied texts for unnecessary line breaks and the like after transferring them to Word or Excel.

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PDF Image: © Adobe Stock/momius 2018

Copy texts from a protected PDF

In case the PDF does not allow content copying, things get only slightly trickier. However, the prerequisite is that printing the PDF is permitted. Then it is best to open the PDF with the Internet browser Chrome and look for the menu via the three dots in the top right corner. There you will find the "Print" option.

But instead of actually printing out the PDF, you select the "Save as PDF" option instead of your printer in the "Target" menu item and then click on "Print". Now you select where the new PDF should be stored, then open it and follow the steps described above, since the security settings are not adopted in this way.

However, if printing is also blocked, this trick will not work. In this case we recommend the online tool Online2PDF . There you can upload the protected PDF and have a wide range of formats into which you can convert the PDF, whether it is still a PDF, image file or even a Word file.

If you simply want to override the protection, then keep the PDF format and just make sure that no blocks are stored in the "Protection" menu item. Then you click on "Convert" and can then print the PDF as described or copy the content.


  • In the document properties of a PDF you can quickly check whether copying of texts is allowed or not.
  • If there is no protection, texts can be easily copied into Word or Excel.
  • When copying text from PDFs, the formatting is lost in most cases.
  • Protected PDFs can be saved again with Chrome, for example, which means that the protection is lost. But there are also free tools for this.

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