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I have a few PDFs that contain ligatures in the text (e.g., ff is combined into a single character, ).

Is there an easy way to remove them when copying the text from the PDF? (i.e., when I paste, I'd like the to be pasted as ff).

I copy a lot of text from these PDFs into answers on Stack Overflow and I find the ligatures at best obnoxious (ok, I admit, I'm really picky :-P); the ligatures also do not show up correctly when copied into other places (e.g., if I copy them into Notepad, they show up as blocks).

I cannot modify the PDFs.

I use both Adobe Acrobat Reader and Foxit Reader, but I'd be open to trying a new PDF reader.

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3 Answers 3

One possibility would be to use your favorite text-editor and simply replace them.

Another way would be to write a script which utilizes sed...but that would be *NIX-Systems only, I fear.

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GnuWin32 and you have sed on windows. –  mbq Jul 18 '10 at 21:18
@mbq: It's also included in that? very good. Thx. –  Bobby Jul 18 '10 at 21:26

In python this would be:

import unicodedata
# \uFB00 is the ff ligature.

You could combine this with pyPdf to read the pdf files.

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The reader evince seems to decode ligatures when I tested this.

Btw. for pdflatex documents you can use this in the preamble to display ligatures in the PDF document but copy individual characters:

\pdfgentounicode=1 %
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Works for me, thank you for the hint. –  gentlesea Feb 29 '12 at 10:27

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