I have a pdf that I can't copy text from.

I have tried several pdf readers: Foxit, Sumatra, PDF-XChange, mupdf
NONE of them allows me to simply copy the text!

What could cause this?

  • 2
    Can you post a link to a small PDF that demonstrates the issue? Aug 1, 2012 at 15:07
  • This does depend a lot on the PDF file concerned as almost every PDF viewer I have seen has a text select tool and can copy to clipboard but the PDF file itself can request the copy functionality to be disabled.
    – Mokubai
    Aug 1, 2012 at 16:47
  • 2
    This issue may be due to password protection of the PDF file (that may prevent copying and/or printing) and not affected a particular PDF reader. Sep 19, 2012 at 14:51
  • 1
    @PeterMortensen, damn... post it as an answer & i accept it. it really did work!
    – Rookie
    Sep 20, 2012 at 10:14
  • @Rookie: Unfortunately, this question has been closed, so I can't post an answer. Sep 20, 2012 at 14:12

4 Answers 4


Some PDFs are protected so you can't copy the text. This link shows how to do it in Acrobat.

Another possibility is that your "text" file is actually an image, i.e. it is created from a scan or a screendump. In that case it is still readable, but there is no text in it. If this is the case, a single click on the "text" in Acrobat will shade the whole text in a blue box.


This answer has the solution:

How does a PDF prevent itself from being printed?

The print permission is in the pdf file itself and is mostly used by Adobe products. Some products pay it attention, and some others print it anyway. It is quite easy to remove.

See the article [How To Unlock Adobe PDF Files][1], where it explains how to use [Freeware PDF Unlocker][2] to remove this and other passwords.

Warning : Comment by Chris Betti says

As of Oct 7, 2013, the Freeware PDF Unlocker setup installs unwanted software without confirmation, and fails to install the product itself.

Use older versions (if can be found) or search for another product.

[1]: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/how-to-unlock-adobe-pdf-files-2/
[2]: http://freeware-pdf-unlocker.en.softonic.com/


These are protected or restricted document.You can't copy text from it.

You can remove it online


  • if the file is stored as images then even if it's unlocked you still can't copy it, unless you use some OCR tool
    – phuclv
    May 13, 2017 at 7:45

You can copy text with Foxit, are you sure that the PDF wansn't made from an image?

Yes, you can copy text, I am not allowed to post images but believe me, I've just downloaded and installed FoxitReader, I saved a PPT presentation as PDF, opened it in Foxit, selected text and copied it

enter image description here

  • 1
    I can select the text... but i cant copy it, at least not for free.
    – Rookie
    Aug 1, 2012 at 14:59
  • Looks like the text was converted to vector graphics, thats why i couldnt copy it. I really thought that every single PDF reader has made the feature only for registered versions, that made more sense than someone converting text into vector graphics!
    – Rookie
    Aug 1, 2012 at 15:25
  • Ehh... i dont know what it is anymore. I can search the text by pressing that web-search button on foxit, but i cant copy it inside the program, only from the webpage where the Foxit copies it to.
    – Rookie
    Aug 1, 2012 at 15:39

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