I have a PDF that opens fine in Adobe Reader XI. It displays fine, has no password, etc. I am attempting to save these to text for some automation work, but it isn't working.

When I go to File->Save As Other->Text, save it as a .txt file it saves without error.

When when I view the txt file, it's unreadable. It has data like:


I can verify certain PDFs like from AT&T's website work fine with this, but the PDFs I have aren't working. Why is this, how can I convert these to plain text? They aren't password protected or the sort.

This was not OCR. I can highlight words, letters, etc.

I verified under "Security" on Properties:

Security Method: No Security

Can be Opened by: All versions of Acrobat

Printing: Allowed

Content Copying: Allowed


PDFs can be created in a variety of ways. If the PDF was created via a scanner, it may or may not have gone through an OCR (optical character recognition). If OCR was performed, you would have a text layer that somewhat corresponds to the layout of the graphical layer (what you normally see). The text accuracy of OCR is rarely 100%. If you printed to PDF from say Google Docs or Microsoft Word, then text layer would be 100% accurate. It sounds like the PDF you are trying to save is the former.

The easiest way I've found to test and view the text layer is to use a free PDF reader called Foxit Reader. They have a view tab with a "Text Viewer" option. See the screenshot below. If the text layer is showing garbled text, this will explain why in Adobe Reader XI's "Save As Other > Text" is displaying garbled text.

As they say, garbage in, garbage out (GIGO).

Foxit Reader View Options

  • It didn't come from OCR, I can highlight words/letters etc in the PDF. – JBurace Sep 12 '14 at 20:02
  • Unfortunately I cannot install that, as it contains Opencandy which flags the anti-virus system here (adware). – JBurace Sep 12 '14 at 20:05
  • There is a FoxIt Portable version, or older version e.g. 4 or 5 that won't have the pesky addon. Finally, if you share the PDF, I can check for you. – Sun Sep 13 '14 at 4:03

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