How to Copy Text from Locked PDFs on macOS

Locked PDFs shouldn't leave you manually typing a wall of text.

No there's nothing worse than trying to copy a line of text from a PDF and finding that you can't select any text at all. Luckily, bypassing a blocked PDF on Mac is quite easy.

If you've ever tried to highlight text in a PDF without success, then you have a locked PDF. A PDF file can be blocked for many legal reasons, such as copyright protection. However, sometimes you just need to copy a longer piece of text, or many smaller pieces of text, from a document that is not subject to blocking.

Fortunately, the solution doesn't require you to enter everything manually. What's more, the solution is built right into macOS and doesn't require much effort.

How to copy text from a locked PDF using preview

In 2021, Apple introduced the Live Text feature in iOS 15 and macOS Monterey. This feature allows users to copy text from images they take. With Live Text and macOS' built-in screenshot feature, copying text from a locked PDF is easy.

Using screenshots and previews, you can bypass blocked PDFs using only the tools available on your Mac.

  1. Open the PDF that want to copy. text from
  2. Take a screenshot of the text you want to copy.
  3. Open the screenshot in Preview mode.
  4. Select the text to the screenshot and copy it.

In the same way, you copied text from a locked PDF file without any problems. While this can only get the job done using the tools that came with your Mac, there is a better way.

Using Third Party Apps

To cut out a step in the middle, you can use a third party app that directly Copies text from the screen to the clipboard. Specifically, CleanShot X has a feature that allows you to simply select an area, as if you were selecting an area to take a screenshot, and all the text in that area will be copied to the clipboard. However, CleanShot X sells for a one-time price of $29. It can also be obtained through Setapp, like many other apps, for $9.99 per month.

Third-party apps can speed up the process a bit, but it comes at a cost.

From there, you can paste anywhere you want. And for those concerned about the tool's privacy: all OCR is done on your computer. With this method, you can eliminate the need to open the screenshot and select the text to copy it.

If you frequently find yourself copying text from a locked PDF file, the price of any third-party app may be worth the time you save. For those who need a quick solution, you can simply use the tools you already have on your Mac.

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