Use Mac's Built-In Features to Extract Text From a PDF File

Use Mac's Built-In Features to Extract Text From a PDF File

Hello, my friends!
Working with the PDF files is popular and comfortable. Today, I want to talk a bit more about this format and share some tips on working with it.

PDF or the Portable document format is a nice way of sharing documents with saving layout, formatting and security. Anyway, you may need to copy text from such file and you may not need its formatting or pictures. It can be nearly impossible when pictures begin interfering the text and you physically can't copy it correctly.

However, copying the text alone without any images and formatting IS possible and Mac even has built-in tools that may help you. For instance, you can use the TextEdit application.
I'm going to tell you how to use this application quickly and efficiently. It is easy to understand and there won't be any problems.

By the way, I have recently found a cool app for Mac called Setapp, subscription to which allows me to save money and access more than 100 popular Mac apps. Try it too (Setapp it’s free for Download).


1. Open a PDF file

Firstly, you need to open the file you need. The 'Preview' application is standard for viewing PDFs on Macs. You'll get opened windows that are shown on my screenshots. You can open your file with any other third party app, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader.

extract text pdf mac image1

2. Select all the info in your PDF

​You may usually use for selecting all the info on the page with your mouse or trackpad. If there are lots of formatting and pictures, you may copy them by blocks or one-by-one, and then pasting it all into the necessary application.

But when we talk about copying a large file, this can take a lots of time. I'll show you how to copy all the content in a couple of clicks.

​Go to 'Edit', choose 'Select all' or just use the 'Command+A' shortcut to select all PDF's content.​

extract text pdf mac image2
The whole amount of document content will be selected after doing that.

extract text pdf mac image3

3. Copy the PDF contents and paste them whenever you need.

Once the content is selected, visit 'Edit' and 'Copy' in your menu bar, or copy it with the shortcut 'Command+C' on the keyboard.

Then, find the TextEdit application, launch it. It is usually located in the Applications folder​. You can also look for it with the help of Spotlight.​

extract text pdf mac image4
You may need to create a new document after launching the TextEdit app, it depends on your personal settings. The 'New document' button can be found in the lower left corner.​

extract text pdf mac image5
​The 'Rich text' mode will be opened by default.​ Change it to the 'Plain text' mode. It will help to get rid of formatting and images you don't need.

How to switch to this mode?

Just go to 'Format' and select 'Make plain text' or do it with the shortcut 'Shift+Command+T' on your keyboard.​

extract text pdf mac image6
In you see another option, 'Make rich text', then your application is already working in the plain text mode.

Now, after you checked the mode you're working in, select 'Edit' and then tap on 'Paste' buttons in the menu. Or use a shortcut 'Command+V'​.

You'll see the text alone from your PDF. No images, no formatting, just the text you needed!

extract text pdf mac image7
Still, this text may need some cleaning up, but now it's much easier, cause​ this application is designed for such work and there won't be any problems. It's really comfortable for working with texts.


A bonus for you: How to open all documents in the 'Plain text' mode?

If you need always opening your texts in this mode of if you do such PDF 'copy/paste' work often, there is an option that will make your work more comfortable and efficient. Open them in Plain mode by default and save your time!

Go to 'TextEdit' and choose 'Preferences' in the menu bar.

extract text pdf mac image8
​After you see the Preferences window, choose 'New document' and select 'Plain text' under the section called 'Format'.​

extract text pdf mac image9
​As I have already mentioned, it may save your time, but if you want, you may switch to the 'Rich text' mode any time you need. ​Just use the way described above. So, there won't be problems, if you'll need to get back to formatted text.

Note, that there is a plenty of other third party tools for extracting text from PDF to a text document, including many online methods. But I personally prefer built-in tools of my Mac, as they are easy, handy and work perfectly.

If you have some questions left, contact me anytime you want!

And share my article with your friends, if you enjoyed it.

Thanks for reading!