How to Convert Scanned or Protected PDF to Text?

Tips • Oct.28, 2022

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When you need to edit or copy text from a PDF, you first need to convert it to a format that will allow you to do so. Unfortunately, this isn’t always as easy as it sounds – especially if the PDF is scanned or a protected document.

In this article, we’re going to show you how to convert scanned or protected PDFs to text with OCR so that you can edit and copy the text as you please. We’ll also recommend some tools for conversion, depending on whether you’re using macOS or Windows. So make sure to read till the end to figure out which of these options will be the best fit for you and your work.

RELATED: How to Edit Scanned PDFs: A Full Guide

How to know if a PDF is scanned or protected?

Scanned PDF – The easiest way to detect this situation is to select the texts. If you’re having trouble highlighting and copying the text in a PDF, you’re probably working with a photocopied PDF. That is, the text on the document is just a graphical representation. Instead of highlighting the text, you can highlight a box, as in this invoice example.


Protected PDF – If any PDF file is protected from a password or restrictions that means, it does not allow the user to add or delete some additional text, image, hyperlinks or can perform the different tasks on the document. With a password or restriction, a PDF file is secure unless users enter the password.


How to convert scanned PDF to TEXT format?

Solution 1 for cross platform: Wondershare PDF Converter Pro

If you regularly use both macOS and Windows for your personal or professional use and are looking for a way to convert scanned or protected PDFs to text, you might need to invest in a single tool that could be used on both operating systems quite easily. That is where Wondershare PDF Converter Pro comes in.

This tool works with OCR technology, you can convert scanned PDF files or copy-protected PDFs or even photos into editable Word, PPT, Excel, EPUB, and TXT files, it’s one of the best PDF converters we reviewed.

Wondershare PDF Converter Pro also has the ability to encrypt, merge, and compress PDFs, but it doesn’t allow you to create forms, add comments, redact information, or add a digital signature to your PDF. For those needs, you should grab a PDF editing tool instead.

Checkout our guides to:

Since these drawbacks do not exist in many other applications that perform the same function, a lot of people prefer to subscribe to one of those. But if you just want a tool to convert scanned or protected PDFs to text, the Wondershare PDF Converter Pro can be just the right tool for you to use, and here’re steps.

Step1. Add the image or PDF to the program

You can extract the text from any images you already have of the original PDF. But even if you don’t have these images on hand, you can still use the OCR function directly on the PDF. To add a scanned document to Wondershare PDF Converter Pro, launch the application, select the “OCR” tab, and then click the “Add” button.


Step 2. Enable OCR

The program will automatically identify the files when you click the “Convert” button and prompt you to enable OCR. When you click “Try OCR,” the “OCR” function will open. Choose the appropriate OCR language for your needs, then click the “OCR Setting” button.


Step 3. Select your output format

The “Format” drop-down list should be clicked when the OCR function has been enabled to choose the output document format you desire. You can choose your relevant format from a diverse list, including Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, HTML, TXT, or EPUB.


Step 4. Convert scanned PDF or image to text

After completing the aforementioned procedures, click the “Convert” button to  start the conversion.

Note: The PDF item bar will display a lock if the PDF is locked and cannot be opened. To unlock it first, click the “Locked” button and then type the correct password. Afterward, convert it.

Solution 2 for Mac: TextSniper

If you’re exclusively a macOS user and happen to be looking for ways to convert scanned or protected PDFs to text, TextSniper can prove to be a godsend for you. This application is not only one of the easiest to use due to its interface but also one of the most versatile. With this application, you can extract any text from the chosen area and convert it into editable text.

The application’s usefulness extends beyond PDFs because you can use it to extract text from virtually any source, including YouTube videos, images, online courses, screencasts, presentations, webpages, and photos. Out of these, using this tool to extract text from images is probably one of the best features.

The fact that TextSniper works without an internet connection goes a long way in convincing you of its utility. Overall, TextSniper is an easy and affordable OCR tool for copying text from any image or piece of data, and it is a no-brainer if you’re looking for such a tool on a budget to use on your Mac. Read our full review here.

Steps 1. Enable ‘Capture Text’ feature

Once you launch the application, the icon of TextSniper will appear on top of the screen. You will be using this icon to extract your desired text from any image. To start this process, click on it to bring up a dropdown menu, then choose Capture Text. The default keyboard shortcut for this application is ⌘ + SHIFT + 2; you can use it to quickly extract text from images. This default shortcut can also be modified in TextSniper’s preferences.

Step 2. Capture your required text

Choose the part of the image where the text that you wish to capture is located. Simply mouse over some text on the image and drag it. The captured text will now be transferred to the clipboard. From there, the copied text can be easily edited and put into any program for additional usage.

Step 3. Enable ‘Additive Clipboard’ feature for multi-capturing (optional)

If you want to grab many snippets of text from different areas of yourPDFs or image simultaneously, you may enable TextSnipper’s ‘Additive Clipboard’ feature to paste all extracted text  to your word processing application in one go. To do this, simply click on the TextSniper icon in the menu bar , and then choose Additive Clipboard from the dropdown menu.

Note: There is a menu option to “Clear Clipboard History” once you have finished copying numerous text excerpts.

Solution 3 for Windows: Microsoft OneNote OCR

You can download Microsoft OneNote for Windows for free, and in most cases, this app comes preinstalled on Windows PCs and laptops. It has nearly no functionality limitations and is free to use even on other platforms. If you have a premium Microsoft account, you do receive a few extra tools, like Sticker and Math. OneNote free users receive 5GB of storage. A free edition for educators is also available, and it comes with 1TB of online storage.

OneNote’s integrated OneNote OCR functionality is a noteworthy feature. Here, regardless of whether you’re using Microsoft OneNote, we’ll discuss basic information about OneNote OCR that you should know and demonstrate how to perform OneNote OCR on a PDF or image.

Step 1. Insert PDF as file printouts

First, the contents of the PDF indexed should be to insert as a file printouts.  This can be done by going to the Insert tab on the toolbar then clicking on the “File Printout” button and then selecting the PDF file you want to be inserted into OneNote.  This will result in each of the pages in the PDF being inserted into the OneNote page as an image.


Step 2. Copy your required text from PDF

Once the PDF pages are inserted, you can copy the text from a single page or from all of the pages at once. To do this, right-click on your chosen image and press the ‘Copy text from this page of the printout’ option. For all pages, then simply choose ‘Copy text from all the pages of the printout’ instead.


Step 3. Paste the extracted text in OneNote

Now that you’ve extracted the required text from the protected/scanned PDF, you can paste it in the OneNote program and use it as you wish.

Note: It’s easy to copy text from a single image saved in your OneNote notes. Simply right-click the image, then click the Copy Text from Picture option.The text fragments will be copied to your clipboard. After that, you can paste this into your OneNote notebook or elsewhere.


Now that we’ve discussed all these solutions to go about how to convert scanned or protected PDFs to text, we hope that you’ve gotten enough information to decide which of these ways will end up being the best fit for you. All these have their own highlights and drawbacks, so you’ll need to go for an option that provides youthe free trial version now and let it do its magic.

We also have this guide to ways to convert PDF to word on the Mac and top OCR software for Windows and macOS.