Tips & Tricks

Reusing PDF Page Elements in Acrobat

June 24, 2004


Love that illustration, or want to quote a block of text from an Acrobat document? If the security settings for a document allow changes, you can reuse most of its components (such as text or images) in a PDF file. If you didn't create the document and can't get a copy of the source document, you can work from within Acrobat. Sometimes you'll want to combine pieces from several PDFs into a single document, in which case it's much more efficient to work with the PDF files rather than the source material.

Acrobat provides three Select tools, all located on a submenu off the Basic toolbar. Rather than reopening the submenu and changing tools, you can display the toolbar. Click the pull-down arrow next to the visible Select tool and choose Show Selection Toolbar. When I am starting to assemble a project, I prefer to keep the toolbar open.

The Select Text tool is one of three Select tools on the Basic toolbar.

The Selection toolbar can be moved or docked like any other toolbar.

Reusing Text

Use the Select Text tool to identify text in a document for use in other documents or to attach actions:

  1. On the Basic toolbar, click the pull-down arrow next to the visible Select tool to open a submenu. Click the Select Text tool to activate it.
  2. Click within the document text with the tool. Acrobat outlines the paragraph with a black bounding box.

    Use the Select Text tool to identify a block of text on a document page.

  3. You can select only one paragraph at a time. Click at the start of the paragraph and drag down to select the text.

    Click and drag with the tool to select a paragraph or portion of a paragraph.

    Note: If you want to select all the text in a document, select a word or paragraph with the Select Text tool, then right-click (Control-click on a Mac) and choose Select All Text from the shortcut menu.

  4. Choose Edit > Copy, or Ctrl+C/Command+C. Open the document you want to add the text to and paste it in place.

    Note: The Select Text tool is also great for selecting precise words and phrases to use for bookmarks and links.

Reusing Images

You can reuse individual images from a document. Begin by clicking the Select Image tool on the Selection toolbar. Then, to select an image:

  1. Click the image you want to copy. The "negative" of the image appears on the page.

    When you select an image, you'll see a negative of it on the screen.

    If you want to select a portion of the image, click and drag a marquee around the area.

    Drag a marquee to select a portion of an image.

    Note: Be careful how you select an image when it overlays a background. Although it appears that the flower image is selected, in reality only the background is selected.

    You can also select an image background applied to a document. Make sure you're selecting the right thing.

  2. Once you have the image or image segment copied, you can reuse it. Use the old standby Edit > Copy and choose Edit > Paste in the document where you want to use the image.
  3. You can also save the image as a file. Select the image in the document, and then right-click to open the shortcut menu. Choose Save Image As, name the image, and specify the save location.

Reusing Both Text and Images

What if you want to reuse some of the content on a page that contains both text and graphics? You can copy and paste each element separately, or you can use the snazzy new Snapshot tool.

  1. Select the Snapshot tool on the Basic toolbar.
  2. Select the content from the page:
    • Click anywhere on the document to capture the visible content on the Document pane.
    • Drag a marquee around a portion of the page.
    • Drag a marquee around a portion of an image.

    Using the Snapshot tool, you can drag a marquee to select a portion of the image.

  3. An information dialog appears telling you that the content has been copied to the clipboard. Click OK.

    Your captured content is copied to the clipboard.

  4. Paste the clipboard content wherever you need it.

Editing Text

Although sometimes it's simpler to modify a source document than edit text on the PDF document, that isn't always the case. For small or simple text changes, you can work in Acrobat. Acrobat offers three different tools to work with text.

Use the Select Text tool to select text for copying and pasting into another document. On the Advanced Editing toolbar, use the TouchUp Text tool to modify and edit text, or to add new text to a page. You can also use the Text Box tool on the Advanced Commenting toolbar.

Drag and Drop Shot

You don't have to mess around with copying and pasting when you're moving images. Open the recipient document next to the document with the image. Arrange the windows on the screen. Then, select the image in the PDF document and drag it to the other document.

Snapshot? Maybe Not

If you need to modify or index the text you're copying, don't use the Snapshot tool; use the Select Text tool instead. Content copied with the Snapshot tool creates a graphic, uneditable image of whatever it captures, whether it's images or text.

This tip is excerpted with permission from "Adobe Acrobat 6 Tips and Tricks: The 100 Best" by Donna Baker, published by Peachpit Press/Adobe Press, Copyright 2004 Peachpit Press.

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