Tips & Tricks

Selecting Text in a PDF using Acrobat 7

April 26, 2005

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If you need to reuse content on a PDF document, but you didn't create it and you can't get a copy of the source document, you can use Acrobat's tools to select and repurpose the content. 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 a single Select tool that behaves differently depending on what you are selecting on a document. Acrobat provides a single Select tool that behaves differently depending on what you're selecting on a document. You don't even have to change tools to select different types of content! The Select tool is located on the Basic toolbar.

You use this tool to select text, images, and tables. In addition to the tool being dynamic and changing depending on the object over which it is placed, it also provides a small pop-up menu of options you can select, again reflecting the type of object. In this tip we'll learn how to select text. Read about selecting images in the following tip; selecting tables is described later in Tip 86.

Note: Don't confuse the Select tool on the Basic toolbar with the Select Object tool located on the Advanced Editing toolbar. The Select Object tool selects items like links and form fields.

Follow these steps to select text:

  1. Click the Select tool on the Basic toolbar to make it active and then click and drag over some of the text you want to select. The text is highlighted in gray, and small arrows display at the upper left and lower right of the selection (Figure 82a).

Grow or shrink a text selection


Figure 82a. Grow or shrink a text selection using the arrow handles.

Note: If you prefer precise selections, click the text where you want the selection to start, and then Shift-click where you want the selection to end; the text between the two points is selected.

  1. Click and drag either arrow to add text to the selection. Hold the pointer over the selected text for a couple of seconds until the Select Text icon displays (Figure 82b).

Select Text icon


Figure 82b. Hold the pointer over the selected text for a couple of seconds and the Select Text icon displays over the text.

  1. Now move the pointer over the icon to display the menu listing options you can choose depending on the content selected (Figure 82c). For general use, click Copy to Clipboard.

Assign the position and appearance of the watermark


Figure 82c. Choose from the two default text selection options.

  1. Open the document you want to add the text to and paste it in place.

The Select tool is also great for selecting precise words and phrases to use for links (discussed in Chapter 12) and bookmarks (discussed in Chapter 13).

Copy That

The better you understand some of the intricacies of text selection, the faster you can get your work done. Here are some tips:

  • Choose Edit >Preferences >General (on a Mac, Acrobat >Preferences >General) and click Enable text selection for the Hand tool. This way when you hold the pointer over text in a document it automatically works as the Select tool. There is a difference in how the selection process works depending on whether you enable the Hand tool for text selection: If you have the preference set, when you pause the pointer over some text, it changes to the Select tool and you can drag to select text.
  • If you are copying and pasting text and intend to send it on to others, be aware that unless the recipient's computer has the same font it can't be preserved. Acrobat substitutes the closest match.
  • When a document is tagged, you can use the Copy With Formatting option. This option is especially useful if your document contains columns.
  • Selecting text on two pages? And irritated because the footer text is included? Check the document's tags. In a correctly tagged document, footer text uses a different tag.
  • If the text isn't behaving as text, maybe it isn't. Scanned text that hasn't been captured behaves like an image. To learn more about scanning, see Tip 34 in Chapter 4; capturing text is covered in Chapter 17, Tip 139
  • If you can't copy text, check to see if the document has security settings. The author may have specified that copying is restricted.

Master of the Mouse...and the Keyboard

The more you click, the more you select:

  • Double-click a word to select it.
  • Triple-click to select a line of text.
  • Quadruple-click to select all the text on a page.

      To add text letter by letter, press Shift and an arrow key in the direction you want to add text (for example, to add text at the end of a selection, press the right arrow key). To speed things up a bit and add text one word at a time, press Shift-Ctrl or Shift+Command and the arrow key. The selection doesn't stop at the end of a line but continues at the start of the next line.

      I Want It All...

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

      Excerpted from "Adobe Acrobat 7 Tips & Tricks: The 150 Best" by Donna Baker. Copyright (C) 2005. Used with the permission of Pearson Education, Inc. and Adobe Press.

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