Does Mac Preview Have Built-in OCR Function? A Detailed Guide

Summary :

Does Mac Preview come with an OCR Feature? In this article, we will introduce everything related to Mac Preview OCR.

Table of Contents

Mac Preview OCR

Mac Preview OCR

OCR allows converting scanned documents into editable, searchable files. This saves time and effort. As Mac’s default PDF reader, Preview would be the easiest way for Mac users to OCR PDFs if it had the capability built-in.

That is why we want to know Does Mac Preview has an OCR feature or not. Then we will provide a detailed guide on the Mac Preview OCR feature in this article. Continue reading for more specific information.

Does Mac Preview Have OCR Feature?

The Preview app on macOS does not have a built-in comprehensive Optical Character Recognition (OCR) feature for recognizing text in PDFs.

While Preview can handle basic editing of PDFs and other documents, it cannot perform OCR on scanned PDF documents. For tasks that require extracting text from scanned documents, users need to opt for more sophisticated alternatives like PDFgear or Adobe Acrobat Pro.

However, Apple’s Preview does offer a feature called Live Text, which allows users to select and copy text from images within Preview. This feature is useful for interacting with text within photos but is not a complete OCR solution for various document types, especially for scanned PDFs. Here is how to use it:

Live Text on Mac Preview

Live Text on Mac Preview

Step 1. First, open the image or PDF file in Preview. This can be done by right-clicking the file and selecting “Open with > Preview” or by opening Preview and then opening the file from within the app.

Step 2. Move your cursor over the text in the image or PDF. If Live Text is available for that text, your cursor will change to indicate text selection (like an I-beam cursor).

Click and drag to select the text, just as you would in a text document.

Step 3. Once you’ve selected the text, you can right-click to see options such as Copy, Look Up, or Translate.

You can then use this text as you would any other selected text on your Mac, such as pasting it into a document or a search bar.

For users seeking to recognize text in a PDF using Preview, there is no direct way to do so, as the app does not have a dedicated OCR feature. Try PDFgear Software for OCR needs.

How to OCR a Scanned PDF with the Preview Alternative

PDFgear’s OCR feature presents a compelling alternative to Mac Preview for handling scanned PDFs. It allows users to accurately extract and edit text from unselectable documents, supporting a wide range of languages.

This free tool transforms scanned PDFs into editable formats like Word and TXT, offering a user-friendly interface for both conversion and specific area text or data extraction. It stands out as an efficient solution for those needing more advanced OCR capabilities than what Mac Preview provides, all without any cost.

Step 1. Open a Scanned PDF in PDFgear

First, download and Install PDFgear software on your computer following the provided instructions.

Open a Scanned PDF in PDFgear on Mac

Open a Scanned PDF in PDFgear on Mac

Launch PDFgear on your computer. Click on the ‘Open File’ button or drag and drop your scanned PDF document into the PDFgear interface to import it.

Step 2. Perform OCR on the Document

Look for the ‘OCR’ button in the top menu bar, and Click on it to process. You will have three options: Local File OCR, Screenshot OCR, and Current File OCR.

OCR a Scanned PDF on Mac Using PDFgear

OCR a Scanned PDF on Mac Using PDFgear

Here we choose the “Current File OCR” to OCR the Whole PDF file, and select the language of the text in the document. PDFgear will then analyze the scanned document and extract the text.

Step 3. Copy or Export the Extracted Text

Once the OCR process is complete, the text from your scanned PDF will be converted into an editable format. You can now copy it to another application, or save the document in a different format like Word or TXT.

Copy or Export the Extracted Text

Copy or Export the Extracted Text


How can I edit a scanned document on my Mac?

To edit a scanned document on Mac, you’ll need to use third-party OCR software to convert the document into an editable format first, then use a PDF text editor like PDFgear for modifications.

What is OCR and how does it work on a Mac?

OCR is a technology that converts documents, such as scanned paper documents, PDFs, or images captured by a digital camera, into editable and searchable data. On a Mac, OCR can be performed using various third-party software applications that recognize and convert text into images and scanned documents.

Can I use OCR to convert a scanned PDF to text on Mac?

Yes, you can convert a scanned PDF to text on a Mac using OCR software. This software analyzes the text in the scanned PDF and converts it into an editable format. Popular OCR tools for Mac include Adobe Acrobat, PDFgear, and others.

Is there a free OCR software for Mac?

PDFgear is a 100% free PDF OCR software for Mac. This tool offers advanced OCR capabilities not present in Preview.


Mac Preview does not have a built-in OCR feature for text recognition in scanned documents or image-based PDFs. It can handle basic interactions with text within images using Live Text, but this is not the same as full OCR functionality.

For comprehensive OCR needs on a Mac, PDFgear provides a capable free alternative. With bilingual recognition and accurate text extraction even from poor quality scans, PDFgear enables Mac users to OCR PDFs and images easily without the need for paid software upgrades.

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