7 Proven Fixes to the “When I Copy Text from a PDF it is Gibberish” Issue

Summary :

Learn from this page about 7 proven and texted solutions to the issue that when you copy text from a PDF into Microsoft Word or Notepad, the text turns into gibberish.

Table of Content

When I Copy Text from a PDF it is Gibberish

When I Copy Text from a PDF it is Gibberish

We totally understand that feeling. When copying and pasting text from PDF to Word, the text unexpectedly turns into unreadable gibberish, it can be rather head-scratching. However, it’s actually a common PDF text formatting issue that has many viable solutions.

In the following, you’ll find many proven and tested methods to effortlessly solve the garbled PDF copied text issue, all of them are easy to try (so make sure you do), and manual retyping is absolutely not an option.

This is an example of the garbled PDF text I copied into Notepad, is that similar to your issue?

Garbled Copied PDF Text Example

Garbled Copied PDF Text Example

Change PDF Text Font in Acrobat

Specific rare text fonts in PDF may cause your copied text scrambled. The easiest fix here is using Adobe Acrobat to change the PDF text font to a more compatible one.

1. Launch Adobe Acrobat Pro DC, go to the Edit PDF tool, and open the PDF.

2. Click on the Edit button from the upper ribbon to enter edit mode.

3. Select all the text in the PDF document.

4. Go to the panel to the right and click on FORMAT.

5. Choose a more popular and compatible text font such as Helvetica.

Change PDF Text Font in Acrobat Pro

Change PDF Text Font in Acrobat Pro

OCR the Printed Copy

By printing your PDF, you get to flatten the PDF and remove unnecessary elements. Then you can use an OCR tool to extract text from PDF with compatible formatting.

For this, you need professional PDF editor software like Adobe Acrobat Pro.

As a free alternative, here we recommend using PDFgear Desktop, one of the best free PDF editors that supports OCR and PDF text editing. And it allows you to directly extract text from scanned PDFs in plain text.

Best Free PDF Text Editor & OCR Tool

Freely copy and edit the text in PDF without formatting issues, and extract text from scanned PDFs using OCR.

Step 1. Download PDFgear Desktop and install it on your Windows or Mac computer.

Step 2. Click the Open File button to import your PDF.

Open a PDF File

Open a PDF File

Step 3. From the PDF editor screen, hit the OCR option from the home tab.

OCR PDF in PDFgear

OCR PDF in PDFgear

Step 4. Drag and hold to select the area where you want to extract text from, and click Done.

Step 5. In the Extract Text window, check the extracted PDF text, and click the button to Copy the text to the clipboard or save it as a TXT file.

Copy Text from PDF Using PDFgear OCR

Copy Text from PDF Using PDFgear OCR

Step 6. Now if you open a new Microsoft Word document and paste the PDF text, it won’t have any formatting issues.

Print to Microsoft XPS Document Writer

Microsoft XPS Document Writer is a virtual printer driver by Microsoft that helps create XPS files. Using higher resolution and higher DPI will save your text without losing its clean appearance. And with the additional help of XPS viewer or OCR software, you will get a high-quality text display.

Note that the method only works with the Windows operating system with the local Microsoft XPS Document Writer installation. Generally, Microsoft XPS Document Writer comes pre-installed on Windows 10 and 11.

1. Open your PDF document in Acrobat or other PDF reader tools, or even Chrome or Edge browsers. Here we’ll use Chrome for demonstration.

2. Use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + P to open the Printer menu.

3. Click on the option that’s for Printer Destination, and click See more.

Open Printer Menu

Open Printer Menu

4. Then choose Microsoft XPS Document Writer as the destination.

Print PDF to XPS

Print PDF to XPS

5. Click Print in the next window, and choose an output file folder.

6. Open the .oxps printout with any XPS file viewer, and you’ll be able to copy the text without formatting issues.

Convert PDF to Plain Text

Another possible reason for the garbled PDF text issue could be that font embedding in the PDF was using a custom encoding, which is not correctly applied when copying text from the PDF.

To resolve this, transforming the PDF document with embedded fonts to plain text is a good plan, especially when the formatting doesn’t matter to you.

For this, you need a PDF converter tool, and PDFgear Desktop is one of the best free PDF converter software.

1. Free download PDFgear Desktop, then install and open it on your computer.

2. Go to the Convert from PDF toolbox, and select the PDF to Text tool.

PDF to Text Converter in PDFgear

PDF to Text Converter in PDFgear

3. Hit the Add File button to import one or more PDF files, and hit Convert to start the conversion.

Convert PDF to Text in PDFgear

Convert PDF to Text in PDFgear

4. You’ll be led to the output file folder when the conversion is done, and if you open the converted TXT file, you’ll see the text is perfect and without issues.

Remove PDF Line Breaks

In another case, when you copy text from a PDF and paste it into Microsoft Word, you find the paragraphs are riddled with line breaks and extra spacing.

That can result from embedded text formatting, hidden characters, font size, document type, etc., and can be quickly resolved using a simple Microsoft Word trick:

1. Open a Microsoft Word document, and paste the PDF text

2. Use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + F (Windows) or Command + F (Mac) to open the Find and Replace feature

3. Replace all Paragraph Marks with blank

Replace Extra Spacing and Line Breaks

Embed Fonts to Prevent Substitution

Encode your PDF with the desired font type to ensure the original font is displayed when viewed or printed. Follow these steps to embed fonts in Adobe Acrobat Pro DC.

1. Launch Acrobat and select Advanced > Print Production > Acrobat.

2. Choose Standard in the Default Settings menu.

3. Edit Adobe PDF Settings by selecting Settings > Fonts.

4. Add the desired fonts and click Save As, then OK.

Embed Font in PDF Using Acrobat

Embed Font in PDF Using Acrobat

Reduce PDF Size in Preview

As a method worth trying for Mac users, reducing the size of PDF documents on Mac in Preview using the Quartz filter sometimes magically resolves the PDF scrambled text issue on Mac.

It seems like the PDF compression removes specific unnecessary characters and symbols. Notably, the compression method also works with scanned PDFs.

  1. Right-click on the PDF and open it with the Preview app.
  2. Tap the top File button and click the “Export as PDF”.
  3. Select the Reduce File Size in the Quartz Filter and click Save.
Compress PDF Using Quartz Filter

Compress PDF Using Quartz Filter


As you can see on this page, there are plenty of possible solutions to your issue, so I hope you’ve successfully got your non-garbled PDF text! Additionally, if you’re working with scanned PDFs or image-based PDF documents, using the PDFgear OCR PDF feature is also a good way to extract text from PDF without formatting issues.

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