I have scanned a document and turned it into a PDF. When I open that PDF in Preview, I would have expected all of the text in the doc to be selectable via Live Text, but it's not.

However, if I take a screenshot of the text displayed in the doc that's open in Preview, and open the screenshot in Preview, all of the text is instantly selectable.

How can I force Preview to Live Text my scanned PDF?

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2 Answers 2


It does seem as though Live Text does not work for PDFs in Preview, but only for image formats, e.g. TIFF, JPEG, PNG.

Apple's support pages say "open an image or photo".

There are apps that perform OCR on PDFs, storing the text in an invisible layer, where it can be selected, copied or otherwise used. PDFPen is one of the best.

Otherwise, there isn't really an option for a multi-page document. You can Live Text the scan of each page as an image file, though.

  • You're probably right. I gotta say though, seems like a missed opportunity.
    – Sam
    May 5 at 18:26
  • 2
    @Sam Whilst I like PDFPen, it is now fiendishly expensive for casual use. I suggest owlocr.com - much cheaper and for OCR more accurate than PDFPen.
    – Gilby
    May 6 at 3:03
  • @Gilby Ooh, yes PDFPen have bumped their prices up. Interestingly Owlocr says they use macOS's own text recognition algorithms. I wonder if it's possible to know up a quick bit of code to do it...
    – benwiggy
    May 6 at 16:07
  • @benwiggy There are a few apps cashing in on macOS text recognition - I rather like TextSniper textsniper.app.
    – Gilby
    May 6 at 22:00

Scanning in the iOS Notes app provides OCR / LiveText when the scanned document is opened from within Notes (It seems like scanning with the iOS Files app doesn't). Also, scanning with Notes and then dragging the scanned file out as a PDF (on Mac) and opening with Preview breaks the OCR / LiveText.

LiveText is such a great feature, but the implementation seems frustrating incomplete regarding PDFs and Preview.

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