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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?

enter image description here

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  • As a workaround, and if it fits your use case, just use iOS to preview PDF files. Open the PDF from the Files app in an iOS device running iOS 16 or higher and you'll be able to select text and use other typical text services (look up, translate, etc) directly on the images embedded in the PDF. Hope it helps!
    – Ausiàs
    Oct 29, 2022 at 16:07
  • Open in pdf in preview. Click File > Export. Select "embed text". Click save.
    – D.Deriso
    Jan 21 at 2:32

3 Answers 3

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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".
https://support.apple.com/en-gb/guide/preview/prvw625a5b2c/mac

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.

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  • 2
    You're probably right. I gotta say though, seems like a missed opportunity.
    – Sam
    May 5, 2022 at 18:26
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    @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, 2022 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, 2022 at 16:07
  • @benwiggy There are a few apps cashing in on macOS text recognition - I rather like TextSniper textsniper.app.
    – Gilby
    May 6, 2022 at 22:00
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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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Open in pdf in preview. Click File > Export. Select "embed text". Click save.

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