How to Convert a Scanned PDF File to Text

Not everyone uses PDF software from the onset of document creation, even though they can. In fact, because of all the most recent features added to professional PDF software such as Foxit PhantomPDF, the ideal way to create a document in the PDF format is to use your PDF software from the very beginning. Relying on this type of application allows you to write the content, insert images, edit the file, collaborate with others, lay out the document, and even secure the file.

Sometimes, however, authors create documents using tools like word processors and then convert them into the PDF format. Or the author scans an image file and then converts it into a PDF document. This latter method makes editing and changing the content of the file difficult if you don’t have the right tools.

Relying on OCR

Should you need to convert a document that was first scanned as an image and later saved as a PDF file, and then things get only slightly more complex. In this instance, you will need to rely on a technology called optical character recognition (OCR).

OCR technology dates back to the 1930s when Emanuel Goldberg, an Israeli inventor, developed what he called the “Statistical Machine” for searching microfilm archives using an optical code recognition system. IBM eventually acquired his patent and now gives us the ability to electronically convert images of printed text into machine-encoded text.

So using PDF software, such as Foxit PhantomPDF, you would select Home -> Convert -> OCR -> Current File. You will then specify the range of pages you wish to convert, along with the language supported and finally the output type. Enterprise grade PDF software will also allow you to convert multiple files at once.

Making things right

One of the drawbacks of OCR is that it’s prone to make mistakes depending upon how clear the text in your scanned image is. Most PDF software lets you correct errors using a process that searches the document for anything that appears suspect and provides you with the ability to correct mistakes. This enables you to generate a whole, correct text document from your original image.

Beyond OCR, professional PDF software provides a number of solutions to many problems that you may encounter when working with text and documents. You just need to ensure you’re using a tool that provides robust features along with solid customer support to assist you in getting the job done.

12 thoughts on “How to Convert a Scanned PDF File to Text

  1. Sol

    I have many pages written in Russian, which I need to make a soft copy out of. The end result ideally is to be in a Word. My understanding is that I could use foxit, where input would be scanned pages written in Russian and on output there would a way to edit either in PDF (or some other editor) text using Cyrillic keyboard. Pls advise on what product I should look into.

    1. Laura Silva

      Foxit PhantomPDF can help you with it. You can OCR and edit scanned documents with Foxit PhantomPDF.

  2. Pingback: How To Create A Pdf File From Scanned Images | Accelerando3

  3. HikingMike

    “You will then specify the range of pages you wish to convert, along with the language supported and finally the output type.”
    What are the choices for output type?

    1. FOXITBLOG Post author

      In the output type, check Searchable Text Image to make the image text searchable (or check
      Editable Text to enable the image text to be edited with Foxit PhantomPDF). Click OK to
      recognize the text.


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