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How to Convert a PDF to Text without Software

You’ve received a document via e-mail or fax. It’s probably in the PDF (Portable Document Format). You’d like to convert it to text so that you can edit the document and send it on its way.

Unfortunately, you don’t have Optical Character Recognition software on your system.

What do you do?

Well, you could buy software, download it, and install it.

Or you could use Google Docs OCR to convert the document for you for free.

Simply open a Google Docs account if you don’t already have one.

Click on the “Upload” button in the upper left-hand corner (this process may vary depending on your browser).

Drag and drop the PDF into the window.

Make sure you’ve selected “Private,” and click on “Start upload.”

That’s it. Google will convert the document to text so you can edit it. You can do your editing in Google Docs, or you can download the document and edit in your word processor of choice.

The only limits on this free service are that file sizes are limited to 2 MB and that Google only converts the first 10 pages of text. Of course, you can work around these limitations by splitting the PDF into more than one document and uploading each piece separately.

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  • Anonymous

    WOW, I had no idea and you cannot imagine the time this will save me. We already use Google docs, and I was unaware of this feature. Thanks! I’ll follow your twitter account for more great tips.

  • Nina Anderson5

    I use Free Online OCR. It is quick and accurate and they don’t ask for
    registration. Have you tried it?

    • Lee Rosen

      Haven’t tried it but, I know there are many options out there. Glad this one is working for you.


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Lee Rosen

Lee Rosen has practiced family law for more than twenty years. With four offices, Rosen Law Firm serves Raleigh, Charlotte, Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Rosen served as the Law Practice Management Editor of the ABA Family Advocate for more than a decade and received the ABA James Keane Award for excellence in eLawyering. He served as Chair of the Law Practice Management Section of the North Carolina Bar Association, is a frequent speaker and is often sought out by the media as a source of family law insight and commentary.