Preview: Can’t copy/drag-and-drop text

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
January 24th, 2006 • 10:29 am

What’s going on with text selection in PDF files in Preview?

I have the Apple Style Guide referred to in another post earlier today open in Preview 3.0.4 right now, and when I try to select and copy any text in the body of the document, it fails miserably, unless the selection consists of only a few words.

For example, if I triple-click on a line to select it in its entirety, and then do command-C to copy the text and switch to a text editor to paste it, Mac OS X pastes… the last bit of text that I copied elsewhere in Mac OS X. In other words, it fails to copy the text from the PDF document altogether.

If I double-click on a single word in that PDF file, and then hit command-C, the operation works, and I can then paste the copied word elsewhere. But as soon as the selection exceeds a few words, the process fails altogether. Preview doesn’t even copy the text.

Yet the “Copy” command is most definitely active in the “Edit” menu, and I can select it there instead of hitting command-C. Still, it doesn’t do anything.

The problem is not limited to the “Copy” command either. It’s impossible to select some text in that PDF file and then click-and-hold-and-drag to drag-and-drop it elsewhere. If I select anything in that PDF file and then click-and-hold on it to make it a block of text that can be dragged, the click-and-hold operation fails completely, and Mac OS X deselects the current selection instead, as if I wanted to start drawing a new selection.

I have the same problem with other PDF files, so it’s not just limited to this particular file—although the failure of the “Copy” command does appear to depend on what is currently selected.

UPDATE: Now, all of a sudden, things are working again—at least for the “Copy” command. But click-and-hold-and-drag is still failing. So these appear to be two different problems. The problem with the “Copy” command not working appears to be intermittent, while the problem with click-and-hold-and-drag appears to be a permanent “feature” of Preview 3.0.

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