Missionary Geek

Occasionally I need to reformat a missionary’s prayer letter. I usually take it from a PDF and put the contents into a web page format. The problem is that getting an image out of a PDF is not as simple as it should be when you are wanting to end up with just an image file.

PDF Text

Screen capture of a letterCopying the text of a PDF is easy as long as the one you are working with was created from a computer file. You can copy and paste text from it just like you would from a normal document.

However, if the PDF was created from a scan of the original document, then the PDF you now have is essentially just an image file that does not have the text embedded. For a short document (a page or three), the fastest way to get the text into your new format is to retype it. There are ways to do optical character recognition (OCR) on the image to get the text into a usable format, but it is much more trouble than it is worth for short documents.

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PDF Images / Pictures

The way I get the pictures out of a PDF is to click on the image and then right-click on it. You get a deceptively hopeful pop up that you can click on, or hit Ctrl+C (Cmnd+C on a Mac) to make a copy of the image. But you can’t just paste the image into a blog post in this way. It will, however, work fine if you are pasting into a word processing document.

If you need just the image saved into a JPG or other image format, then you can use an image editing program like The Gimp. Open the program and select File | Create | From Clipboard. This will create a new document that is formatted exactly the size of the original image that is embedded in the PDF. The shortcut is Shift+Ctrl+V in Windows, Mac and Linux. (Gimp uses standard Linux shortcuts on the Mac and does not substitute Command for Control like in other programs).

Now you can save the new image as a normal image file. In Windows you may have to export it to a JPG or PNG file. Converting from jpg 2 pdf and backwards is an easy task. But in Linux and Mac you can save directly to those formats.

About David Peach

David is a missionary working with the Deaf. His focus is helping churches in Latin America start ministries for the Deaf in their communities. He currently lives with his wife and kids in Mérida, México. David also serves as the Director of Deaf Ministries for his mission board, Baptist International Outreach.

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