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26

Cannot highlight text in a PDF.

New Here ,
Jun 28, 2015 Jun 28, 2015

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Too hard??  I have been using Adobe products for 20 years and never had a single problem highlighting a pdf.  Today I find I can't highlight a PDF and I really need to.  I have spent the entire day, its now 3:30pm, trolling the internet trying to find out how to highlight and Adobe PDF document.  Epic fail Adobe.

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Comment markup and annotate , General troubleshooting , iOS

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2 ACCEPTED SOLUTIONS
Adobe Employee ,
Jul 01, 2015 Jul 01, 2015

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Hi willm26591030,

Are you using the desktop app on a Windows/Mac computer or the mobile app on an iPad/iPhone or Android tablet/phone?  (Your forum post appeared in the mobile forum.  But it is not clear which app you actually use.)

It sounds like you have a different problem.  The other users in this forum thread had questions about how to find the commenting tools in the new mobile Reader app - Adobe Acrobat Reader for iOS or Android.

Your problem may be caused by the type of your PDF document.

Here are the most common cases.

(a) Scanned PDF document containing no real text

Try selecting text instead of highlighting text.  If you cannot select text at all (no matter how hard you try), your PDF document is likely a scanned PDF.  You can only add Text Markup annotations (Highlight, Underline, Strikeout) to real text, not to image of text.  You need to run OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software to turn images of text into real text.

(b) Secured/protected PDF document

The security settings or restrictions of the PDF document explicitly disallow commenting.  The author/distributor of the PDF document does not want you to add comments to it.  All of the commenting tools will be disabled in this case.

(c) Encrypted PDF document

When security settings (e.g. password, certificate) or restrictions are added to a PDF document, the document becomes encrypted.  Unlike the desktop version of Adobe Reader, the mobile Adobe Acrobat Reader apps (for iOS, Android, Windows Phone) have the known limitation where changes cannot be saved to encrypted PDF documents.  Therefore, users are not able to make any changes to encrypted PDF documents.  The easiest way to work around the problem is to use the desktop version of Adobe Reader.

Pleas let us know if you would like us to examine your PDF document to identify the particular reason why you cannot highlight text.

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Community Beginner ,
Jun 02, 2020 Jun 02, 2020

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The same happens to Adobe Acrobat Reader DC desktop version and I use a workaround:

• Click on Comment icon to enable the tools.

• Click on Draw Rectangle tool,

• Click on Change Color tool, choose the color and set opacity to about 40%,

• Click on Change Line Thickness tool and set to 0 pt,

• Draw a rectangle around the text you want to highlight.

If you are not satisfied with the color and opacity then right click the rectangle, click Properties and change its appearance.

This will also highlight over the character itself and the effect is not as good as the real Highlight.

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New Here ,
May 22, 2020 May 22, 2020

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Hi,

I am trying to highlight the PDF files which I get from saving my .docx files as .pdf files. In fact is about my CV where I tried to highlight some lines. 

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Community Beginner ,
Jun 02, 2020 Jun 02, 2020

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The same happens to Adobe Acrobat Reader DC desktop version and I use a workaround:

• Click on Comment icon to enable the tools.

• Click on Draw Rectangle tool,

• Click on Change Color tool, choose the color and set opacity to about 40%,

• Click on Change Line Thickness tool and set to 0 pt,

• Draw a rectangle around the text you want to highlight.

If you are not satisfied with the color and opacity then right click the rectangle, click Properties and change its appearance.

This will also highlight over the character itself and the effect is not as good as the real Highlight.

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New Here ,
Jul 08, 2020 Jul 08, 2020

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This is what worked for me, I was trying ti ighlight bank statements - but these speceific pdfs have some sort of protection, so this workaround did the trick.

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New Here ,
Nov 03, 2021 Nov 03, 2021

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Attempted all the options above and below including the print option and the save option but nothing. This is not ideal but it is so much better than the alternative. Thanks heaps!

 

Another example of corporate IT simply not being interested or caring. They simply don't care. The staff might, but the decision makers do not.

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New Here ,
Sep 25, 2020 Sep 25, 2020

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I have found a work around for this highlighting issue.  This was extremely frustrating for me over the past week!

Here you go:  Open your PDF file>Click File> Click Print> Printer = Adobe PDF>Click Print>Save as (Give this file name a new name)> You can now highlight as normal.

You will notice some of the pages are flipped around, so you will need to rotate them.  This should solve the issue.

 

You can all buy me a drink when you see me! 

 

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New Here ,
Mar 17, 2021 Mar 17, 2021

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This does work.  Thanks.

 

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Community Beginner ,
Jan 25, 2022 Jan 25, 2022

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Bill,

You are a fricken genius! This had me pulling my hair out.

So simple. Save to PDF and you rewrite the form; all in Adobe format.

I'm happily highlighting everything now.

Yes, buy this man a beer!!!!

Chris

christopher.chase@scihp.org

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New Here ,
Mar 09, 2022 Mar 09, 2022

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Hiii

I cannot find the Adobe PDF. Can you please describe in detail for me? Thanks :<

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New Here ,
Jan 10, 2023 Jan 10, 2023

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I wonder if Adobe will ever fix their problem instead of us having to do this. I do this if I'm saving a document from the web, then have to do it again so I am able to highlight. So basically I save every document twice...

You've made so many people happy here! Salud!

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New Here ,
Jun 05, 2023 Jun 05, 2023

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This works! Thank you!

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New Here ,
Jun 28, 2023 Jun 28, 2023

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I tried this and it still won't work. Super frustrating - I've never had this problem before.

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New Here ,
Feb 03, 2021 Feb 03, 2021

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I am not sure about bank statements but our IT guy showed me that if export word document to pdf you can highlight the document and highlight lines all at once.  Instead of making the document look like a colouring book. Hope this helps

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New Here ,
Mar 17, 2021 Mar 17, 2021

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I've had this problem recently.   I've always been able to look up a federal solicitation document (as part of my job) online and print to PDF, then highlight the important parts.  Lately, when I've been printing to Adobe PDF, I've been unable to highlight text in the resulting document.  It just highlights an circular area, not at all related to the text.  I've even tried running the OCR to recognize text, but it doesn't work.  It's very frustrating. 

 

I finally discovered a solutuion.  When I right click and select Print, I see the options of "Adobe PDF" and "Save As PDF".  If I select print to "Adobe PDF", I am faced with the problem described.  But if I select "Save As PDF", I am able to highlight the text in the saved document.  I am not sure if this "Save As PDF" option uses a Kami PDF extension that I have installed on my browser (MS Edge).  Perhaps it does.  But in short, the way to get around the problem is to not use the "Adobe PDF" option.  Given that I am using a paid license for Adobe Acrobat, this is a problem that should be addressed.

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Community Beginner ,
Jun 08, 2021 Jun 08, 2021

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Thank you !!!   I don't know why they made this so difficult.  One of the reason's I used to like Adobe was for it's highlighting capability.  Now it's extra work everytime I try to do it.

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New Here ,
Sep 15, 2021 Sep 15, 2021

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I have never in my life commented on a post (always just find the solution and leave), but I had to take the time to say that you are an absolute life saver. I could not figure out for the life of me why I couldn't highlight the text in my documents. I tested out your theory and you are absolutely correct. This is exactly the case. THANK YOU a million times thank you!

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New Here ,
Jul 27, 2022 Jul 27, 2022

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The Adobe PDF option worked for me. But if it ever doesn't, I'll keep your suggestion in mind.

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New Here ,
Sep 16, 2021 Sep 16, 2021

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O

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New Here ,
Jan 27, 2022 Jan 27, 2022

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I'd been having the same problem on Android... But somewhere in the deep, dark recesses of my mind I remembered being able to do ALL kinds of editing including highlighting at some point.

 

Having had weird, non-sensical Acrobat UX issues in the past, I left cloud and went, via Files, to "On This Device" and tried again.

 

Lo & Behold, that was the fix! Again, totally odd UI. 

 

My 2 BIGGEST pet peeves however are,

 

1. Being unable to rename a file from inside the document! Totally crazy-making.

 

2. No batch uploading of device pdfs to the cloud UNLESS they are combined, which really isn't batch uploading at all. 

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New Here ,
Jun 03, 2022 Jun 03, 2022

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I had this same problem, but rather than corrupt the integrity of the document, I opened it in edge and was able to highlight the document the way I liked. from File manager, right-clicked the file, open with edge... done

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New Here ,
Oct 01, 2023 Oct 01, 2023

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This worked for me, also the fact that recently wheel scrolling went awry in adobe and I had to use the hand tool to wheel option is another downer. I might just have to change pdfs to always open in Edge, even though I;m not an Edge fan, but I am fast becoming not an adobe fan. Someone is fiddling with the software somehwere and it's deterimental to usability

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Community Beginner ,
Jul 27, 2022 Jul 27, 2022

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This is a version problem. The solution is to Save As and select the file format: "PDF/X" and you will be in highlighting heaven...

Furthermore, this will turn on highlighting in the right-click context sensative menu, and you can set properties to default to a particular highlight color. To take highlighting off, select "White..."

 

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New Here ,
Feb 16, 2023 Feb 16, 2023

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Encountered the same issue -- unable to highlight text in pdf docs that had no security protections -- had always previously been able to perform this simple function which suddenly became disabled. The suggestions posted here did not work. After some trial and error, the following change seems to have remedied the problem for me and once again enabled the ability to highlight pdf text (hope this helps):

1) Click account - preferences (upper right circle/pie chart next to notifications bell icon);

James28445280vsg8_1-1676575651348.png

 

2) Under Preferences -- Categories -- click "General" 

James28445280vsg8_0-1676575622976.png

3) Under General -- Basic Tools -- check the box next to "Make Hand too select text & images"

For some reason the box was unchecked -- once I checked it and clicked okay highlighting was once again enabled

James28445280vsg8_2-1676575766177.png

James28445280vsg8_3-1676575911790.png

 

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New Here ,
Apr 27, 2023 Apr 27, 2023

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I had the issue of not being able to hightlight when I did saved my document as "print to pdf". this is what I did:

  • Open the "Start" menu and in the search tab and type: Turn Windows features on or off.
  •  uncheck the feature of "Microsoft Print to PDF".
  • check the feature of "Microsoft Print to PDF" back on

and that worked for me and I can do highlight now.

good luck.

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New Here ,
Oct 05, 2023 Oct 05, 2023

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Thanks James, in my version (Acrobat Pro DC) that option needed to be activated, as well. Must have been the almighty hand of Adobe to make such a change secretly. I'd wish they strated to talk to their users before that decide on USr Interface matters. I've added your method to my Acrobat Cheat Sheet (over a page long now).

 

Thabks again
Greetings from a sunnt Amsterdam

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Community Beginner ,
Nov 24, 2023 Nov 24, 2023

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Here's my solution: open PDFs in Microsoft Word - a program where highlighting is simple, and works the way it's supposed to. I tried for an hour to make it work in Acrobat, and couldn't get it to. Adobe, Acrobat is janky and the tool process is opaque and near unusable. Look at Word, learn, and fix.

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