I seem to be “out of step” concerning your delight in pdf documents, which I find totally user unfriendly. I do a lot of
editing, copying and pasting (for personal commitments and study purposes). I cannot do that with pdf documents and often finish up
frustrated after wasting a lot of time trying to buck the (system) document or by laboriously ‘copy typing’ a particular extract
that I need. Am I missing something here in my understanding and use of pdf documents, which would account for my inability to edit
or copy and paste extracts in the same way that I can with, say, WORD documents ?
Yes, there is something you’re missing.
But you’re very much not alone.
The missing link is simply this: what, really, is the purpose of PDF format?
PDF documents were originally intended as a digital replacement for paper, nothing more. Features like copy/paste were never intended or even initially implemented. Its primary purpose is for reading documents, and doing so in a way that the documents look the same, as much as is possible, across a wide variety of computers and devices.
Think of PDF format as a photocopy of a document and you won’t be far off the mark. They look the same as the original, and they’re portable – they look the same no matter what computer you view them on.
PDF is, primarily, a portable reading and display format, it does that very, very well.
Of course like all things computer, over time features have been added. Many PDF documents, depending on how they are created, can in fact be used as the source for a copy/paste.
There are two problems:
the author of a PDF can elect to disable that functionality. Thus I can create a PDF in which copy is disabled. Why? Copyright and content theft protection are the normal reasons.
Not all PDFs contain text – some contain images. Images of pages. This would be the equivalent of taking a digital picture of a page in a book and pasting that into a word document. You would not be able to select or copy pieces of that page as text.
PDFs were also never intended to be editable, and current programs that allow you to do so are not 100% effective depending specifically on the PDF you’re trying to use it on.
PDF is a wonderful, portable reading format. But you’re correct, if you’re trying to do much more than read, it may well fall short, depending on the specifics of the documents you’re attempting to operate on.