I do in-house graphic design for a retail store. We outsource the production of our short catalog-flyers, roughly ten facing pages and two covers. Among my duties is to maintain the ecommerce side of the retail store, from designing the marketing to implementing the code and data entry for the products.

We use the homepage to feature the sale, so on our "About the Sale" page we just put a pdf of our sale flyer. The pdf is fully flattened so no text is selectable, though it's chock full of product names, descriptions, advertised prices that correlate to the ecommerce, and images.

I could use this info. I believe search engines would read it (if I'm not mistaken) and provide more hits. It would give the savvy user the ability to do a text search if they need a particular item, or allow them to copy and paste. People filling out purchase orders within thier company might appreciate.

Almost every flyer or catalog I come across in PDF format has selectable text. I cannot think of one without it now but I assume I've come across some.

In talking with the company head myself, they insist that it is impossible for them to produce a pdf with selectable text because they "don't use in-design but rather photoshop and illustrator" (to paraphrase). In request for the working files, I was told they could not do that due to their graphic design guild's standards and would have to charge us 3x the price. In practice, I'm just trying to find out if the text layers are in illustrator or photoshop, and if they could simply export it and not flatten it.

What are your thoughts on the company's reaction to my request for text-selectable layers? Am I barking up the wrong tree to want this to have selectable text? Would it really provide a noticible benefit to anyone but me? What kind of price difference would make sense to have a text-selectable document or are they providing a service that is not up to par with their industry?

  • They are actually being jerks on purpose and doing extra work to make the text nonselectable.
    – joojaa
    Nov 3, 2014 at 4:56
  • Spontaneously shooting through my mind as an advice: look for another provider.
    – Max Wyss
    Nov 3, 2014 at 7:55
  • Are they using flippypages or some other similar eye candy?
    – Max Wyss
    Nov 3, 2014 at 7:56
  • They give us the print proofs and then also gave us a flipping pages. The flipping pages included a search box but not a single but of real text. I am now doing the flipping pages to save the extra $. I don't know how much extra they charged but it is ridiculous that it was nothing special—or even an industry standard—of a final product. Nov 4, 2014 at 17:06

2 Answers 2


I am able to create PDFs from both PS and IL which have text which is editable in Acrobat, so physically the capability exists.

The vendor may be choosing not to give you editable files (or argue that they have to charge you 3X rate for them) because they feel it would allow you to alter and/or recreate them, allowing you to cut them out of the process and take over creation of the files yourself.

From a user standpoint, I find the idea of online text or an online catalog I can't search to be preposterous. If you have e-commerce capabilities, you should have a database which is updated per item, not what is essentially photographs of the catalog pages pasted on your website. That's pretty well useless to me as a customer.


One thing you can try to make the text selectable would be processing the PDF with OCR in Acrobat. Assuming that text is at a decent resolution, there should be almost no errors.

  • +1 to this; in Acrobat Pro, create a PDF then use Tools -> Recognize Text -> In This File. It allows the opening and scanning of jpeg and pdfs. But not .psd or .ai, etc. If it seems to do nothing, Acrobat Reader broke your Pro & need to reinstall Pro.
    – Krista K
    Nov 25, 2014 at 20:15
  • Acrobat does not recognize .psd. And .ai may have raster components, but is mainly vector, and may contain fonts. If you have a PDF with mixed, raster and vector (and maybe some text), you may export it as TIFF and then open that TIFF again in Acrobat, and run OCR over that file. A bit convoluted, but it does work.
    – Max Wyss
    Nov 26, 2014 at 0:28
  • yes I said exactly that: "not .psd".
    – Krista K
    Nov 26, 2014 at 4:15

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