I work as instructor at a local community college. When giving out test to students, I used to copy problems from pdf files and paste them into Word files. The tool I am using is the popular screen-capturing tool called SnipIt. But unfortunately the result is inevitably blurry when the problems were printed out on paper.

Is there any better screen-capturing tool than the one I am using it right now? I do not need fancy features, all I need is better print-out result.

  • 1
    Have you tried any alternative tools? – Leslie P. Oct 27 '16 at 13:14
  • 3
    Why dont you extract the image/vector content form the PDF file? – joojaa Oct 27 '16 at 13:18
  • 3
    They get blurry because the images tend to be low-pixel count. The answers below are decent, but one trick to get the most out of a screenshot is to zoom in as much as possible before hitting printscrn. If you can get the formula to 1900 px wide, that should be good for about 1900/300ppi=6 inches wide – Yorik Oct 27 '16 at 16:49
  • Thanks to all, especially to @Yorik for good tip. I have up-voted your response. – A.Magnus Oct 27 '16 at 20:43

Screenshots of PDFs are going to be limited by the density of your monitor and (I'd assume) rendering settings from the PDF viewer.

There are many tools for converting a PDF file (or pages from a PDF file) to a PNG file. Adobe Acrobat is able to do this. Imagemagick, which is free, is also able to do this.

With Imagemagick installed, the command below extracts page 11 of foo.pdf as a PNG file at 300 DPI.

convert -density 300 foo.pdf[10] foo.png

Note: the page number is in the square brackets. The page numbering starts at zero, so page 1 is 0.

Once you have the page as a PNG, use a traditional tool to crop it, such as GIMP, Paint.net, or Photoshop.

Other options

If the PDF has text and vector content, you can open it in Inkscape, and then delete the content you don't need. Inkscape can export a PNG file, but you can save as a vector file too (SVG for LibreOffice or EMF for Microsoft Word).

If the content you need is a raster image (meaning you can't select the text), you can import the PDF into GIMP and crop it without taking the time to convert it to PNG first.

Use TeX instead

Are you teaching math (since you mentioned the math.se) and getting images of math problems for tests? If yes, I'd strongly recommend learning LaTeX. It's ability to render math is second to none—sometimes even beautiful. There's a tex.se as well. There's even a TeXLive package specifically for creating tests.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    I like the tex suggestion. – Yorik Oct 27 '16 at 16:48
  • Thank you for your time. I do have account with ShareLatex and I am reasonably proficient in typing in LaTex. However, the tests come so often and I simply do not have time to type them. Thanks again for your suggestion to use Imagemagick, I will surely take a look. – A.Magnus Oct 27 '16 at 20:45
  • Great imagemagick command line example! Very informative of the syntax. – user1306322 Oct 27 '16 at 22:42
  • Note that your example extracts the eleventh page of the PDF file (the pages are zero-indexed); this may not be obvious to some. – wchargin Oct 28 '16 at 0:42
  • Other free tools are often more suitable for partial pages: inkscape if the original is vector (scales sharply even when zoomed in to the max); the GIMP if the pdf is from a scanner or is otherwise made up of raster content (e.g. photos) – Chris H Oct 28 '16 at 8:01

Any screen capture / screen shot tool will only ever capture the screen contents at screen resolution, which is significantly lower than the resolution required for a high quality print. If you take a screenshot from a device with a high pixel density (aka Retina display) then you will get better results, but they will still fall short of the clarity and sharpness of printed text (for instance).

If screen shots are your only option then all you can do is get the required content as large as possible on the highest resolution screen that you have available before taking the screen shot. Beyond that, you will have to live with the relatively low quality.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    As a alternative one can just open the PDF drectly in a editor. – joojaa Oct 27 '16 at 13:19
  • Thank you for your time. Increasing the resolution is also a good idea, but looks like I am out of luck. Currently I am using just a ordinary laptop, and I just saw that the screen's resolution has been maxed to 1366 x 768. But anyway thanks again for your help. – A.Magnus Oct 27 '16 at 20:48

Screen capture is not what you want in this case, you want to take the information from the PDF file directly. Depending on the tool you are using to view the PDF, as long as the PDF hasn't been DRM protected, you should be able to select a rectangular area from the PDF, then copy and paste that directly to word.

The exact instructions depend on what PDF viewer you are using. If you could add more detail in a comment, I will try to expand this answer.

| improve this answer | |
  • The OP could always use the PDF viewer that we know they have: Microsoft Word. – wizzwizz4 Oct 27 '16 at 19:15

Use the Capture tool in Adobe Reader. There are options in it to set the number of pixels returned when the screenshot is taken. Bump that number up higher to get much better screenshots returned. We used that tool when taking screenshots from PDFs in order to feed the resulting images into an OCR tool, and it worked great.


| improve this answer | |
  • Thank you! I will surely make an experiment out of your suggestion. – A.Magnus Oct 27 '16 at 20:50
  • No problem! The neat thing is that it doesn't matter what the resolution of the screen is, it only matters what that option is set to. There are actually two options (one in options and one in preferences) so set them both to a higher value :o) – Anna Dougherty Oct 28 '16 at 14:40

My daughter is an attorney, specializing in intellectual property (copyrights, etc.) Screenshots from PDFs don't exempt their content from copyrights.

That said, I use the shareware Greenshot on my PC - and I save each shot as a .PNG file (Portable Network Graphic). Have found better-looking results with just about any screenshot .

On the Mac, I use CTRL + CMD + SHIFT + 4 to draw boundaries and make screenshots. I was opening them in GraphicConverter but lately, it saves everything under the same generic filename and doesn't remember if I ask it to give the file a specific name.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.