Can't copy / cut / duplicate in OS X
January 20, 2014 11:25 AM   Subscribe

Why is cut/copy/duplicate greyed out in Apple Preview app? When I open PDFs or XLS files in Preview by double clicking on them, I'm able to select text but cannot ever copy or cut it. Someone suggested duplicating the file first, but that option is also greyed out. 10.9.1 Why? Thanks!
posted by dobbs to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, and not only are they greyed out, but Cntrl-C, V, etc don't work.
posted by dobbs at 11:32 AM on January 20, 2014

Is it grayed out on all .pdfs you try? Because it's not on mine...
posted by leahwrenn at 11:41 AM on January 20, 2014

In my experience this is a property of the PDF. It's a form of copy protection.
posted by alms at 11:41 AM on January 20, 2014

Response by poster: Actually, no. I hadn't thought to check that. It's only greyed out on all files from one client.

I just asked them and they say they're not intentionally doing it. Does anyone know what they need to do to make it stop?
posted by dobbs at 11:46 AM on January 20, 2014

Response by poster: More importantly, how do they stop it on XLS files? That's what they send me most.
posted by dobbs at 11:48 AM on January 20, 2014

The first step in answering that question would be knowing how they are currently creating the PDF files.
posted by alms at 11:54 AM on January 20, 2014

If it really is true that they haven't messed up the PDF creation somehow, you could still be experiencing file permissions issues. How are they sending you the files? I've occasionally had problems with files sent by, for instance, sftp, coming through with -rwxr--r-- permissions and the wrong owner. Try this in the terminal:

sudo chown yourusername /path/to/your/file.pdf
sudo chmod u+rwx /path/to/your/file.pdf
posted by fifthrider at 12:32 PM on January 20, 2014

Although permissions wouldn't cause the in-application copy/paste issues, now that I think about it. They could still be contributing to the duplication problem, though.
posted by fifthrider at 12:33 PM on January 20, 2014

Response by poster: They're just emailing me the files.
posted by dobbs at 12:36 PM on January 20, 2014

Response by poster: I'm more concerned with the XLS files, which are 90% of them.
posted by dobbs at 12:37 PM on January 20, 2014

Response by poster: Employee at client's who sends me the files (but doesn't create them) say she has none of these issues.
posted by dobbs at 12:47 PM on January 20, 2014

Can you share a file that's exhibiting the problem?
posted by tomierna at 1:56 PM on January 20, 2014

Is there a lock in the corner of the file icon? If so, this might help: Managing Locked Files in OSX

Why are you opening XLS files in Preview? Do you not have Office or iWork or OpenOffice, et cetera?

Edit: since these are coming from email, try 'Save as...' and THEN try editing/copying/pasting. But yeah, try to not use Preview for this sort of stuff if possible.
posted by destructive cactus at 3:32 PM on January 20, 2014

What happens if you use MacOSX's print to PDF option? Can you open that PDF and copy/paste from it?
posted by tomierna at 4:03 PM on January 20, 2014

Well, here's a way to deactivate save/cut/copy/paste. It is a VBA macro, so I wonder if the client somehow has that macro run on all their xls files before they save them or email them or something like that. They should be able to figure out what macros are enabled for their file (you can just follow these instructions and stop after step 3 to simply view what macros are there).

From your end, a couple of ideas:
1--Try saving as an rtf or a csv file from your email client (just replace the .xls extension with .csv) then open from within excel and see what you get.


2--Save the original .xls file as usual. Then edit this VBA macro (same one as linked above), and where it says "activate" substitute the word "deactivate" and where it says "deactivate" substitute the word "activate" and then run the macro on your saved .xls file and see if it fixes things.
posted by gubenuj at 5:21 PM on January 20, 2014

For pdfs try PDF Unlock, it's free and has worked well for me. The interface is a bit ugly and non-mac like, but then, it's free!
posted by v-tach at 8:39 PM on January 20, 2014

...and I had a similar problem not being able to cut or paste with a password protected excel file that I was able to unlock and modify using a macro and following the instructions in this youtube video.
posted by v-tach at 8:49 PM on January 20, 2014

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