How To Copy Text From "Uncopyable" Windows Screens


If you're keeping notes of your PC activity, or compiling instructions for someone else on how to use their computer, it's often useful to copy and paste text from the operating system into a document or other program.  Perhaps most common is the requirement to copy the text from an error message dialogue box, so that you can paste it into a search engine and hopefully find a solution to your problem.

Annoyingly, though, some parts of certain Windows screens won't let you copy the text.  However hard you press the mouse button, the cursor stubbornly refuses to change into the shape that tells you it's allowing you to copy the text.

The solution is a small program called GetWindowText.  It's a tiny 0.05 MB download from which works on all versions of Windows from XP onwards (I personally tested it on 8.0).  It's free, portable, and malware-free according to VirusTotal and Web of Trust.

To use the program, run it by clicking the .EXE file from the unzipped download.  Then click on the small button that you can see in the screen shot below and, while holding down that button, move your mouse to a section of the screen that you want to copy.  The section will be outlined in black as you do so, in order to inform you which component is selected.  Now release the left mouse button and, assuming the highlighted section of the screen is supported by the program, its text will appear in the GetWindowText editor window, so you can copy and paste it to your heart's content.

Please note that, while GetWindowText is a useful and free program, its download web site can be misleading.  Make sure you click on the correct links to download the program, and not on the large green Download buttons that are actually adverts for other products.



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There's also Textify, which I discovered by reading this:

I do this by using the Windows Snipping tool to take a shot of the text area then use the OCR program (in my case [commercial software edited out by moderator]) that is part of the software for my printer/scanner to convert the image to PDF. Then I can select and copy any part of the text as required.

Thanks for all of your work.

1. Someone ^^ mentioned trying to find the download link on these types of pages. Sometimes I just give up because they hide it so well.

2. Also, I like to share lots of these and wonder if you could move the Share to the top instead of the bottom of the article.

Great Find, thank you.

This is a great link. Thanks for the post!

I wonder what's the difference with using something like SNIPIT or other utilities to take a screen shot? Anybody can tell me? Anyway I will give it a shot to get a feel for it....

If you want the TEXT, a picture will not help

All download buttons brought up invitation to download a programme called BearShare - "a peer-to-peer file sharing program that not only allows you to download the latest music and video but you can connect with friends and make new ones who are into the same artists."
There was no button for downloading the GetWindowText programme.

The download link is at the very bottom of the page Rob linked to. Here is a direct link to the actual download page:

I guess this program only works with error messages. I installed it and attempted to copy text off a standard page with no results. I fail to see the usefulness of this program after my initial attempt.

I agree 100%. This app does seem rather limited. I tested it in several open explorer windows and it only recognizes the left side menus (as in Rob's screenshot), nothing in the main panel, menu bar or options bar.

It does seem to work quite well with system error messages though, which may prove useful for some.

I had that very problem this morning. I clicked on view source and copied the text from the html code. I also wanted a picture which was blocked. I used the PrtScr key. I'm definitely going to try this utility.

Rob, the last sentence should be bold.
Changed. :) MC

He has a bunch of interesting utilities at SoftweareOK. One I can recommend is WinScan2PDF

What a good utility.!! Like Jero, I have always needed this and now Christmas has come early thanks to you.

Thank you for this Rob. I have needed this for a long time. My workaround was Picpick, which I love, but sometimes you really need editable text. Just what the Dr. ordered.