Find What You’re Looking For: Searching a PDF for Information

Searching a PDF

If you’re looking for something specific in a PDF, you don’t have to scan the entire document. You could be searching a PDF for information. Find out how.

Although PDFs are over 25 years old, it remains to be the favored file format for sharing documents. They’re pixel-perfect, saves space, and are free-to-use.

Struggling to find a specific passage or line in a large PDF file? Searching a PDF for a word or phrase is not as easy as other file formats.

Don’t worry, we have a few ways that can let you search for a word or phrase in all your PDF files. Read on to learn how to search a PDF document and narrow down your search with these easy ways.

How to Make PDF Text Searchable

The ability to search a PDF for a word may not apply to all files. You can check by trying to highlight a word. If the entire page turns blue, then it means the text is not searchable.

Note that the following instructions apply to make PDF text-searchable in Adobe Reader or Acrobat. Click on the tool and go to Text Recognition to find In This File. A Recognize Text window will appear.

Select on All pages then click OK. The process will take a few minutes to process page by page. You can also enable text-searchability in many documents. Go back to Text Recognition and choose In Multiple Files.

The Recognize Text dialog box will open, and you can add or drag the files into the box. After the documents finish processing, you can now search a word through the Find box.

Opening the Search/Find Window Pane

Make sure your PDF is open in a PDF reader rather than your browser. If you’re using Acrobat Reader, the search window may or may not be there. To display the search or find window pane, go to Edit and click on Advanced Search.

You can also use the keyword shortcuts Command+f and Ctrl+f, or Shift+Ctrl. Once the Find toolbar is open, click on the arrow and choose Open Full Acrobat Search. The search will appear as a separate window.

Utilize the Advanced Search Options

The search window displays of most PDF readers will display the basic search options. Click on Show More Options located at the bottom of the window to display the additional options.

What Word or Phrase Would You Like to Look For?

Under this option, you can match a word or phrase, match any words, and match all words. Simply write under any of the boxes and press enter. It will search across many PDFs and index definition files.

Boolean Query for Searching PDF

Boolean operators are words used as conjunctions to combine to exclude keywords in a search. It helps in making searches have more focused and productive results.

The AND operator helps you find two terms or words that are documents. For example, type apple AND orange to find documents containing both apple and orange.

Using NOT excludes any documents containing a term. For example, NOT potato to find all files without the word potato.

The operator OR searches all instances of either term. For example, email OR e-mail to find all documents having either of the spelling.

Using ^ searches for all documents that have either of the terms, but not both. For example, type in cat ^ bird to search all files that have either the word cat or bird.

Lastly, using parentheses specifies the order of evaluation of terms. For example, try typing in white AND (whale OR shark). It searches documents with white and whale or white and shark.

Use Additional Criteria

There are two types of additional criteria: text option and document properties.

Under the text option, you can edit the Proximity and Stemming. You can also search for texts with bookmarks, comments, and attachments.

Proximity searches for two or more words separated by no more than a specified number of words. While Stemming finds other words containing part of the main specified word. For example, searching open will also show files with opens and opening.

For the document properties, you can search across many PDFs or PDF indexes. The menus under it are for the property, modifier, and value or text. The property searches for a specific document characteristic like its creation date.

The modifier indicates the level of matching in the form Is Not and Is Exactly. The value or text looks for the specific info that you typed in.

Use Windows Searching PDF

Did you know that Windows has a built-in search feature called the Windows search option? Head to your Control Panel and click on Indexing Options. Click on Advanced and select the file types tab.

Under the File Types, you can check the boxes next to the file types you want to search. Enable the Index Properties and File Contents then click on OK. Open the Indexing Options and click Modify to choose the folder filled with your PDF files.

Once Windows finish indexing, you can start searching a PDF or multiple PDFs for text in the content or details.

Download a Third-Party Searching Program

If you’d rather have an outside searching program, here are some great word searching apps. These apps allow you to search for a specific text string inside all documents regardless of their format.

AgentRansack can search for any file name, file content, size, and much more. Since it looks through all your files and documents, it takes a minimum of 5 minutes to search.

Another app is DocFetcher which is open-source software. What makes this app different is the need to create a search index. Select a folder, index it, then you can start searching a PDF for a word.

Start Searching PDF for Words and Info

Your PDF preview and browser aren’t always enough to search for keywords. Third-party apps and programs dedicated to PDFs are the way to go if you need a powerful search tool. Start searching a PDF for a word or phrase so you can organize and find the files and info you’re looking for.

Of course, there are other things you can do with a PDF file. It’s one of the most versatile document file types out there. To learn more tips like these, we invite you to keep reading our other guides today!