How to search a PDF on a Mac.

A woman wearing headphones uses a Mac laptop to search a PDF file.

This article outlines a few quick steps you’ll need to know to search a PDF using a Mac.

If you’ve ever spent time skimming through a PDF looking for a specific keyword, note, phrase, or section, then you’re in the right place. You probably know how quickly that type of seeking can turn into minutes-long hunts. This article teaches you a shortcut to ensure you never waste valuable time again.

Keep reading to learn how you can search a PDF on your Mac.

Why search your PDF?

PDFs are common documents. Whether you’re creating and sending them or receiving them to review, you often need to identify important words and phrases to check, evaluate, and confirm.

With OCR (optical character recognition) technology, it’s possible to make PDFs searchable. That means you don’t need to convert a PDF into another format to locate specific text — and if you make digital copies of paper files, you can find what you’re looking for much faster.

You might want to search a PDF or multiple PDFs in order to find all instances of the type of information you’re looking for, such as a name, date, or account number. The chore of organizing and assembling paperwork just got much easier. You can also use the search tool for analytical purposes — for example, to identify how many instances there are of a certain phrase.

Here are a few other reasons you might need to search your PDF:

How to search a PDF on a Mac

To search a PDF using your Mac, simply open your PDF with Acrobat and follow these three easy steps:

A woman wearing headphones uses a Mac laptop to search a PDF file.

  1. Press CMD + F
  2. In the text box that appears, search your selected term or phrase
  3. Click the arrows to navigate the highlighted results

You might need to search a PDF in order to make quick edits. The Find and Replace tool can help:

  1. Press Command+F.
  2. Select the Replace With option.
  3. Adjust your search to include whole words only, add case sensitivity, or include bookmarks and comments.

If you’d rather not use a keyboard shortcut, just select the magnifying glass in the menu bar.

You can refine your search by selecting Edit > Advanced Search from the dropdown menu. You can limit search results to exact matches or to include phrases with any of the words. You can even perform a Boolean query with operators like AND, OR, and NOT. Other possible search restrictions include proximity, stemming, and document properties. In addition to the main body of the PDF, you can search bookmarks, comments, and attachments.

One more option for searching a PDF on a Mac is to use the Preview app. Just right-click on the file, select Open With, and select Preview. Then use the search bar or press Command+F. This route might work fine if you’re performing a quick search, but if you’re performing more complex searches in more than one PDF, the advanced tools in Acrobat will make it easier and save you a lot of time.

How to search multiple PDF files at once on a Mac.

Of all the possibilities, being able to search multiple documents at once might be the most helpful when you’re trying to gather and organize relevant files. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Open Adobe Acrobat.
  2. Select Edit > Advanced Search, or press Command+F.
  3. Select the option titled “Look in.”
  4. Choose an entire PDF Portfolio, index, or a location on your computer.

Note: It might help to drop all the PDFs you want to search in one folder and then perform the search on that folder only.

Unleash your PDF potential.

Whether you’re in the office or on the go, see how simple it is to search your PDF — no matter your device. With a little practice and the help of a few intuitive, functional products, you’ll be a PDF pro in no time, seamlessly resizing, rotating, highlighting, and redacting your PDF with ease.

Adobe Acrobat is more than a PDF viewer or editing tool. Having all the tools you need in one place means that you can be more productive and efficient. Alongside the tools that let you organize and edit documents are features that help you share and collaborate with others. That means you can make sense of complex information — either on your own or with a team — and present it in a final, polished format.

Explore everything you can do with Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Acrobat online services to reach your full PDF potential. If you need to compress PDF files, use a PDF form filler, or convert from formats such as Microsoft Word to PDF, Adobe Acrobat offers easy-to-use and friction-free solutions for your document management needs.