How to make a PDF file searchable.

A woman in an office uses her laptop to make a PDF searchable with Adobe Acrobat.

Having issues when trying to figure out how to make a PDF searchable? Easily search through long PDF files with a lot of text. Learn how to make scanned PDF documents searchable.

Once you scan a paper document into a PDF file, you may notice that you can’t search the text. Your scanner captures the pages as a flat image, which means there’s no text your PDF viewer can recognize. This can be a problem, especially with text-heavy documents.

Fortunately, it’s easy to resolve this issue. Read on to learn how to make a PDF file searchable.

Read the sections below to learn how to make a PDF searchable, either by converting it or keeping the format using other tools.

Convert a PDF to a searchable PDF with Word.

First, you’ll need to get your PDF viewer to recognize the text on your PDF file before you can search through it. You can do this by converting your PDF to a Word file with Adobe Acrobat online services — just follow these three easy steps:

  1. Navigate to the PDF to Word converter on your web browser.
  2. Upload your file to the converter.
  3. Download your converted file.

The converter will recognize all text on your PDF file. You can then simply convert the Word file back to a PDF document, and the text will remain searchable.

Use the Find command to search a PDF.

You can search for words and phrases on a PDF file by simply using the Find command. Press Ctrl+F if you’re using a Windows computer device, or press Command+F if you’re using a Mac computer. Then, you can enter the word or text you want to locate in the Find dialog box, which will allow you to select Next or Previous to move through the search results.

Make a PDF searchable with Adobe Acrobat.

To make a PDF searchable using Adobe Acrobat, you can follow these steps:

  1. Open Adobe Acrobat on your computer.
  2. Click Open.
  3. Find and select the document you want to make searchable, then click Open.
  4. Head to Tools and select Recognize Text.
  5. Press PDF Output Style Searchable Image.
  6. Select OK.

Explore Adobe Acrobat and learn more about how to search a PDF in Adobe Acrobat.

How do I know if I have a searchable PDF?

To understand whether a PDF file is searchable, you need to make sure the file is text-based — meaning that it has to contain real text. To know whether you have a searchable PDF using Adobe Acrobat, you can follow these steps:

  1. Scan a document or open the PDF you want to make searchable on your phone and take a screenshot of it
  2. Select the Edit menu, then right-click and choose Select All. This will select all of the text in the file.
  3. If nothing is selected, there is no text, and the file isn’t searchable.

Another way to do this is simply by searching or selecting text with your keyboard or mouse after opening the PDF file. If you can’t select or highlight text, then the PDF is not searchable.

Can I make a searchable PDF without converting it?

You can convert a PDF file to a searchable PDF using Word. That way, you will be able to search for specific words and phrases in your document.

If you need to search for certain lines or words within a PDF that is not searchable, you can make your file searchable without having to convert it. To do so, you can either use the Find command or Adobe Acrobat.

Can I convert back to a PDF file?

You can convert your document back to a PDF file after you’re done searching for the text you needed.

To convert your Word document back to PDF, you can follow these steps:

  1. Open the file in Microsoft Word.
  2. The steps to convert a Word document to a PDF are slightly different based on your operating system. On Windows, click the Acrobat tab, then click Create PDF. On Mac, click the Create and Share Adobe PDF icon, then skip to step 4.
  3. Next, you’ll need to protect the PDF. Select Restrict Editing in the dialog box if you want to prevent the finished PDF file from being changed without your permission.
  4. Save as a PDF file. Select a folder for the exported file or click Choose a Different Folder and navigate to the appropriate folder.
  5. Rename your document and click Save.

You can also use this online tool to convert Word to PDF.

How to make a PDF searchable on iPhone or iPad.

You can use the Adobe Scan and Adobe Acrobat Reader apps to make PDF files searchable on your iPhone or iPad. To convert a PDF to make it searchable, follow the steps below.

Make the PDF text searchable using Adobe Scan.

  1. Open the PDF you want to make searchable on your phone and take a screenshot of it.
  2. Open the Adobe Scan app and select and import the screenshot of the PDF.
  3. The Scan app will open the screenshot and give you the option to Save PDF.
  4. Select Save PDF in the upper-right corner of your phone.
  5. Once it’s been saved, you can open the new PDF and tap the hourglass on the top-right corner. You can now search words on your PDF.

Search the PDF using Adobe Acrobat Reader.

  1. Open the Acrobat Reader app on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Tap the Search button on the lower right of your screen.
  3. Type your search. This can be either the name of your file or any words that may appear in it.
  4. You will see the search results from files on your phone.
  5. You can search for files that are outside of the Acrobat Reader app by selecting the menu options labeled “On this phone,” “Adobe cloud storage,” and “Shared files.”

Learn more about how to search a PDF on an iPad and search a PDF on an iPhone.

How to make a PDF searchable on Android.

You can follow the guidelines above to make a PDF searchable using the Adobe Scan and Adobe Acrobat Reader apps on your Android.

Work on your searchable PDF files.

Once you’ve made your PDF searchable, you can keep working on it with Acrobat online services. With the many available tools, you can edit PDF files, compress your PDF documents to smaller file sizes, or fill out and sign PDF forms — all the while keeping them searchable.

Now that you’ve learned how to make a PDF searchable, here are other ways to work with your files:

Explore what more you can do with Acrobat online services today.