How to Search in PDFs: a Quick Guide
How to find anything in a PDF file or on multiple PDFs at once
Are you looking for an easier way to search in PDFs? Here’s a quick guide on how to search in PDFs.
What is a PDF?
First things first, right?!
PDF stands for Portable Document Format. PDF is a universal file format that can be opened by anyone, anywhere, and still preserves formatting, fonts, images and graphics — despite where it was created.
Because of that, it is a wise format choice for printing and distribution: what you see is exactly what you get.
But it can be tricky sometimes to search PDFs for what you need, so here are some tips.
There are lots of PDF readers in the market; each has its own way of searching
We’ll help you with the main free PDF readers currently available:
Your regular Internet Browser (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera, Edge…)
Adobe Acrobat Reader
Foxit PDF Reader
Searching multiple PDFs without opening them
Do you need to search through multiple PDF files or have scanned documents in a PDF that you need to locate?
Keep reading to discover Curiosity, an amazing tool that will locate anything you need on a PDF file — without having to open them one by one!
How to search PDFs with an Internet Browser?
To search a PDF in your favorite web browser is quite simple. Check the steps below.
Searching PDFs inside any Internet Browser (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera, Edge…)
Open the PDF file using an internet browser (right-click > Open with > Select browser)
Press CTRL+F (Windows) or CMD+F (Mac). You can also click on the Find function in the menu bar.
Type what you’re looking for in the search bar. Results will be highlighted.
Navigate through search results using the arrows next to the search box.
Close the search bar by pressing Esc or click X after you’re done.
Search PDFs with PDF Readers
How to search PDFs in Adobe Acrobat Reader?
As the original PDF tool, this might be one of the most common PDF readers out there. Follow the steps below to search PDFs in Adobe Acrobat Reader.
Searching inside Adobe Acrobat Reader
Open the PDF file with Adobe Acrobat Reader.
Press CTRL+F to open the find bar and type the word or phrase you want to find. Acrobat Reader will suggest matching words and how many times they appear on your file.
Press Enter to find the text. Any matching results will be highlighted in blue.
Click Previous or** Next** to locate other results of your search.
Click the Gear icon to use search filters (e.g. “Whole Words Only”) or to open the Full Acrobat Search (or press CTRL+Shift+F).
- Full Acrobat Search offers more options and the possibility to search every PDF in a specified folder.
- To stop the search, press Esc in the Find toolbar or click the X button to close the search window.
NOTE: Acrobat searches the PDF body text, layers, form fields, and digital signatures. You can also include bookmarks and comments in the search.
How to search PDFs in Foxit PDF Reader?
To find anything using
Searching inside Foxit PDF Reader
Open the PDF file with Foxit PDF Reader.
Press CTRL+F to go to the find box (at the upper right corner) and type the text you want to search for. Results will be highlighted in blue.
Press Enter repeatedly (or shortcut key F3) to locate the next results.
Click on the menu to the left of the find bar to open the Advanced Search, or press CTRL+Shift+F.
- On the Advanced Search, you can filter your results or search all PDFs in a chosen location.
- To stop the search, press Esc in the Find toolbar or click the X button.
NOTE: For each search, layers, form fields, and digital signatures in the document will also be searched automatically.
How to search PDFs in Nitro Reader?
To search for a word or phrase in a PDF file using Nitro Reader, follow the steps below.
Searching inside Nitro Reader
Open the PDF file with Nitro Reader
Press CTRL+F to open the find bar (1) and type the word or phrase you want to find
Press Enter to find the text. This will highlight in yellow any matches on the file
Click the up and down arrows (2 and 3) to locate the next or previous result of your search
Click the Gear icon to use search filters (4 and 5) or to open the Advanced Search (6)
Advanced Search can also be opened directly by clicking on the icon on the upper left with a magnifying glass.
- To stop the search, press Esc or click the X button to close the find bar.
NOTE: Find searches through text on the content layer only. It ignores the Annotation layer.
How to search multiple PDFs
If you have hundreds of PDF files on your computer, emails, and other apps, and doesn’t know where to start looking, we have the perfect tool to assist you.
Best of all: you can have it for free!
Curiosity is a strong, powerful search engine that can find anything that you want at the speed of light, in just one place. All kept safely within your device.
Searching multiple PDFs with Curiosity
Open Curiosity with Alt+Space.
Type PDF and hit Tab to search only on your PDF files.
Type what you’re looking for.
Select the PDF that has what you want and hit Enter to open it.
There it is! Curiosity will go through all the PDFs on your computer at light speed to find what you need.
Bonus: Search Scanned PDFs*
Curiosity can also search within images saved as PDFs — so you can find anything even in scanned PDFs, screenshots or pictures! Why don’t you give it a try now?
*Feature still in preview mode.
If you enjoyed this article, also check out: