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Searching in PDFs

  1. Acrobat User Guide
  2. Introduction to Acrobat
    1. Access Acrobat from desktop, mobile, web
    2. Introducing the new Acrobat experience
    3. What's new in Acrobat
    4. Keyboard shortcuts
    5. System Requirements
  3. Workspace
    1. Workspace basics
    2. Opening and viewing PDFs
      1. Opening PDFs
      2. Navigating PDF pages
      3. Viewing PDF preferences
      4. Adjusting PDF views
      5. Enable thumbnail preview of PDFs
      6. Display PDF in browser
    3. Working with online storage accounts
      1. Access files from Box
      2. Access files from Dropbox
      3. Access files from OneDrive
      4. Access files from SharePoint
      5. Access files from Google Drive
    4. Acrobat and macOS
    5. Acrobat notifications
    6. Grids, guides, and measurements in PDFs
    7. Asian, Cyrillic, and right-to-left text in PDFs
  4. Creating PDFs
    1. Overview of PDF creation
    2. Create PDFs with Acrobat
    3. Create PDFs with PDFMaker
    4. Using the Adobe PDF printer
    5. Converting web pages to PDF
    6. Creating PDFs with Acrobat Distiller
    7. Adobe PDF conversion settings
    8. PDF fonts
  5. Editing PDFs
    1. Edit text in PDFs
    2. Edit images or objects in a PDF
    3. Rotate, move, delete, and renumber PDF pages
    4. Edit scanned PDFs
    5. Enhance document photos captured using a mobile camera
    6. Optimizing PDFs
    7. PDF properties and metadata
    8. Links and attachments in PDFs
    9. PDF layers
    10. Page thumbnails and bookmarks in PDFs
    11. PDFs converted to web pages
    12. Setting up PDFs for a presentation
    13. PDF articles
    14. Geospatial PDFs
    15. Applying actions and scripts to PDFs
    16. Change the default font for adding text
    17. Delete pages from a PDF
  6. Scan and OCR
    1. Scan documents to PDF
    2. Enhance document photos
    3. Troubleshoot scanner issues when scanning using Acrobat
  7. Forms
    1. PDF forms basics
    2. Create a form from scratch in Acrobat
    3. Create and distribute PDF forms
    4. Fill in PDF forms
    5. PDF form field properties
    6. Fill and sign PDF forms
    7. Setting action buttons in PDF forms
    8. Publishing interactive PDF web forms
    9. PDF form field basics
    10. PDF barcode form fields
    11. Collect and manage PDF form data
    12. About forms tracker
    13. PDF forms help
    14. Send PDF forms to recipients using email or an internal server
  8. Combining files
    1. Combine or merge files into single PDF
    2. Rotate, move, delete, and renumber PDF pages
    3. Add headers, footers, and Bates numbering to PDFs
    4. Crop PDF pages
    5. Add watermarks to PDFs
    6. Add backgrounds to PDFs
    7. Working with component files in a PDF Portfolio
    8. Publish and share PDF Portfolios
    9. Overview of PDF Portfolios
    10. Create and customize PDF Portfolios
  9. Sharing, reviews, and commenting
    1. Share and track PDFs online
    2. Mark up text with edits
    3. Preparing for a PDF review
    4. Starting a PDF review
    5. Hosting shared reviews on SharePoint or Office 365 sites
    6. Participating in a PDF review
    7. Add comments to PDFs
    8. Adding a stamp to a PDF
    9. Approval workflows
    10. Managing comments | view, reply, print
    11. Importing and exporting comments
    12. Tracking and managing PDF reviews
  10. Saving and exporting PDFs
    1. Saving PDFs
    2. Convert PDF to Word
    3. Convert PDF to JPG
    4. Convert or export PDFs to other file formats
    5. File format options for PDF export
    6. Reusing PDF content
  11. Security
    1. Enhanced security setting for PDFs
    2. Securing PDFs with passwords
    3. Manage Digital IDs
    4. Securing PDFs with certificates
    5. Opening secured PDFs
    6. Removing sensitive content from PDFs
    7. Setting up security policies for PDFs
    8. Choosing a security method for PDFs
    9. Security warnings when a PDF opens
    10. Securing PDFs with Adobe Experience Manager
    11. Protected View feature for PDFs
    12. Overview of security in Acrobat and PDFs
    13. JavaScripts in PDFs as a security risk
    14. Attachments as security risks
    15. Allow or block links in PDFs
  12. Electronic signatures
    1. Sign PDF documents
    2. Capture your signature on mobile and use it everywhere
    3. Send documents for e-signatures
    4. Create a web form
    5. Request e-signatures in bulk
    6. Collect online payments
    7. Brand your account
    8. About certificate signatures
    9. Certificate-based signatures
    10. Validating digital signatures
    11. Adobe Approved Trust List
    12. Manage trusted identities
  13. Printing
    1. Basic PDF printing tasks
    2. Print Booklets and PDF Portfolios
    3. Advanced PDF print settings
    4. Print to PDF
    5. Printing color PDFs (Acrobat Pro)
    6. Printing PDFs in custom sizes
  14. Accessibility, tags, and reflow
    1. Create and verify PDF accessibility
    2. Accessibility features in PDFs
    3. Reading Order tool for PDFs
    4. Reading PDFs with reflow and accessibility features
    5. Edit document structure with the Content and Tags panels
    6. Creating accessible PDFs
    7. Cloud-based auto-tagging
  15. Searching and indexing
    1. Creating PDF indexes
    2. Searching PDFs
  16. Multimedia and 3D models
    1. Add audio, video, and interactive objects to PDFs
    2. Adding 3D models to PDFs (Acrobat Pro)
    3. Displaying 3D models in PDFs
    4. Interacting with 3D models
    5. Measuring 3D objects in PDFs
    6. Setting 3D views in PDFs
    7. Enable 3D content in PDF
    8. Adding multimedia to PDFs
    9. Commenting on 3D designs in PDFs
    10. Playing video, audio, and multimedia formats in PDFs
    11. Add comments to videos
  17. Print production tools (Acrobat Pro)
    1. Print production tools overview
    2. Printer marks and hairlines
    3. Previewing output
    4. Transparency flattening
    5. Color conversion and ink management
    6. Trapping color
  18. Preflight (Acrobat Pro)
    1. PDF/X-, PDF/A-, and PDF/E-compliant files
    2. Preflight profiles
    3. Advanced preflight inspections
    4. Preflight reports
    5. Viewing preflight results, objects, and resources
    6. Output intents in PDFs
    7. Correcting problem areas with the Preflight tool
    8. Automating document analysis with droplets or preflight actions
    9. Analyzing documents with the Preflight tool
    10. Additional checks in the Preflight tool
    11. Preflight libraries
    12. Preflight variables
  19. Color management
    1. Keeping colors consistent
    2. Color settings
    3. Color-managing documents
    4. Working with color profiles
    5. Understanding color management

Before you begin

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In the new experience, the tools appear on the left side of the screen.

Learn how to search text in PDFs using Adobe Acrobat. If you work with multiple PDFs, learn to index PDFs for faster searches. You can define PDFs as a catalog in Acrobat Pro, which generates a PDF index for all the PDFs. This index, when used to search in PDFs drastically accelerates searches. Learn how to search across multiple documents simultaneously.

How to search and replace text in PDFs

You run searches to find specific items in PDFs. You can run a simple search, looking for a search term within a single file, or a more complex search, looking for various kinds of data in one or more PDFs. You can search using either the Search window or the Find toolbar. Acrobat searches the PDF body text, layers, form fields, and digital signatures in either case. You can also include bookmarks and comments in the search. Only the Find toolbar includes a Replace With option.

How to use the Find toolbar to search and replace text

Use the Find toolbar to quickly search the current PDF and replace text.

  1. Press Ctrl+F for Windows or Command + F for macOS to open the Find toolbar. Enter the word you want to search for. 

    When selecting the ellipsis next to the entered word, you'll find the following options to improve the search based on your requirements:

    • Whole words: This search option locates exact matches for the word you enter, excluding partial matches. For instance, searching stick won't include tick or "sticky.
    • Case sensitive: This option searches for words with matching capitalization. For example, searching Web won't include web or WEB.
    • Include bookmarks: In addition to the document text, this search option also includes the content of bookmarks in the search scope.
    • Include comments: This option expands the search to encompass the text within comments and the main document content.

    When you type the first few letters to search in a PDF, Acrobat provides suggestions for the matching word and its frequency of occurrence in the document. When you select the word, Acrobat highlights all the matching results in the PDF.

  2. Select the ellipsis as shown to replace a word, and select Replace text. Now, enter the word you want it replaced with and select Replace

    After the first instance of the word has been replaced, the Replace option changes to Replace next, and you can select Replace next if you want to replace the next instance of the word.

How to use the Search Window to Find text in multiple PDFs

Use the Search window to search words or document properties across multiple PDFs, use advanced search options, and search PDF indexes. For example, you can search across all PDFs in a specific location or all files in an open PDF Portfolio. The Replace With option isn't available in the Search window.


If documents are encrypted for security, you cannot search them as part of a multiple-document search. Open those documents first and search them one at a time. However, documents encrypted as Adobe Digital Editions are an exception and can be searched as part of a multiple-document search

  1. Open Acrobat on your desktop (not in a web browser). Press Ctrl + F for Windows and Command+F for macOS to open the Find toolbar.

  2. On the Find toolbar, select the ellipsis, and then select Advanced Search.

    Search appears as a separate window that you can move, resize, minimize, or arrange partially or completely behind the PDF window.


    To arrange the Search and Acrobat window side by side, select Arrange Windows. Acrobat resizes and arranges the two windows side-by-side to almost fill the entire screen together.

  3. In the Search window, enter the text you want to search in the box titled What word or phrase would you like to search for? 

  4. Now, selecAll PDF Documents in and use the Browse for Location drop-down menu and select the location or network you want your search to take place in, and select OK.

  5. To specify additional search criteria, select Show More Options, specify the options, and then select Search.


    During a search, you can click a result or use keyboard shortcuts to navigate the results without interrupting the search. Clicking the Stop button under the search-progress bar cancels further searching and limits the results to the occurrences already found. It doesn’t close the Search window or delete the Results list. To see more results, run a new search.

Review and save PDF search results

Review search results

After you run a search from the Search window, the results appear in page order, nested under the names of each searched document. Each item listed includes a few words of context (if applicable) and an icon indicating the occurrence type.

Jump to a specific instance in the search results (single PDFs only): Expand the search results. Then select an instance in the results to view it in the PDF. To view other instances, select another instance in the results.

Sort instances in the search resultsSelect an option from the Sort By menu near the bottom of the Search window. Results can be sorted by Relevance Ranking, Date Modified, Filename, or Location.


The icon next to an instance of the search results indicates the search area in which the instance appears. Selecting an icon has the following effect:

Document icon 

Makes the document active in the document window. Expand the list to show the individual search results within that document.

(General) Search Result icon 

In PDFs, jumps to that instance of the search term, usually in the body text of the PDF. The instance of the search term is highlighted in the document.

Non-PDF Search Result or Metadata icon []

In non-PDF files, opens the file; or if opening of that file type is restricted, opens a message dialog box.

Bookmark icon 

Opens the Bookmarks panel and highlights the instances of the search terms.

Comments icon 

Opens the Comments panel and highlights the instances of the search terms.

Layer icon 

May open a message indicating that the layer is hidden and asking if you want to make it visible.

Attachment icon 

Opens a file that is attached to the searched parent PDF and shows the highlighted instances of the search terms.

Save search results

You can save the search results as a PDF or CSV file. Select  , and then select Save results to PDF or Save results to CSV.


Advanced Search Options

By default, the Search window displays basic search options. Select Show More Options near the bottom of the window to display additional options. To restore the basic options, select Show Less Options near the bottom of the window.


You can set a preference so that more search options always appear in the Search window. In the Preferences dialog box under Categories, select Search.

Look In

Restricts the search to the current PDF, all of a currently open PDF Portfolio (if applicable), an index, or a location on your computer. If you choose to search an index, a location, or a PDF Portfolio, additional options appear under Use These Additional Criteria.

What word or phrase would you like to search for

Enter the text or phrase to search for.

Return Results Containing

Restricts your search results according to the option you choose:

Match Exact Word Or Phrase

Searches for the entire string of characters, including spaces, in the same order in which they appear in the text box.

Match Any Of The Words

Searches for any instances of at least one of the words typed. For example, if you search for each of, the results include any instances in which one or both of the two words appear: each, of, each of, or of each.

Match All Of The Words

Searches for instances that contain all your search words, but not necessarily in the order you type them. Available only for a search of multiple PDFs or index definition files.

Boolean Query

Uses the Boolean operators that you type with the search words into the What Word Or Phrase Would You Like To Search For box. Available only for searching multiple PDFs or PDF indexes.

Note: You cannot run wildcard searches using asterisks (*) or question marks (?) when searching PDF indexes.

Use These Additional Criteria (text options)

Includes the basic search options plus five additional options:


Searches for two or more words that are separated by no more than a specified number of words, as set in the Search preferences. Available only for a search of multiple documents or index definition files, and when Match All Of The Words is selected.


Finds words that contain part (the stem) of the specified search word. For example, a search for opening finds instances of open, opened, opens, and openly. This option applies to single words and phrases when you search the current PDF, a folder, or an index created with Acrobat 6.0 or later. Wildcard characters (*, ?) aren’t permitted in stemming searches. Stemming isn’t available if either Whole Words Only or Case-Sensitive is selected.

Include Bookmarks

Searches the text of any bookmarks, as viewed in the Bookmarks panel.

Include Comments

Searches the text of any comments added to the PDF, as viewed in the Comments panel.

Include Attachments

Searches files that are attached to the current PDF or other attached PDFs (up to two levels deep).

Use These Additional Criteria (document properties)

Appears only for searches across multiple PDFs or PDF indexes. You can select multiple property-modifier-value combinations and apply them to searches. This setting does not apply to non-PDF files inside PDF Portfolios.

Note: You can search by document properties alone by using document property options in combination with a search for specific text.


Check box

Applies the criteria set in the three connected options to the search. (The check box is selected automatically when you enter information in any of the three options for that set. After you enter options, deselecting the check box doesn’t clear the entries; they just aren’t applied to the search.)

First menu (property)

Indicates the document characteristic to search for. The available options include Date Created, Date Modified, Author, Title, Subject, Filename, Keywords, Bookmarks, Comments, JPEG Images, XMP Metadata, and Object Data.

Second menu (modifier)

Indicates the level of matching. If the first menu selection is a date, the available options in the second menu are Is Exactly, Is Before, Is After, Is Not. Otherwise, the available options are Contains and Does Not Contain.

Third box (value or text)

Indicates the information to be matched, which you type in. If the first menu selection is a date, you can click the arrow to open a calendar that you can navigate to find and select the date you want.

Boolean operators

Commonly used Boolean operators include the following:


Use between two words to find documents that contain both terms in any order. For example, enter Paris AND France to identify documents that contain both Paris and France. Searches with AND and no other Boolean operators produce the same results as selecting the All Of The Words options.


Use before a search term to exclude any documents that contain that term. For example, type NOT Kentucky to find all documents that don’t contain the word Kentucky. Or, enter Paris, NOT Kentucky, to find all documents containing the word Paris but not Kentucky.


Use to search for all instances of either term. For example, type email OR e-mail to find all documents with occurrences of either spelling. Searches with OR and no other Boolean operators produce the same results as selecting the Any Of The Words options.

^ (exclusive OR)

Use to search for all instances that have either term but not both. For example, type cat ^ dog to find all documents with either cat or dog occurrences but not both cat and dog.

( )

Use parentheses to specify the order of evaluation of terms. For example, type white AND (whale OR ahab) to find all documents that contain either white and whale or white and Ahab. (The query processor performs an OR query on Whale and Ahab and then performs an AND query on those results with white.)

To learn more about Boolean queries, syntax, and other Boolean operators that you can use in your searches, refer to any standard text, website, or other resource with complete Boolean information.

Search index files of cataloged PDFs

A full-text index is created when someone uses Acrobat to define a catalog of PDFs. You can search that index rather than running a full-text search of each PDF in the catalog. An index search produces a results list with links to the occurrences of the indexed documents.


To search a PDF index, you must open Acrobat as a stand-alone application, not within your web browser.

In Mac OS, indexes created with some older versions of Acrobat are not compatible with the Acrobat X Search feature. If you have upgraded recently, update the index before using Acrobat X to search.

  1. Select Edit, and then select Advanced Search.

  2. Enter the search text, and then select Show More Options at the bottom of the Search window.

  3. For Look In, go to Select Index.

  4. Select an index from the list, or select Add and add an index. Repeat as needed.


    To read file data about a selected index, select Info. To exclude an index from the search, select it and select Remove.

  5. Select OK to close the Index Selection dialog box, then select Currently Selected Indexes from the Look In menu.

  6. Proceed with your search as usual.

    Selecting the Match Whole Word Only option when searching indexes significantly reduces the time taken to return results. See Creating PDF indexes.

Search features preferences

In the Preferences dialog box under Categories, select Search.

Ignore Asian Character Width

Finds both half-width and full-width instances of the Asian language characters in the search text.

Ignore Diacritics And Accents

Finds the search terms with any variation of the alphabetical characters. For example, typing cafe finds both cafe and café. Likewise, typing café finds both versions. If this option isn’t selected, typing cafe doesn’t find café, and vice versa.

Always Show More Options in Advanced Search

Shows the additional options available in the Search window, in addition to the basic options.

Show Document Title In Search Results

Displays document titles in search results. If a document does not have a title, displays the filename. When deselected, displays filenames in search results.

Maximum Number Of Documents Returned In Results

Limits the search results in the Search PDF window to a specific number of documents. The default value is 500, but you can enter any number from 1 to 10,000.

Range Of Words For Proximity Searches

Limits the search results to those in which the number of words between the search terms isn’t greater than the number you specify. Accepts a range from 1 to 10,000.

Enable Fast Find

Generates a cache of information from any PDF that you search. This cache reduces subsequent search times for that PDF.

Maximum Cache Size

Limits the temporary cache of search information for the Fast Find option to the specified size in megabytes (from 5 to 100,000). The default setting is 100.

Purge Cache Contents

Deletes the Fast Find option’s entire temporary cache of search information.


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Adobe MAX
The Creativity Conference

Oct 14–16 Miami Beach and online

Adobe MAX

The Creativity Conference

Oct 14–16 Miami Beach and online