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Creating PDF indexes

  1. Acrobat User Guide
  2. Introduction to Acrobat
    1. Access Acrobat from desktop, mobile, web
    2. What's new in Acrobat
    3. Keyboard shortcuts
    4. 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
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    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
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    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. Action Wizard (Acrobat Pro)
    12. PDFs converted to web pages
    13. Setting up PDFs for a presentation
    14. PDF articles
    15. Geospatial PDFs
    16. Applying actions and scripts to PDFs
    17. Change the default font for adding text
    18. 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
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    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. About certificate signatures
    5. Certificate-based signatures
    6. Validating digital signatures
    7. Adobe Approved Trust List
    8. 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
  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
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    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

We're rolling out a new, more intuitive product experience. If the screen shown here doesn’t match your product interface, select help for your current experience.

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

Create and manage an index in a PDF

To speed up the search process of a lengthy PDF file, you can include an index of the words in the document. This index can be searched much faster by Acrobat than by searching the actual document. The index is included in all copies of the PDF file. Users can search through PDFs with indexes just as they would with PDFs that don't have an embedded index.

Add an index to a PDF

  1. From the All tools menu, select Add search index.

    It displays the Index toolset in the left panel.

  2. From the Index tool panel, select Manage embedded index.

  3. In the Manage embedded index dialog box, click Embed Index.

  4. Read the messages that appear and select OK.


    In Outlook and Lotus notes, you have the option of embedding an index when you convert email messages or folders to PDF. This is especially recommended for folders containing many email messages.

Update or remove index in a PDF

  1. From the All tools menu, select Add search index.

    It displays the Index toolset in the left panel.

  2. From the Index tool panel, select Manage embedded index.

  3. Select Update Index or Remove Index, as required.

About the catalog feature (Acrobat Pro)

You can define a specific group of PDFs as a catalog and create a unified index for that entire collection of documents. When users search the cataloged PDFs for specific information, the index makes the search process much faster.

When you distribute the collection on a CD, you can include the index with the PDFs.

You can catalog documents written in Roman, Chinese, Japanese, or Korean characters. The items you can catalog include the document text, comments, bookmarks, form fields, tags, object and document metadata, attachments, document information, digital signatures, image XIF (extended image file format) metadata, and custom document properties.

Prepare PDFs for indexing (Acrobat Pro)

To index PDFs, start by creating a folder that contains complete PDFs with electronic features like links, bookmarks, and searchable text. For scanned documents, ensure that the text is searchable. It's better to break longer documents into smaller chapter-sized files to enhance search performance. Adding information to the document properties also improves searchability.

Before indexing a document collection, set up the document structure on the disk drive or network server volume and verify cross-platform filenames. Cross-platform filenames may be truncated, making them difficult to retrieve in a search. Follow these guidelines to prevent this problem:

  • Rename files, folders, and indexes using the MS-DOS® file-naming convention (eight characters or fewer followed by a three-character file extension), particularly if you plan to deliver the document collection and index on an ISO 9660-formatted CD-ROM disc.
  • Remove extended characters, such as accented characters and non-English characters, from file and folder names. (The font used by the catalog feature doesn’t support character codes 133 through 159.)
  • Don’t use deeply nested folders or paths that exceed 256 characters for indexes that will be searched by macOS users.
  • If you use macOS with an OS/2® LAN server, configure IBM®LAN Server Macintosh (LSM) to enforce MS-DOS® file-naming conventions or index only FAT (file allocation table) volumes. (HPFS [high-performance File System] volumes may contain long unretrievable filenames.)
  • If the document structure includes subfolders that you don’t want to be indexed, you can exclude them during the indexing process.

Add metadata to document properties (Acrobat Pro)

To make a PDF easier to search, you can add file information, called metadata, to the document properties. (You can see the properties of the currently open PDF by choosing File > Properties, and clicking the Description tab.)

When adding data for document properties, consider the following Adobe Recommendations:

  • Use a good descriptive title in the Title field. The filename of the document should appear in the search results dialog box.
  • Always use the same option (field) for similar information. For example, don’t add an important term to the subject option for some documents and to the Keywords option for others.
  • Use a single, consistent term for the same information. For example, don’t use biology for some documents and life sciences for others.
  • Use the author option to identify the group responsible for the document. For example, the author of a hiring policy document might be the human resources department.
  • If you use document part numbers, add them as Keywords. For example, adding doc#=m234 in Keywords could indicate a specific document in a series of several 100 documents on a particular subject.
  • Use the subject or Keywords option, either alone or together, to categorize documents by type. For example, you might use a status report as a subject entry and monthly or weekly as a keyword entry for a single document.
  • If you already have specialized training in Adobe PDF, you can define custom data fields, such as document Type, document number, and document identifier, when you create the index. This is recommended only for advanced users and isn’t covered in Acrobat complete Help.

Create an index for a collection (Acrobat Pro)

When you build a new index, Acrobat creates a file with the . Pdx extension and a new support folder, which contains one or more files with .idx extensions. The IDX files contain the index entries. All of these files must be available to users who want to search the index.

  1. From the All tools menu, select Add search index.

    It displays the Index toolset in the left panel.

  2. From the Index panel, select Full text index with catalog.

  3. In the Catalog dialog box, select New Index.

    The New Index Definition dialog box is displayed.

    New Index Definitions in Acrobat
    The New Index Definition dialog box.

  4. In Index Title, type a name for the index file.

  5. In Index Description, type a few words about the type of index or its purpose.

  6. Select Options and then select any advanced options you want to apply to your index. Once done, select OK.

    The Options Dialog Box in Acrobat
    In the Options dialog box, you can specify the advanced options for the new index.

  7. Under Include These Directories, click Add, select a folder containing some or all of the PDF files to be indexed, and click OK. To add more folders, repeat this step.


    Any folder nested under an included folder will also be included in the indexing process. You can add folders from multiple servers or disk drives, as long as you don’t plan to move the index or any items in the document collection.

  8. Under Exclude These Subdirectories, click Add, and select any nested folder that contains PDF files you don’t want to be indexed. Click OK and repeat, as needed.

  9. Review your selections. To edit the list of folders to be included or excluded, select the folder you want to change and click Remove.

  10. Click Build, and then specify the location for the index file. Click Save, and then:

    • Click Close when the indexing finishes.

    • Click Stop to cancel the indexing process.


    If you stop the indexing process, you can’t resume the same indexing session, but you don’t have to redo the work. The options and folder selections remain intact. You can click Open Index select the partially finished index, and revise it.


    If long paths are truncated in the Include these directories and exclude these Subdirectories options, hold the pointer over each ellipsis (...) until a tool tip appears, displaying the complete path of the included or excluded folder.

See indexing options 

  • Do Not Include NumbersSelect this option to exclude all numbers that appear in the document text from the index. Excluding numbers can significantly reduce the size of an index, making searches faster.
  • Add IDs To Adobe PDF v1.0 FilesSelect this option if your collection includes PDFs created before Acrobat 2.0, which didn’t automatically add identification numbers. ID numbers are needed when long macOS filenames are shortened as they’re translated into MS-DOS® filenames. Acrobat 2.0 and later versions automatically add identifiers.
  • Do Not Warn For Changed Documents When SearchingWhen this option isn’t selected, a message appears when you search documents that have changed since the most recent index build.
  • Custom PropertiesUse this option to include custom document properties in the index; only custom document properties that already exist in the PDFs you index are indexed. Type the property, make a selection from the Type menu, and then click Add. These properties appear as a search option in the Search PDF window's additional criteria pop-up menus when you search the resulting index. For example, if you enter the custom property Document Name and choose the string property from the Type menu, a user searching the index can then search within the custom property by selecting Document Name from the 'Use These Additional Criteria' menu.

When you create custom fields in a Microsoft® office application in which the convert document information option is selected in the PDFMaker application, the fields transfer over to any PDFs you create.  

  • XMP Fields: Use this option to include custom XMP fields. The custom XMP fields are indexed and appear in the additional criteria pop-up menus to be searchable in the selected indexes.
  • Stop Words: Use to exclude specific words (500 maximum) from the index search results. Type the word, click Add, and repeat as needed. Excluding words can make the index 10% to 15% smaller. A stop word can contain up to 128 characters and is case-sensitive.
  • Structure Tags: Use this option to make specific leaf-element tag nodes searchable in documents that have a tagged logical structure.

To prevent users from trying to search phrases that contain these words, list words that aren’t indexed in the Catalog ReadMe file.


The custom properties, Stop words, and Tags settings apply to the current index only. To apply these settings globally to any index you create, you can change the default settings for custom fields, stop words, and tags in the Catalog panel of the Preferences dialog box.  

Catalog ReadMe files (Acrobat Pro)

It’s often a good idea to create a separate ReadMe file and put it in the folder with the index. This ReadMe file can give people details about your index, such as:

  • The kind of documents indexed.

  • The search options supported.

  • The person to contact or a phone number to call with questions.

  • A list of numbers or words that are excluded from the index.

  • A list of the folders containing documents included in a LAN-based index, or a list of the documents included in a disk-based index. You might also include a brief description of the contents of each folder or document.

  • A list of the values for each document if you assign document info field values.

    If a catalog has an especially large number of documents, consider including a table that shows the values assigned to each document. The table can be part of your ReadMe file or a separate document. While you’re developing the index, you can use the table to maintain consistency.

Revise an index (Acrobat Pro)

You can update, rebuild, or purge an existing index.

  1. From the All tools menu, select Add search index.

    It displays the Index toolset in the left panel.

  2. From the Index panel, select Full text index with catalog.

    The Catalog dialog box is displayed.

  3. In the Catalog dialog box, select Open Index.

  4. Locate and select the index definition file (PDX) for the index, and then select Open.

  5. In the Index definition dialog box, make desired changes and then select the function you want Acrobat to perform:

    • BuildCreates an IDX file with the existing information, and updates it by adding new entries and marking changed or outdated entries as invalid. If you make many changes or use this option repeatedly instead of creating an index, search times may increase.
    • RebuildCreates an index, overwriting the existing index folder and its contents (the IDX files).
    • PurgeDeletes the index contents (the IDX files) without deleting the index file itself (PDX).

Catalog preferences (Acrobat Pro)

You can set preferences for indexing that apply globally to all subsequent indexes you build. You can override some of these preferences for an individual index by selecting new options during the index-building process.

In the Preferences dialog box under Categories, select Catalog. Many of the options are identical to those described for the index-building process.


The Force ISO 9660 compatibility on folders option is useful when you don’t want to change long PDF filenames to MS-DOS® filenames as you prepare documents for indexing. However, you must still use MS-DOS® file-naming conventions for the folder names (eight characters or fewer) even though this isn’t necessary for the filenames.

Scheduled index updates (Acrobat Pro)

To automate the process of building, rebuilding, updating, and purging an index, you can use the Catalog feature along with a catalog batch PDX file (.Bpdx). This file contains a list of catalog index file paths and flags. You can schedule when and how often to automatically perform these tasks using a scheduling application like Windows® scheduler. To do this, you simply display the BPDX file in Acrobat, and Acrobat will re-create the index according to the flags in the BPDX file.

To use BPDX files, go to Preferences > Catalog and then select the check box for Allow Catalog Batch Files (. Bpdx) to re run.

Move collections and their indexes (Acrobat Pro)

You can develop and test an indexed document collection on a local hard drive and then move the finished document collection to a network server or disk. An index definition contains relative paths between the index definition file (PDX) and the folders containing the indexed documents. If these relative paths are unchanged, you don’t have to rebuild the index after moving the indexed document collection. If the PDX file and the folders containing the indexed documents are in the same folder, you can maintain the relative path simply by moving that folder.

If the relative path changes, you must create an index after you move the indexed document collection. However, you can still use the original PDX file. To use the original PDX file, first move the indexed documents. Then copy the PDX file to the folder where you want to create the index, and edit the include and exclude lists of directories and subdirectories, as necessary.

If the index resides on a drive or server volume separate from any part of the collection it applies to, moving either the collection or the index breaks the index. If you intend to move a document collection either to another network location or onto a CD, create and build the index in the same location as the collection.


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