Home Useful Tips How To Find Text In PDF Documents on the Mac

How To Find Text In PDF Documents on the Mac

by Soft2share.com

Much of today’s encapsulated knowledge can be found in the form of PDF documents. PDFs are widely used by government, industry, and computer and software makers for their user manuals. They are also used widely in the Internet marketing arena and other fields in the form of e-books, special reports and other material.


PDF is much better than the old, proprietary e-book formats which seem to be fading from popularity. PDF documents preserve the fonts and formatting used in the original document. In addition, PDF is cross-platform and can be viewed on Mac, PC and Linux with equal ease.

With all the information available to you in the form of PDF documents, it is important to know how to use the search feature to find the information you want.

Apple’s Preview has a handy search feature that will show you all occurrences of a particular search term in list format on the left sidebar, which appears after you perform a search. In Preview, simply choose Find from the Edit menu and type your phrase in the Find field at the top of the document.

Adobe, however, offers more powerful search features in Reader, such as the ability to search for words not only within the text, but in layers, attachments, form fields, document properties, bookmarks and so on.

To search for words within a PDF file, you can use the Find PDF toolbar or use the Search PDF window. Basic functions executed by both options are almost the same, but the scope of the search performed is different.

Finding PDF files that contain a specific search string within a particular folder or on your entire hard drive can be a little trickier. Of course, you can use a Spotlight search in MacOS X, but this can be a little heavy-handed sometimes. In addition, Spotlight sorts its found results by when each file was last opened, rather than the number of times your search term appears in each document.

Spotlight has its uses, but you will want to use other methods, such as Adobe Reader, to find your search term within an already opened PDF file or to find all occurrences of a particular phrase within a set of documents.

Adobe Reader has two different search functions, Find and Search. Edit > Find Allows you to search the current document, while Edit > Search let you search either the current document or all the PDF files within the folder of your choosing. Clicking “Use Advanced Search Options” at the bottom of the search panel will bring up some more sophisticated options, such as the ability to use stemming.

Rather than calling up a full search panel, you can also find text in the current PDF document by typing your word or phrase in the search box on the toolbar. You can search for whole words, parts of words or phrases. Clicking the little downward pointing triangle next to the search box will call up a whole host of additional options.

If you choose to search a whole folder of PDF files, the search panel will show a nice list of each occurrence of your search term in the documents in that folder, along with a few words before and after your search term to give you a feel for the context in which it was used.

You can search for and find PDF documents on practically any conceivable subject on the Internet as well. Both Google and Yahoo have PDF-specific search functions. To find PDF documents, enter the search string “inurl:pdf” followed by your search term.

There are third-party programs that make searching as well as organizing your PDF files even easier. For example, Yep by Ironic Software offers an iTunes like interface for organizing, searching and viewing your PDF documents. Ironic calls it “Like iPhoto for your PDFs.”

Try out the many helpful tools and utilities for making the most of your PDF Library; one of them will surely fill your needs.

Tim Arends is a 20-year Mac user and freelance writer on Adobe, Apple, SEO, social media, marketing, the Internet and all things tech related. Hire him for a complete content-creation strategy for promoting your business.

Related Articles

Leave a Comment