Learn how to make PDF text searchable, selectable, and copy/pastable.
If you’ve wanted to search, select, copy or paste text in a PDF but were unable to, it means that your PDF wasn’t searchable.
This guide is meant to help you learn how to easily make your PDFs searchable.
We’ve provided a few alternative methods in this guide. Keep reading to learn them, or watch our helpful video below.
By “searchable” PDF, we’re referring to a PDF document with text that you’re able to select, search, copy, and paste.
You may have noticed that some PDFs are searchable while others are not.
To understand why some PDFs have searchable text, while others do not, let’s explore the different types of PDFs you may encounter.
1. Text-based PDFs: Text-based PDFs are created when saving the document directly as a PDF from a word processor such as Microsoft Word, or similar applications.
2. Image-based PDFs: Image PDFs are created through scanning paper documents, taking photographs, screenshots, and the like. So rather than typed text in the document, it’s simply an image of the text. Thus the text won't be searchable, selected, or copy and pasted.
3. OCR PDFs: OCR PDFs are image-based PDFs that have been turned into text-based PDFs. Thus making them fully text-searchable. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is used to read the image of the text and add a layer of real text on top, thus converting the document to a text-based PDF.
Note: In order to perform Optical Character Recognition on a PDF file, you will need special software. However, any PDF that has had OCR performed on it can be read by any PDF reader.
To figure out if you PDF is searchable or not, open your PDF and try searching or selecting text with your keyboard or mouse.
If you can select or highlight text, then your then your PDF is searchable.
If you can't then it means your PDF is not searchable.
The easiest way to make a PDF searchable without Adobe is with PDF Pro + OCR! It’s our affordable All-in-One Adobe alternative, with state-of-the-art OCR and text recognition capabilities.
1. Open your PDF document in PDF Pro.
2. Press the OCR tab.
3. Click Current file.
4. In the dialog box, specify settings (page range, languages, recognition mode) making sure to select Searchable text.
5. Once ready, press Run.
Your PDF is now searchable! You can now select, search, copy, paste the text from the PDF.
Once again, we’ll be using PDF Pro to demonstrate how to easily make scanned documents and images into searchable PDF.
We'll provide two methods. Both will provide the same result.
1. Open PDF Pro.
2. Click the OCR tab.
3. Press From file.
4. Find, select, and open your scanned document.
5. Select Searchable text in the dialog box.
6. Press Run.
Your document is now a searchable PDF!
1. Open PDF Pro.
2. Click the Create tab.
3. Press Create from file.
4. Press Add files.
5. Find and select your document or image, then press Open to convert it into a PDF.
6. Press Create.
7. Press the OCR tab.
8. Press Current file.
9. Specify settings, such as Searchable text.
10. Press Run.
Your PDF is now a text-searchable PDF.
To convert a Word document to a searchable PDF, we'll take advantage of Microsoft Word's Save As PDF feature:
1. Open the Word document.
2. Click File.
3. Press Save As.
4. Press Browse.
5. Scroll and select PDF.
6. Click Save.
To convert a Word document to a searchable PDF without having Word installed:
1. Upload your Word document to Google drive.
2. Open your document in Google Drive/Google Docs.
3. Go to File, scroll down to Download.
4. Select download as a PDF Document (.pdf).
Please note that you will need a full subscription to Adobe Acrobat Pro DC to be able to make a PDF text-searchable. Adobe Reader will not be enough.
Can I Make a PDF Searchable with Adobe Acrobat Reader?
No, you will need to use PDF software with OCR technology, which Reader does not have.
PDF Pro + OCR is our All-in-One PDF converter, creator, editor, OCR, and more. Convert any Microsoft Office program into PDF format, quickly and accurately.
We use world-class OCR technology to allow you to easily scan documents to text, convert PDFs to text, and more!
Find out what else PDF Pro can help you do: