How to Search for a Word in a PDF: 4 Ways

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PDF documents have become a staple for sharing and storing information. This format is supposed to be viewed only, so many people wonder how to search for a specific word in a PDF file.

This article will provide you with 4 ways to find a word in a PDF document so you can quickly locate the needed content. Whether you're researching, studying, or simply trying to locate important data, mastering the art of searching within PDFs can be a valuable skill.

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How we picked tools to search in PDF

Selecting the right service to search within PDF documents involves considering several important criteria:

  • Text recognition. The PDF word finder should accurately recognize PDF text and identify parts of a word.
  • Ease of use. Tools with a user-friendly interface make it easy to input search queries and navigate the results.
  • Highlighting. All tools in this article highlight search results, making it easy to identify where the searched keywords appear.
  • Cost. The service shouldn't require a paid license for word search in a PDF document.

4 Methods to Search in PDF

Program Available Search filters Additional features Rating
Icecream PDF Editor
Windows
Editing PDF
Creating PDF
Filling PDF forms
Merging PDF
Protecting PDF
Stamping PDF
5.0
Preview
MacOS
Annotating PDF
Merging PDF
Protecting PDF
4.5
Small PDF
Online
Annotating PDF
Merging PDF
Compressing PDF
Signing PDF
4.5
Google Chrome
Online
Printing PDF
Splitting PDF
4.0

Method 1. Icecream PDF Editor

To enable word or phrase search, you will need a program that supports opening this type of document. The Icecream PDF Editor has the "Search PDF" option to help you find words in a PDF.

PDF was created by Adobe in 1992 and has since become a widely used format for electronic documents.

Read below the simple tutorial on how to search for a word in a PDF:

1. Download the free PDF editor and install it on your computer.

2. Open the PDF to search for words or phrases. To do so, hit the "Open..." button in the center of the window or select it from the "File" menu drop-down list.

Open a PDF for a word search

3. Turn the navigation bar into the "Search PDF" mode by clicking the magnifying glass icon on the right-hand panel.

Enable Search PDF mode

4. Search your PDF for desired words or phrases. Type in what you need to find in the "Search words or phrase" field.

5. Hit "Enter" on the keyboard or click the magnifying glass icon to open the PDF word finder. The results will be listed below, and you can easily navigate to them.

How to search for a word in a PDF

The "No results found" message will be shown if there are no matching phrases or words in the document.

No search results

Pros:

  • Search accuracy. The PDF word finder provides accurate and reliable text searching, ensuring that you can quickly find specific words or phrases.
  • Highlighting. When results are displayed, you can highlight the searched keywords within the PDF text to see their locations.
  • Search filters. The "Search PDF" tool offers advanced filters such as "Match whole word", helping you narrow down results for more precise searches.
  • User-friendly interface. The PDF editor features an intuitive interface, making it accessible to users with varying levels of technical expertise.
  • Additional features. You can easily rearrange, rotate, delete, and insert PDF pages, edit PDF text, add shapes, images, and stamps, providing greater control over the document's structure.

Icecream PDF Editor is a simple yet powerful PDF editing software. Not only does it have the "Search PDF" functionality but also provides a set of tools for PDF editing and management, making it a valuable solution for people looking to work efficiently with documents.

Method 2. Preview

If you have a lengthy document on your Macbook or iMac, you can use the built-in Apple PDF viewer to quickly find words in a PDF. Preview is the default application for viewing and editing PDF files on Mac.

Here is how to search words in a PDF with this software:

  1. To get started, open the PDF file with Preview.
  2. Click in the search area in the upper-right corner of the window. Alternatively, hit the Command + F hotkey combination.
  3. Once the box is highlighted with the blue frame, start typing the word or phrase to search for.
  4. Examine the results by pressing the left and right arrows under the search field or by using Command + G (to select the next result) and Command + Shift + G (to select the previous result).
  5. When you are finished, click the "Done" button under the search area box.
How to look for words in a PDF on Mac

Pros:

  • Built-in. The software comes pre-installed on macOS devices, eliminating the need for additional installation.
  • Sorting. The "Search PDF" feature can sort the search results by number of matches or by page number.
  • Export options. Users can export PDF documents to various formats, including JPEG, PNG, and even text files like DOCX.

Cons:

  • Lack of advanced features. Advanced PDF features like editing PDF text are not available.

This is how to look up a word in a PDF utilizing Preview on your macOS computer. Apart from simply viewing the document this program also allows you to perform minor changes to your PDF. For example, you can make annotations, highlight certain parts, and even password-protect your PDF.

Over the years, PDF has evolved with the introduction of new features, including multimedia support, 3D graphics, and enhanced security options.

Method 3. SmallPDF

If you are on the go and do not have access to PDF editing or viewing software on your mobile device, you can utilize an online PDF reader to seek a specific word.

Below are the guidelines on how to find a word in a PDF with an online platform.

  1. Open the PDF you need to search for phrases with SmallPDF.
  2. Click on the magnifying glass icon in the top right corner to initiate the word search in the PDF.
  3. Enter the term or expression you wish to locate in the search window presented.
  4. Use the up and down arrows to navigate between the PDF search results.
How to search for words in a PDF online

Pros:

  • Simple interface. The PDF word finder has an intuitive and user-friendly interface, making it accessible to both beginners and professional users.
  • Accessibility. A web-based service can be accessed from any device with an internet connection and any web browser.
  • Range of tools. The online platform provides a comprehensive set of PDF tools, including PDF converter, compressor, and more.

Cons:

  • No search filters. The service lacks filters, like date range or file size, which can be useful for narrowing down search results.

Overall, SmallPDF serves as a basic solution for PDF search, but it may not be suitable for users with more advanced or specific search requirements.

Method 4. Browser

For a simple word or phrase search, you can also use the web browser on your device. For example, Google Chrome. You can utilize the word search in PDF within all of the text on the page, including headings and footnotes.

PDFs are known for preserving the original layout of a document, ensuring it looks the same on any device or software used to view it.

Here is what you need to do to open the PDF word finder in a browser:

  1. Open the PDF document in any browser. To do so, right-click on the file and choose the "Open with..." option.
  2. If you are using a Mac computer, use the hotkey combination Command + F to open the search box. If you are a Windows PC user, then hit Ctrl + F.
  3. Enter the word or phrase you are looking for. Use the up and down arrows to the right of the search bar to move between the results.
  4. To close the window, hit the cross next to the searching arrows.
How to search in PDF for words with Chrome

Pros:

  • No installation. You don't need to install any additional software or plugins to search for a word in a PDF using a browser, which simplifies the process.
  • Text highlighting. Browser viewer highlights the search results not only in the text but also on the right sight of the screen. This makes it easy to spot and navigate to the searched word.

Cons:

  • No filters. The PDF search option lacks advanced filters that can be incredibly useful for refining your search results.
  • Limited features. Online PDF viewer offers basic functionality, so you can't use it to annotate a PDF or perform other editing tasks.

Using Google Chrome or any other browser, you can expedite your search and quickly find a word in a PDF. However, there is almost no additional functionality if opening the PDF with this method. You can only print, view, and rotate the PDF in the web browser.

FAQ

Does the PDF word search feature differentiate between uppercase and lowercase letters?
It depends on the PDF viewer; however, most of them are not case-sensitive.
Can I search for words in scanned PDF documents?
Some PDF viewers offer OCR (Optical Character Recognition) capabilities, enabling searches in scanned documents or images.
Can I search for non-English words in a PDF?
Yes, most PDF viewers support searching for words in various languages.
Is it possible to disable the word search in my PDF?
Check the security options in your PDF creation software to restrict certain features, including the word search function.

Conclusion

Working with PDFs is not as challenging as it used to be. Now there are many programs and services available to search a PDF for a word or phrase. In fact, to find words in a PDF, you can simply utilize your browser.

If you need additional features, like editing PDF text, then you may want to choose a more sophisticated PDF editor. This will allow you to complete all the modifications to your PDF at once.

Alexandra Meyer

Editor-in-Chief at Icecream Apps

With experience spanning over several years, Alexandra Meyer holds the esteemed position of editor-in-chief at Icecream Apps. Originally involved in the website's establishment in 2014, Alexandra now ensures the maintenance of the company's exceptional content standards across their various projects. Specializing in technology, software, online services, and human resources, she has extensively written and edited numerous articles on these subjects.
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