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How to Make PDF Text Searchable

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When you need to find a specific piece of information in a large digital file, the search function makes it easy and painless. However, if you have a PDF that isn’t searchable, the same task can lead to frustration and wasted time.

But how do you make PDF text searchable if it isn’t already? To convert a PDF to a searchable PDF, you need an OCR tool. But what is an OCR tool, and how do you use them?

OCR: Optical Character Recognition

OCR stands for “Optical Character Recognition.” It’s software that scans a document and recognizes the characters, such as the alphabet, punctuation, and numerals.

Once the program recognizes the individual characters, the text becomes searchable. The software can match the letters you type into the search bar to the letters in the document. Digitally created files are usually already searchable, but OCR tools are how to make a scanned PDF searchable.

Make PDF Text Searchable With Acrobat

The most straightforward way how to make a PDF document text searchable is through Acrobat. If you have Adobe Acrobat, there is a built-in OCR tool you can use to make any PDF searchable.

With the PDF open in Acrobat, select the “Tools” pane. Choose “Recognize Text” and click “PDF Output Style Searchable Image,” and then hit “okay.” This will process the document through the OCR tool, and you can then save the new, searchable version of the PDF.

Make PDF Text Searchable Without Acrobat

There are ways to make a PDF searchable without Acrobat. Whether you don’t have Acrobat on your computer or it isn’t compatible with your machine, you’re in luck. There are free and paid OCR tools you can use for the same effect.

Free Tools

You can make a PDF searchable online without ever downloading a program to your computer. There are dozens of online tools that can convert PDFs, scan them with OCR, merge them, and more.

To use them, you have to upload your file to the website. Then you click the OCR convert button and redownload your converted file.

These are great if you only have a few pages that need OCR, or if you don’t use PDFs often. However, most of these programs have a limit on how many times you can use them per day, and how many pages they will process.

Paid Tools 

Paid OCR tools are a good choice if you work with PDFs a lot, and frequently need to use an OCR tool. Paid tools also carry a lower risk of viruses or corrupting your files.

Programs like Azure OCR will easily turn your files into searchable files. Paid programs are more likely to be able to use OCR on non-PDF files as well, like JPEGs.

There aren’t daily limits on these tools, and they’re usually easier to use than free online tools. They function similarly to Acrobat, though some work online rather than as software on your desktop.

Search PDFs Worry-Free

Knowing how to make PDF text searchable is a useful skill that will save you time and headaches. A simple tool can do all the heavy lifting for you, and that’s what technology is all about.

For more technology hacks and recommendations, take a look at the other posts in our technology tab.