PDF stands for Portable Document Format, which is prevalent during daily use. We may need to create a PDF document from existing files, but sometimes the source happens to be an image or a scanned copy. Then, you will surprisingly find out that the newly created PDF document cannot be copied, nor can it be searched. Why? Because no content can be searched within the file. Here comes the problem: how do you make a PDF document searchable?

The Searchable PDF file contains text that can be searched using the “Find” feature. To make a scanned PDF searchable, all you need to do is search the text and copy it from a PDF document. Ultimately, the PDF content can be indexed and converted into one that can be easily found. Now, we will elaborate on how to make a PDF searchable with online and desktop PDF products.

Methods to Make PDFs Searchable on Windows

First, we need to clarify this concept: standard PDF documents are searchable, and only scanned PDFs cannot be searched and copied. When we mention PDF documents in this article, it refers to scanned or image-only PDF files in this post.

SwifDoo PDF

Some users have asked this question: how do I make a PDF document searchable without Adobe Acrobat? Is there something that can help? Yes, SwifDoo PDF is the one dedicated PDF software on Windows 7-11 to make a PDF searchable easily with a few steps.

Step 1: Download and install SwifDoo PDF on your PC;

Step 2: Upon launching the program, open a PDF document and navigate to the Advanced tab on the menu bar;


Step 3: Click on the Convert to Searchable PDF. When a new window pops up, choose the page range to convert and the document language. Once ready, press OK to start converting this PDF document into one you can search and copy.

Below is a before-and-after picture to demonstrate why we should make a PDF searchable. The test file is a scanned report written in Korean. When you need to search for keywords or copy and paste the text from the original document, you won’t get anywhere further as the copied text is shown in unreadable code. If you meet with this kind of PDF document, it’s possible to make any changes to the file, including editing, annotating, searching, and copying.


In this case, what should you do? Well, you should try SwifDoo PDF to convert a PDF document into a searchable one. Those who never heard of SwifDoo PDF subconsciously come up with several questions: What is SwifDoo PDF? Is it safe to use? All your worries will be dispelled in the following paragraphs.

SwifDoo PDF is a Windows-based PDF program that incorporates 30+ features to make file management easier than ever before. Equipped with a stable OCR engine, SwifDoo PDF converts a scanned PDF into a searchable file, and all the text within the document can be copied after conversion.

Now SwifDoo PDF supports recognizing English, Chinese, French, Spanish, German, Russian, Japanese, and Korean PDF documents. However, please note that if your PDF document is written in different languages, the conversion result may not be as satisfying.

It is 100% safe to use and is listed on Microsoft AppSource. Being commercial means that SwifDoo PDF should be virus-free and highly value personal’s data importance. Otherwise, it’s like hoisted by one’s own petard. As an office product, SwifDoo PDF is expected to be clean and easy to use. That’s why it adopts a Word-like user interface.

If you have ever wondered how to OCR a PDF, the following post is worth your time: 

How to OCR PDF and Convert It into Text

How to OCR PDF and Convert It into Text

The only way to recognize text in scanned PDFs is to utilize OCR technology. This post will list several OCR tools to convert PDF to editable text.


Method to Make PDFs Searchable on Mac

Though the default PDF viewer on macOS Preview can perform different PDF tasks, it may frustrate you because Preview cannot make a PDF searchable. How do we make PDF searchable on Mac? Well, PDF Reader Pro is what you’re looking for.

PDF Reader Pro

This is a comprehensive PDF management tool on macOS that can view, edit, annotate, convert, and OCR PDF documents. Its fast and stable service will address your issues quickly, significantly improving Mac devices' working efficiency. See how to make PDF searchable on macOS:

Step 1: Download the app from App Store and launch the app;

Step 2: Drag the scanned PDF or choose Open Files to open the PDF in the program;

Step 3: Go to the OCR tab on the menu bar, and then the PDF will be converted to a searchable one automatically;

Step 4: Select Save as PDF to output this scanned PDF.

Method to Make PDFs Searchable Online


OCR2EDIT is an online PDF converter that can convert a scanned PDF into a searchable one. It is, in fact, a versatile tool for text recognition, OCR, and document conversion. That means this web-based program can export your MS Office formats into PDFs, images, and text. Now follow the instructions below to learn how to create a searchable PDF from a scanned copy online:

Step 1: Search for OCR2EDIT on Google and open the official website;

Step 2: Upload your PDF file from the local folder or cloud platforms (e.g. Google Drive and Dropbox). When the file is added to the panel, select the source language of the original PDF for a better conversion result;


Step 3: Hit the Download button to save this searchable PDF locally.ocr2edit-convert-to-searchable-pdf

Whats Behind?

If you ever wonder what’s behind the functionality of making a PDF searchable, the secret sauce is the one and only OCR. OCR refers to Optical Character Recognition, the technology to convert typed images, and handwritten or printed text into machine-readable text. That’s the reason why the scanned PDF document can be converted into a file that can be copied and researched. For more information related to OCR and its applications, this post has what exactly you need.

The Bottom Line

The mentioned three PDF products prove to be useful in practice. Therefore, when you need to search for a word or copy a text from a scanned PDF, just try the solutions to make a PDF searchable without Adobe.

Common FAQ about How to Make a PDF Searchable in 2022

Q:How do you make a PDF searchable with Adobe?

In truth, no matter how you think of Adobe, it takes the leading position in this industry, which is undeniable. Well, let's take a closer look at how to make a PDF searchable in Adobe:

Step 1: Open a scanned PDF in Adobe and navigate to the right bar to choose Tools;

Step 2: In the Tools menu, select Recognize Text. When the Recognize Text popup box opens, specify the page range and the output style based on your need;

Step 3: Hit the OK button to save the document as a searchable one.



Roche has been an active PDF user for 6 years and tried different types of professional PDF tools (both online and desktop version) since at his bachelor degree. Now, Roche works as a columnist for SwifDoo PDF over the course of the last one year, and provides useful and practical solutions pertaining to various PDF topics for users from different features.