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Home / Blog / 4 Methods to Search for a Word in a PDF [2022 Version]

4 Methods to Search for a Word in a PDF [2022 Version]

By Roche | Follow twitter | Updated on July 9, 2022 | Deutsch
We may get accustomed to pressing the Ctrl + F to search for a word or phrase in a Word document. As PDF becomes a popular file format in daily work, we have the need to quickly locate text and content or to mark out all words or phrases. It is not a big deal in Word documents, however, can we search in a PDF? If the answer is positive, how do we search for a word in a PDF?

There are numerous PDF search tools in the market. Each one has its merits and demerits. For instance, you may need an advanced word search feature or case sensitive to obtain precise searching results. The following section revolves around how to search in a PDF to easily find text on different operating systems, like Windows and macOS. Read on to find the most suitable tool to search for a word in a PDF.

How to Search for a Word in a PDF with Offline Software

This part will explain how to search for a word in a PDF on macOS and Windows 11/10/8/7/XP with a few steps.

How to Search for a Word in a PDF on Windows

SwifDoo PDF

If you need to search a PDF for a word, SwifDoo PDF is an easy-to-use PDF search tool you can resort to. This is a multipurpose PDF program on Windows, which enables users to perform PDF conversion, compression, annotation, and editing. Furthermore, SwifDoo PDF is a high-quality PDF searcher, with which users can search for words or any content within a given PDF document, including keywords in the annotations and bookmarks.

Here’s how to search for keywords or phrases in a PDF file with SwifDoo PDF:

Step 1: Download and install SwifDoo PDF from the official website or Microsoft AppSource;

Step 2: Upload a PDF document to SwifDoo PDF’s workplace;

Step 3: Go to the menu bar and click on the View tab. Below the tab, select Search; alternatively, just press the shortcut key Ctrl + F on your keyboard to activate the Advanced Search;


Step 4: When the Advanced Search column shows up, enter the words or content you need to find.


With the “Advanced Search” provided by SwifDoo PDF, users can specify the page range to search. This Windows-based PDF toolkit will markup all the matched items so that users can see all the search results quickly as you usually do in Microsoft Word.


Tips:  If someone needs to find keywords in the bookmarks or annotation, don’t forget to tick the “Include Bookmarks” and “Include Annotations” boxes.

Of course, the least ideal method we recommend is to convert this PDF into an editable Microsoft Word document and then use the “Find & Replace” feature to find a word in a PDF. When finished, you must save this Word document as a PDF again. The truth is, however, many PDF tools endow you with the ability to directly search PDF documents.

                                                                        Free Download      

Searching for a word in a PDF seems as easy as doing a word search in a Word document. Nevertheless, a scanned PDF or image-only PDF, distinguished from standard PDFs created by MS Office Suite, cannot be copied, edited, and searched. If you need to find something in this type of PDF, make it searchable first. This post is of great assistance.

How to Make a PDF Searchable in 2022

How to Make a PDF Searchable in 2022

An unsearchable PDF isn't user-friendly because you cannot search for any needed information. Find out how to make a PDF searchable with a few clicks.


Sejda PDF

Similar to SwifDoo PDF, Sejda PDF is a good PDF searcher on Windows, but Sejda PDF is available online to reach a wider audience. Moreover, Sejda PDF can find & replace a certain word or phrase, enabling users to search for and replace all instances of a word or format. This is particularly handy in long documents. Let’s get down to the details of how to search a PDF for a word:

Step 1: Download and install Sejda PDF Desktop on your PC;

Step 2: Open a PDF document with this PDF program and navigate to the PDF Editor;

Step 3: When your PDF document is presented, click More on the menu bar to choose Find & Replace;


Step 4: Within the Find & Replace box, just enter the text you need to search for.

Sejda PDF can replace all unnecessary items, which is beneficial for content producers. However, if you require searching for text in the comments or notes, Sejda PDF will fail you. Overall, these two PDF products have their strengths. For users who need to search for something in a PDF, you’d best think about your real-world needs.

How to Search for a Word in a PDF on Mac

If you are a macOS user, however, and desire a trustworthy PDF search tool, Preview remains the top choice. You don’t need to look for any third-party PDF program to search a PDF for a word. The default PDF reader, Preview, is a straightforward application on Mac.

Step 1: Open a PDF document in Preview;

Step 2: When opened, enter the text you need to search in the search bar on the top right corner. Or users can press the Ctrl + F to activate the search bar;

Step 3: If you have typed in the content you need to search for, click on the Enter button and all the matching items will be shown in the left sidebar.

What may disappoint macOS users is Preview’s inability to replace content. Therefore, external applications may be put to good use once you need to access the “Find & Replace” features, such as PDF Expert, PDF Reader Pro, or PDFelement.

How to Search for a Word in a PDF with Online Tools

We have reviewed and tested some mainstream browsers and ten popular online PDF editors to see how to search for a word in a PDF online. Here’s what we find: internet browsers can serve as qualified word searchers for PDF documents, while dedicated PDF apps like Smallpdf, pdfFiller, and PDFdu can search for a word within a PDF file. Among these mentioned web-based PDF tools, PDFdu has a good performance.


Firefox is a common web browser developed by Mozilla. It is also a PDF search tool, which is able to find all matching words and can highlight all or individual items. Aside from this, it supports matching cases, whole word match, and match diacritics. Users can take Firefox as a simplified PDF viewer as it enables PDF printing, rotating, and scrolling. OK, the following paragraphs are about how to search for words or phrases in a PDF for free:

Step 1: If you have Firefox installed on your PC, just open a PDF document in this web browser;

Step 2: Press the Ctrl + F shortcut keys on the keyboard to activate the search bar at the bottom left;


Step 3: Enter the keyword or text you need to look for within this PDF into the search bar. When Firefox finds all the needed results, it will highlight all the items by default.

Firefox is a good tool to search for text in a PDF, however, it cannot Find & Replace as it is a PDF viewer at most. If you have such a demand for a PDF editor, the next online tool may be helpful.


This is an all-around internet-based PDF converter that can easily convert, merge, split, and remove PDF pages. Regarding how to search for words in a PDF, PDFdu can quickly and easily find them, replace the content as needed, and finally create a new PDF. Here’s the guide to searching for words in a PDF:

Step 1: Type the URL on the search bar;

Step 2: Upload your PDF document to the workstation and enter the text you need to search for in the Find Text box, then type in the content you need to replace the selected text in the box Replace With;

Step 3: Hit the Replace Text and then download the modified PDF.

PDFdu allows users to exactly find the specified keywords or conduct a fuzzy query. Since this online platform is free of cost, there are many ad banners on the website. The only drawback of this tool is it doesn’t provide a preview of the PDF document and users fail to locate where the keywords are.

Wrapping Up

How to search a PDF is no longer a problem with professional PDF search tools (both online and offline). Desktop PDF programs are able to perform the Find & Replace feature whereas most online tools can often only help search for words in a PDF document but are unable to replace the found items. On top of this, desktop programs are usually equipped with features to find keywords in the bookmarks or annotations. All things considered, you’re best off downloading and installing an offline PDF toolkit for its versatility and functionality.

Common FAQ about 4 Methods to Search for a Word in a PDF [2022 Version]

Q:How do we search a PDF for a word on phones?

For mobile users who need to find all the needed items within a PDF document, Foxit PDF or Wondershare PDFelement are both good PDF applications for mobile phone devices. Let us take Foxit PDF for iOS for example to figure out how to search for words in a PDF:

Step 1: Download Foxit PDF from your relevant App Store;

Step 2: Open a PDF document using Foxit PDF;

Step 3: Click the Search button (shown as a magnifying glass icon) and enter the content you need to find in the PDF document, then Foxit PDF will find all the matched items.

However, Foxit PDF only adopts fuzzy search which means it is not a whole word search. Regardless, it is still a free solution for mobile users to conduct word searches in PDF documents.

Q:How do I search for words in a scanned PDF?

Sometimes users may fail to search for a word in a PDF, and one possible cause is that the PDF document is an unsearchable scanned PDF document (also known as an image-only PDF) that cannot be edited. The only practical solution is to perform OCR on the current PDF to turn this scanned PDF into an editable one. SwifDoo PDF happens to be a PDF program with the ability to apply OCR on an image-only PDF:

Step 1: Launch the PDF program and open a PDF document;

Step 2: Hit the Edit tab and click on OCR to recognize characters in the document;

Step 3: When the scanned PDF is converted into a standard document, press the Ctrl + F to conduct word searches.



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.

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