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How to Search a PDF (Multiple PDF Files, Case Sensitive, and More)

January 18, 2022

We often come across situations where we have to find a certain word or phrase in a PDF, but we can’t do it by reading through it either due to time constraints or the length of the document. Luckily, there are a few methods, which save us this hassle in a few easy steps. 

They range from keyword shortcuts to look up text to toolbars that search a PDF within seconds. 

Furthermore, these methods aren’t just limited to a single PDF, you can use them to search multiple PDFs at once as well. 

Below, you’ll learn how to navigate through PDFs to save yourself a ton of trouble while searching a PDF for a specific word or phrase! 

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • How to Search For Whole, Case Sensitive Words, Comments, Or Bookmarks In Adobe and Replace Text
  • How to Search Multiple PDFs in Adobe Using the Find Toolbar?
  • How to Search Through a PDF Using Keyboard Shortcuts?
  • How to Search Through a PDF in the Google Chrome Browser?
  • How to Search a PDF For Case Sensitive or Whole Words Using Wondershare PDFelement?
  • How to Search a PDF Using Preview on Mac?

How to Search For Whole, Case Sensitive Words, Comments, Or Bookmarks In Adobe and Replace Text

Adobe, no doubt, is one of the most famous software when it comes to PDFs. 

There are various ways in which it allows you to search a PDF and replace text. 

You can even search your PDF for whole words, case sensitive characters, bookmarks, and comments, as we’ll show you below. Or replace specific words automatically.

To do this, you can either use the tool’s toolbar feature or use a quick keyboard shortcut to search the PDF’s content.

Let’s take a look at both.

How to search a single PDF in Adobe using the find toolbar?

Use the following steps to find your desired text in a single PDF file in Adobe Reader using the Find toolbar:

Step 1: Open your PDF file

Double click on your PDF to open it in the Adobe Reader; this will only work if your default PDF viewer is Adobe. If this isn’t the case, then open Adobe, click on ‘File’, then ‘Open’, navigate to your desired PDF file in the opened window, and click ‘Open’. 

Step 2: Display the Find toolbar

Once your file is open, go to ‘Edit’ and click on ‘Find’.

how to search a pdf using find toolbar


You can use this option to search for body text, layers, form fields, and digital signatures.

On clicking ‘Find’, the following toolbar on the top right corner of the PDF file will open.

search for word in pdf how to


Step 3: Find your desired text/layer/form field/digital signature

Enter the text that you want to search. Upon entering the first few characters, Adobe will provide you with suggestions.

searching for words in adobe provides suggestions in pdf


On clicking the settings icon in the toolbar, you can refine your search results by adding case-sensitive words, bookmarks, and comments.

how to search for whole words, case sensitive, bookmarks, and comments in pdf

How to replace text in a PDF using Adobe Acrobat

If you want to replace text with another word, then you can do it by using the ‘Replace with’ option in the Finder tool. 

Though, you won’t get this option if you are using the free version of Adobe Acrobat. So, you’ll need to upgrade or use different PDF tools.

pdf replace text

Enter the text that you want to replace the original text with in the ‘Replace with’ text box, and press Enter. 

This will replace the text on your chosen word and move you to the next word. Press Enter again if you want to replace it as well. Repeat the process till you’ve achieved your desired results. 

How to Search Multiple PDFs in Adobe Using the Find Toolbar?

If you want to search a PDF but you aren’t which one is it in multiple files, then Adobe has a solution for this issue as well. 

Here’s how you can search multiple PDFs for specific words or phrases using Adobe Reader: 

Step 1: Place all the PDFs in a single folder

The first thing that you’ll have to do to search through multiple PDFs is to place them all in a single folder. 

You can also place them together in major locations such as My Documents, Desktop, and even the hard drive. However, the larger the folder, the more time will be required to perform the search. 

Therefore, we recommend you place it in a single folder, which could be accessed separately.

Step 2: Open the Advanced Search toolbar

After you’ve placed all the PDFs in a single folder, open Adobe Acrobat, click on ‘Edit’, and then ‘Advanced Search’. The following window will open:

search through multiple pdf files with adobe


Step 3: Search through the multiple PDFs

Select ‘All PDF documents in’ and click on the dropdown. Based on where your PDFs are located, select from ‘My Documents’, ‘Desktop’, ‘This PC’, or ‘Browse the location’. Enter the word or phrase that you want to find in the ‘What word or phrase would you like to search for?’ and select if any of the other options apply. Hit ‘Search’.

search through multiple pdf files


You will receive the following security warning. Click ‘Allow’ to proceed. 

security warning search pdfs


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How to Search Through a PDF Using Keyboard Shortcuts?

Keyword shortcuts are a blessing when it comes to saving time. 

A single one for a specific task works in almost all software, making our lives easier. 

In terms of searching a PDF, your best friend is Ctrl + F, if you are a Windows user, and Command + F, if you use a MacBook. 

Simply open the PDF in your desired viewer, or on a browser, such as Google Chrome, and use this shortcut. 

A ‘Find’ toolbar similar to the one given in the image below will pop up. Type your text and press Enter to start the search.

pdf search with keyboard shortcuts


You can also use this shortcut to open the ‘Find’ toolbar in Adobe Acrobat. If you want to open the ‘Advanced Search’ option in Adobe Acrobat, use Shift + Ctrl + F for Windows, and Shift + Command + F for MacBook. 

How to Search Through a PDF in the Google Chrome Browser?

If you don’t have PDF viewer software on your computer, then don’t worry, you can use the Google Chrome browser to view PDFs and find text in them. 

Here’s how you can do it:

Step 1: Open the PDF in Chrome

Open the PDF file in Google Chrome. You can do this by right-clicking on the file, choosing ‘Open with’, and clicking on ‘Google Chrome’.

how to open pdf file in chrome


Step 2: Open the PDF text finder in Chrome

Click the three vertical dots on the top right corner of Google Chrome. 

A drop-down will appear with multiple options. Select ‘Find’ from it, which is near the bottom.

how to search pdf with chrome


Step 3: Find the PDF text or phrase 

A small finder will open at the top right corner of the window. Type the word or phrase that you want to find in the PDF and press Enter. The word or phrase will become highlighted in the text. 

You can navigate between multiple results by using the move up and down arrows on the right of the finder.

pdf search example in chrome


How to Search a PDF For Case Sensitive or Whole Words Using Wondershare PDFelement?

If you don’t have any PDF viewer on your computer and require free software to search a PDF or perform other PDF-related tasks, then you can download Wondershare PDFelement. 

You can use this free software to search a PDF by following these steps:

Step 1: Open your PDF file

After installing Wondershare PDFelement, click on ‘Open file’, which is the first option and is at the top left of the window. A new window will open. Navigate to the PDF file that you want to search and press ‘Open’. 

Step 2: Search for the word or phrase

Once your PDF file is open, click on the Search option on the left window pane. It allows you to search words or phrases either as "Case sensitive" or "Whole words only". Select whichever option works best for you. 

Type the word or phrase that you want to search and press either Enter or click on ‘Search’.

search a pdf with wondershare software


How to Search a PDF Using Preview on Mac?

If you have a MacBook, and you’re looking to search for a PDF without downloading any software, then we’ve got some good news for you. 

You can use Preview to search for any PDF that you want. 

Here’s how you can do it:

Step 1: Open the PDF in Preview

If you don’t have any software to view a PDF on your Mac, then it’ll open automatically on Preview, which is a built-in Mac program for viewing images and PDFs. 

However, if you have any other software, then right-click on the PDF, select ‘Open with’, and then click on Preview, to open that PDF file in Preview. 

Step 2: Search the Word or Phrase

On opening the PDF in Preview, you’ll notice a search bar in the top-right corner of the window.

how to use Preview to search a pdf on mac


Type the word or phrase that you want to search in the PDF and press Enter. 

All the results of the searched word or phrase will show in the left sidebar. 

Click on the option of the instance that you are looking for. 

Conclusion

Hope this helped!

By now, you should know how to search a PDF or multiple PDFs for a specific word (case sensitive or whole words), bookmarks, comments, and more.

You can either use the CTRL+F or Command+F commands or use the native toolbar.

Alternatively, you can also replace text in your PDF (if you have the editing options) also from the search toolbar or through CTRL+H or Command+H keyboard shortcuts.

Searched your PDF and made the changes you were looking for?

Now, here are some other PDF management guides you might be interested in:

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