Comprehensive Guide | How to Make PDF Searchable via OCR/Conversion


Do you ever feel frustrated and confused because you can't search for specific text in your own PDF documents? PDF is a widely used file format that preserves the layout and formatting of the original document, but it also has some drawbacks. One of them is that if a PDF is generated from scanned images or documents, it is non-searchable, meaning you cannot search or copy the text you want from the PDF. This can be inconvenient for your work or studies, especially when you need to extract information from a large number of PDF files.

So, is there a way to make PDFs searchable? The answer is yes. This article will introduce you to six methods that allow you to make your PDF documents searchable text through Optical Character Recognition (OCR) or converting the PDF to a Word document. This way, you can easily find the content you need within the PDF.

make pdf searchable


Part 1. FAQS About Searchable PDF Files

Q1. A searchable PDF? What does it mean?

A searchable PDF is created through OCR, allowing recognition and extraction of text from images or scanned documents. Key features include text recognition, making text selectable, enabling a search function within the PDF, and typically indexing the recognized text for faster and more efficient searches. This enhances the usability and accessibility of PDF documents, particularly when dealing with non-digital or scanned content.

Q2. Why can't I search for specific words in my PDF?

Unable to search for specific words in your PDF? There are several possible reasons for it:

  1. The PDF might be a scanned image or lacks text-selectable content (a PDF created from a scanned image or saved as an image might not be text searchable by default).
  2. The file may have security settings that restrict searching.
  3. The file may lack an embedded text layer, making it unsearchable.
  4. The file might have a corrupted font encoding, affecting text recognition.

Q3. How to tell if my PDF is text searchable?

You can follow these steps to check if your PDF is text searchable:

Select Text:

  • Open the PDF file with a PDF viewer such as Adobe Acrobat Reader or a web browser such as Google Chrome. Then use the cursor to attempt to highlight and select text within the document. If you can highlight and select text, the PDF is likely text searchable.

Use the Search Function:

  • Open the PDF file and press"Ctrl" + "F" keys to launch the searching function within the PDF viewer. Enter a specific phrase and check if the viewer can locate and highlight the text. If the searching function works, the PDF is text searchable.


  1. Ensure that the PDF is not a scanned image but contains selectable text.
  2. Verify that the OCR language setting matches the language used in the document.
  3. Complex or image-heavy PDFs may not convert perfectly.
  4. Ensure that your Word document has selectable text before saving as a PDF.

Q4. How do I make a searchable PDF document?

Making a PDF document searchable involves using OCR technology to recognize and extract text from images or scanned pages within the PDF. By using Adobe Acrobat, online OCR tools, or dedicated OCR software, you can make your PDF document searchable. Additionally, you can also convert the files into searchable formats such as Word. We'll introduce the methods in the following parts.

Also read:

[Quick PDF Tips] How to Convert MOBI to PDF Format on PC

[PDF Tips] ]How to Copy Text from Secured PDF on Mac and Windows

Part 2. How to Make PDF Searchable

In this part, 3 offline & online tools are introduced on how to make searchable PDF files. Freely choose the one that suits you the most:

Tool 1. PDF Editor [Offline]

PDF Editor is a versatile and user-friendly PDF editing software that provides a wide range of features for creating, editing, converting, and managing PDF documents. It offers an intuitive interface, making it accessible for users with varying levels of expertise. You can easily create searchable PDF files using this tool.

Key Features

  • User-Friendly Interface: It is designed with an intuitive and user-friendly interface, ensuring a seamless experience for both novice and experienced users.
  • OCR: The OCR feature allows users to convert scanned documents or images into editable and searchable text, making previously non-searchable content accessible.
  • Batch Processing: It supports batch processes, allowing users to perform tasks such as OCR, conversion, or watermarking on multiple files simultaneously, saving time and effort.
  • Editing Tools: It allows users to edit text, images, and links directly within PDF files. Users can also manipulate pages, add annotations, and highlight or underline text.
  • Conversion: It supports converting PDFs to and from various formats, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and more. This feature enhances flexibility and collaboration with different file types.
  • Forms and Data Extraction: It enables the creation and editing of interactive forms. It also supports data extraction from form fields, streamlining the collection and analysis of information.
  • ...

This is how to make a PDF searchable in PDF Editor:

01Download and Launch the Tool

Begin by downloading and running PDF Editor on your PC to open the main window. Import your PDF file by selecting it and clicking "Open" in the main interface.

02Activate OCR

Once the file is successfully uploaded, the program will recognize the need for OCR. If prompted, click the "Perform OCR" link in the blue notification at the top of the page. If not, initiate OCR by clicking the "OCR" option on the toolbar.

If required, download the OCR component by clicking the "Download" button in the "OCR Component Download" window. After successfully adding the OCR component, navigate to the "Convert" tab, select "OCR" from the drop-down list, and click "Perform OCR" to access the OCR window.

download ocr component

03Create a Searchable PDF

In the OCR window, choose "Scan to searchable text in image" and click "OK" to initiate the PDF OCR process. Once complete, your PDF file will be searchable, allowing you to easily search its contents.

configure settings

Tool 2. Adobe Acrobat DC [Offline]

Adobe Acrobat DC is a comprehensive PDF tool that offers a range of features for managing and editing PDF documents. One notable capability is the ability to make PDFs searchable. This feature, known as OCR, allows users to convert scanned or image-based PDFs into searchable and editable text. With Adobe Acrobat DC, you can easily enhance PDFs, trigger OCR processes, and make your PDF documents searchable, enabling efficient text searches within the files.

Key Features

  • PDF Creation: Create PDFs from various file formats and merge multiple documents into a single PDF.
  • Editing Tools: Edit text, images, and links within PDF documents, making it easy to modify and update content.
  • Conversion: Convert PDFs to and from Microsoft Office formats (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) and other file types.
  • OCR: Recognize text in scanned documents or images, making them searchable and editable.
  • Forms: Create interactive forms with fillable fields, checkboxes, and dropdown menus. Adobe Acrobat DC also supports form data collection.
  • Commenting and Markup: Add comments, annotations, highlights, and drawings to collaborate and provide feedback on PDFs.
  • ...

This is how to make a PDF searchable in Adobe Acrobat DC:

1. Locate the "Tools" tab in Adobe Acrobat DC. And choose the "Scan & OCR" tool (or "Enhance Scans").

convert scanned pdf to searchable pdf with adobe

2. On the next screen, choose the "Select a file" option to import your file and hit "Start".

import file

3. From the tool bar on the top choose the "Enhance" > "Scanned Document" options.

adobe acrobat scan and ocr function enhance feature

4. Select the page range you want to optimize. You can set the parameters in "Enhance Scanned PDF" settings according to your preferences by hitting the gear icon. Afterward, click "Enhance" to start optimizing your file.

how to make pdf text searchable

5. Wait for the process to complete. The time it takes depends on the file's size.

6. When it gets done, you can view your file and check if it's searchable now.

search in scanned pdf

You may slso need:

[Easy PDF Solutions] How to Export Excel to PDF in 8 Methods

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Tool 3. iLovePDF [Online]

There are numerous online tools available for free that you can use to convert PDF to searchable PDF. These tools are simple and convenient, eliminating the need for you to spend time downloading and installing software. However, they also have their drawbacks: for security reasons, you should not upload confidential files; excessively large files are not suitable for this method as the upload and download times can be lengthy; in addition, many tools require a subscription to a Premium plan for batch conversion or other features.

For such methods, let's take iLovePDF as an example and explain how to use it to make a PDF searchable:

1. Visit the official website of iLovePDF at www.ilovepdf.com/ocr-pdf.

make pdf searchable free online

2. Click the "Select PDF file" button to upload your PDF file, or you can directly drag and drop the file.

select pdf file

3. Choose the language of your file. Then click the "OCR PDF" button to start processing the file. Once it's done, you can freely download your file and search for specific words within it.

Part 3. How to Make PDF Text Searchable Through Conversion

There are plenty of tools you can utilize to convert PDFs into searchable formats such as Word. We've written some detailed guides on this topic >>

Unlocking the Power of Conversion: How to Convert PDF to Word

PDF to Word OCR Software Review: Unleashing Precision and Efficiency

A Practical Guide on How to Edit a PDF in Word Effectively

Tool 1. Coolmuster PDF to Word Converter [Recommended]

Coolmuster PDF to Word Converter is a comprehensive tool designed to transform PDF files into Microsoft Word format, preserving all elements such as images, text style, tables, graphics, formatting, hyperlinks, and layout. Widely preferred for PDF to Word conversions on Windows 10/11 and macOS, it stands out from other methods due to its advantageous feature: batch conversion support. Say goodbye to the hassle of converting one file at a time, as Coolmuster PDF to Word Converter enables you to convert up to 200 PDFs to Word simultaneously.

Key Features

  • Effortlessly convert PDFs to Word documents.
  • Maintain the integrity of layouts, images, and fonts during the conversion process.
  • Preview files and selectively convert them as needed.
  • Perform batch conversions, allowing simultaneous processing of multiple PDF files.
  • Support for converting up to 200 PDFs in a single operation.

How to make PDF text searchable via Coolmuster PDF to Word Converter

01Begin by installing the software on your computer. Once installed, launch the program and opt for either the".Add File". or".Add Folde". buttons to import your files. Alternatively, you can simply drag & drop your files into the tool.

02Choose a specific mode for PDF file conversion: use the".Al". mode to convert all files, the".Curren". mode to convert only the files you are previewing, or the".Rang". mode to convert a specific range of PDF pages.

convert pdf to doc with pdf to word converter

03Initiate the conversion process by clicking on the".Star". icon.

conversion finished

Tool 2. Microsoft Word [Offline]

If you have only a few files to convert, you can directly use the pre-installed Microsoft Office on your Windows computer. The process is straightforward:

1. Open your PDF file in Microsoft Word by navigating to the "File" > "Open" > "Browse" options (or simply drag and drop).

open pdf in word

2. A window will appear, informing you that Word will convert the PDF to a Word document. Click "OK" to confirm.

convert pdf to word using microsoft word

3. Now you can freely search within your document. If you wish to save the converted file, simply click on "File" > "Save As" options.

save your edited pdf file

Tool 3. Google Docs [Online]

If Microsoft Word is not available on your computer, Google Docs is also a good option. The advantage of online tools is that you can use them anytime, anywhere, without relying on a specific device.

Here are the steps to make PDF text searchable via Google Docs:

1. Sign in to your email using a Chrome browser and click on "Drive" in Google Apps. In the Drive, click on "New folder" > "File upload."

click on new folder

2. Locate the uploaded PDF in your Drive, right-click on it, and open it with Google Docs. You can then freely search within the file.

open pdf in google docs

3. Click on "File" at the top left, choose the "Download" option, and select "Microsoft Word (.docx)" from the listed file formats.

how to make pdf to word

Due to specific reasons, you can't directly upload your PDF files to Google Docs. To learn about this, please read this guide>>

How to Open a PDF in Google Docs [Multiple Useful Methods]

Summing Up

In this article, we have introduced six methods for you to transform your PDF documents into searchable text through Optical Character Recognition (OCR) or conversion. These methods include using online tools, PDF Editor, Microsoft Word, and Adobe Acrobat. You can choose the method that best suits your needs and preferences to enhance the usability and efficiency of your PDF documents. We hope this article proves helpful for you in better managing your PDF files. If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section.

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