How to Make a Scanned PDF Searchable

By Faizah Imani

If you download a PDF document onto your computer or create a new PDF from scratch using Adobe software, you can easily search the document's text for specific words. This capability allows you to find key phrases without having to read the entire document. However, when you scan a document onto your computer and save the image as a PDF, you cannot search it. This is because your computer sees the PDF as one big image generated by your scanner and doesn't recognize the text. You can, however, search the scanned PDF using optical character recognition (OCR) software, which allows your computer to recognize the text.

Things You'll Need

  • Scanner
  • Adobe Acrobat
  • Optical character recognition software

Step 1

Scan the document with your scanner to place an image of the document on your computer. When scanning, be sure to choose "Acrobat" or "Adobe Acrobat" as the scan type. This will scan the document as a PDF file.

Step 2

Save the scanned PDF image to your computer's hard drive. To do this, simply click on "File" from the menu bar above the scanned image. Select the "Save" or "Save As" option. You can then name your file and save it. Be sure to remember where the PDF is saved.

Step 3

Open an optical character recognition (OCR) software program that allows PDF images to be converted into text. Many such programs are available for purchase, but you can also use free software programs such as Simple OCR and FreeOCR. Additionally, some of the paid programs offer free trials.

Step 4

Click on "File" and "Open" from the menu bar of the OCR software program. Locate the scanned PDF file that you saved in Step 2. Double-click on the scanned PDF file to open it.

Step 5

Choose the "OCR" option to convert the scanned document to text. Depending on the software program you are using, the exact location of the OCR option will vary.

Step 6

Click on the "Search" or "Find" option to begin searching the text in your converted PDF document. You can also press "Ctrl" and "F" simultaneously on your keyboard to launch a search. Type in the words you want to search for. Press "Enter" to activate the search and to view search results.