How to Set Up a Searchable PDF Database

By Amy Dombrower

A Portable Document Format (PDF) file is often used to retain any formatting of a document created in another program, such as a word document, spreadsheet or complex design file. PDFs are created and managed using Adobe Acrobat. To set up a PDF database file, your best bet is to create it first using a database or spreadsheet program, such as Microsoft Excel. Then you can convert the file into a PDF and add Adobe Acrobat's search bar and index features, making it easy for users to search the database.

Things You'll Need

  • Adobe Acrobat
  • Spreadsheet program

Convert Database to PDF (Ref. 1, 2)

Step 1

Open a spreadsheet application on your computer and enter all the data you want to include in the database. If you use a database program, you'll be able to enter the data much more efficiently than if you were to start a PDF from scratch. Save the file when it is completed.

Step 2

Save the file as a PDF if you're using a program that allows it. All Microsoft Office programs provide this ability, as long as you already have Adobe Acrobat installed on your computer. For instance, in Excel, click the "Microsoft Office Button," scroll over "Save As," and select "PDF or XPS." Type a file name and click "Publish." In other programs, you may be able to print to PDF using the Adobe PDF Printer. Open the PDF file in Adobe Acrobat.

Step 3

Convert the file through Adobe Acrobat if Step 2 is not possible. Open Acrobat and click "File, Create PDF, From File." Select the spreadsheet file from the "Open" dialog box and click "Open." The file will convert and open a new PDF document. Click "File, Save As" to save the file.

Add Search Features (Ref. 3, 4)

Step 1

Access the "Find" toolbar in Adobe Acrobat. It will be open by default, but you can always find it again by select "Edit, Find." Use it to find any word in the document.

Step 2

Use the "Search" window to allow a more complex search. Click "Edit, Search" to display it, or click the arrow next to the "Find" toolbar and click "Open Full Acrobat Search." This feature is also available for Adobe Reader users.

Step 3

Create an index for the PDF so users can search the database. To add an index, click "Advanced, Document Processing, Manage Embedded Index." Click "Embed Index." Follow the instructions and click "OK." The index will be included with the PDF when you distribute it to recipients.