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Use Adobe Acrobat Pro to make scanned PDFs searchable
I'll admit it. I'm a document pack-rat. If it seems like a document might be useful to me at some point, even in the very distant future, I keep it. Several years ago, though, I realized that my filing system was a mess, and it was time to go digital. Even if every single document I had saved was incredibly useful, they'd never be useful if I couldn't find the right file at the right time. (Also, the papers were starting to pile up and turn my office into a huge mess.) My solution was to scan my paper files and organize them digitally. With the excellent OCR (optical character recognition) technology available in Adobe Acrobat Professional, I was even able to recognize the text in the scanned documents, enabling full-file searching in modern operating systems (e.g., Windows 7, OS X, most Linux distributions).
This feature of Acrobat Pro is especially useful for academics - how many times have you downloaded an older journal article and found the PDF contained images rather than text? Not very useful when you'd like to search for key words rather than read through every potentially relevant article...
Here's how to use Adobe Acrobat Pro to turn those image-based PDF files into searchable text PDF files: (Note: You must use Adobe Acrobat Professional for these tasks - Acrobat Reader doesn't have OCR capabilities, nor can it make changes to PDF files. Most well-equipped university computer labs will have Adobe Acrobat Professional available. If not, university students and faculty qualify for steeply discounted educational software prices direct from Adobe or your university bookstore.)
In the example below, I'm using a journal article I downloaded from American Psychologist. When I click in the document to try and select text (a good test for whether the document is already searchable), the entire page is selected in light blue as an image. This indicates that the PDF file is simply a set of page images, which means it isn't searchable.
To use Acrobat's OCR feature, click on the Tools pane, then select Recognize Text.* If you just want to recognize text in the open PDF file, choose In This File. If you've collected a bunch of PDF documents and wish to recognize them all in a batch operation, choose In Multiple Files.
For a single file, you'll see the following options appear:
If you're using Adobe Acrobat 8 or earlier, select OK, and Acrobat will begin recognizing the text on each page. Adobe Acrobat versions 9 and above contain an alternative PDF output style called ClearScan. This option replaces the text in the file with a custom Adobe vector font, which produces much clearer text and significantly smaller file sizes. This option does the best job of enhancing scanned document quality while producing reasonably sized PDF files for emailing or posting to course websites. To select ClearScan, click on the Editbutton, then change the PDF Output Type: to ClearScan. Click on OK and OK again to begin the recognition.
Although ClearScan does take a bit longer to process, the results are outstanding, as you can see in the following images. The differences are even more dramatic with poorer quality initial scans.
When the OCR process is complete, you'll notice that the document text is now selectable (and searchable).
Be sure to save the new (searchable) PDF file!
Adobe Searchable Pdf Software Pdf
If you're using Adobe Acrobat in a computer lab, it's very likely that PDF files will open by default in Adobe Acrobat Reader. You may need to manually open Adobe Acrobat Pro and then open a PDF file in order to OCR documents.
*Note: In this example, I'm using Adobe Acrobat X Pro. If you have an older version of Adobe Acrobat, select the Document menu, OCR Text Recognition, Recognize Text Using OCR.
Lately, everyone’s been asking me to help them find themselves…
After a talk at the Missouri Solo and Small Firm conference, I chatted with a solo real estate attorney who asked for my advice on developing a searchable article archive from the materials he had collected over the years. “How do I find the articles I need?” he asked.
I also talked to a lawyer who took on a probono criminal defense case. “How can I find where my client is mentioned in all the police records I was sent?” she asked.
And, at the LegalTech West show, a workman’s compensation investigator asked how to search medical records. “How can I apply notes to these handwritten medical records and find them later?” he asked.
In this article, I’ll discuss how to use Acrobat Professional to create a full-text index so you can find what you need… fast!
Read on to learn more…
Searching Beyond Text of the Document
Acrobat can find text in the following parts of a PDF:
- Text of the document (regular or OCR)
- Title, Subject, Author, Keyword (metadata)
- Notes and Annotations
- PDF Attachments
So, what does this mean for legal professionals?
- You can find words or phrases across multiple documents quickly to help you find key facts, names, places, etc. that are contained within the text of documents.
- You can capture your thinking about a document—in the PDF—while reviewing it using bookmarks and comment tools.
- You can later find documents by the notes and knowledge you’ve applied to them.
Setting up for Search
Step 1: Make sure your documents are text searchable by Acrobat
- Use Acrobat Optical Character Recognition (OCR) if you have paper documents or image-only PDFs in your document collection.
- Convert electronic files such as word processing, spreadsheets, etc. to PDF
Step 2: Locate and Segregate Documents
Depending on the type of project you have, you may wish to move similar documents to individual directories.
For example, let’s say you have accumulated several years of legal research on trusts. You may wish to segregate the documents by state or issue.
If you are indexing client files, you may wish to index by client or perhaps even by matter.
There’s no right or wrong way to organize your documents, but you do need to strike a balance between how much time you spend organizing your files and how easy it is to find what you need.
Create an Index
Follow these steps to create a full-text search index using Acrobat 8 Professional:
- In Acrobat X, open the Tools pane, then open the Document Processing section and choose Full Text Index with Catalog
In Acrobat 9, choose Advanced —>Document Processing —>Full Text Index with Catalog
Click the New Index button
- The Build Index window will appear:
1) Give the index a name
2) Enter a description of the index
3) Choose the directory that will be indexed. All sub-directories will be indexed.
4) Click the Build button
- Acrobat will create a .pdx (index) file at the top level of the directory you specified.
Click the Save button.
- The Index Progress window will appear:
Note that Acrobat will skip any documents which are secured with an Open password.
Attaching to the Index and Searching
Follow these steps to attach to the index you created:
- Choose Edit—>Search—or type—
Acrobat will split your screen between the Search window and the Document window.
- In the Search window on the left, click on Advanced Search at the bottom:
- In the Advanced Search panel, click on the Look In menu and choose Select Index.
- The Index Selection window will appear.
Click the Add button
Locate the the index file (.pdx) that you created earlier. Normally, Acrobat will automatically find it for you.
- Click OK
Searching the Index
Once you select an index, Acrobat will keep it selected so you can search against it.
In the example below, we are searching for Donald, the first name of one of the parties to the case:
Click the Search button.
Acrobat will present a list of documents that match the search criteria:
Interpreting and Using Results
Remember that Acrobat can search not only the text of documents, but comments and bookmarks, too.
Click the + sign to view the hits on each document.
Adobe Searchable Pdf Software Windows 10
Acrobat gives you useful visual indicators in the search window:
Acrobat will select and perform a different action depending on what you double-click:
|When you click on a . . .||This is what happens|
|Text of Document||Word is highlighted in the document|
|Bookmark||The bookmark panel is opened and the bookmark is highlighted|
|Comment||The comment is selected and opened. E.g. a text note opens|
You can save a step searching by changing Acrobat’s defaults to always use the Advanced Search options. Go to Edit—> Preferences—> Search and click the checkbox for Always use Advanced Search Options.
In this article, you learned how to create an index to search across multiple PDF documents.
Acrobat 8 offers new indexing capabilities by allowing you to embed a full-text index in:
- A single PDF document
- PDF package
Adobe Reader Make Pdf Searchable
This gives you the ability to have an index that travels with a PDF wherever you send it.
Adobe Searchable Pdf Software Downloads
For example, you could create a trial notebook package complete with index and give it to your colleague to take to court or mediation.