Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Converting Non-searchable PDFs Into Searchable PDFs

Searching through PDF files is important for students whether you are a senior doing thesis work or anyone else who is given huge amounts of reading. Doing this can save you a lot of time and stress. However, many times, people cannot use their PDF’s search function when they open up their PDF’s.

When you are in this situation, your PDF was saved as an image PDF. This can happen when you download a PDF from online or when you use a copy machine to scan a book. To convert your image PDF into a searchable text PDF, you just have to do 5 simple steps.

Check if you computer has Adobe Acrobat Pro.

This version of Adobe is definitely available in some but not all Whitman College computers. It is best if you consult the library help desk or the technology help desk about which computers to use. Computers in the Multimedia Development Lab (MDL) definitely have this version of Adobe and you can visit the MDL in Hunter Conservatory during its open hours.

Unfortunately, Adobe Acrobat Pro is not free, and most people only have Adobe Reader on their computer. Both versions of Adobe allow you to use the search function on searchable text PDF’s. However, only Adobe Acrobat Pro allows you to convert image PDF’s into searchable text PDF’s. Below is a table to clarify the difference between the two.

Adobe Reader
Adobe Acrobat Pro
NOT Free

Able to search text PDF’s

Able to search text PDF’s

NOT Able to convert image PDF   into
text PDF’s

Able to convert image PDF into text PDF’s

Available on ALL Whitman Computers

Your computer likely has it too, if not you
can download online for free.

Available on SOME Whitman computers

Ask the technology help desk which computers have this or go to the MDL to use it.

There was a lot of information above. However, once you have determined whether your computer has Adobe Acrobat Pro, then the hard part is over.

Right click on your image PDF and open it with “Adobe Acrobat Pro”

At the top of your screen click on the “Documents” tab. Under that tab you’ll see “OCR Text Recognition”. Click on this and then click on “Recognize Text Using OCR”


Afterwards, a window will pop up asking which pages you want to convert to a searchable text PDF. At that point all you need to do is click “OK”.

Once you have clicked “OK” you just need to wait a few minutes to allow the computer to convert the image PDF into a searchable text PDF. And once the conversion is complete you can save your PDF.

If you are like most college students, you do not have Adobe Acrobat Pro, so you had to convert your PDF on a school computer. Once you have saved the PDF as a searchable text PDF, you can then save the PDF onto your USB drive, gmail account, or Dropbox account. From there you can then save the searchable text PDF onto your computer.

After you have converted the image PDF into a searchable text PDF you can then use the search function. Below are some steps and tips about using the search function for searchable text PDF’s.

Using the search function of searchable text PDF’s
Once your PDF is a searchable text PDF you can left click on the PDF to open it on your computer. In this case, you do NOT need Adobe Acrobat Pro. The standard software on your computer should be able to open the PDF. Once the PDF is open, press control+F to open the search box near the top of your screen. Then you can type in a phrase or word and the program will look for any instance where that word or phrase appears and highlight it in yellow.