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How to Make a PDF Searchable (4 Easy Ways)

Jan 9 2024

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Searching through PDF documents is a quick and targeted way to locate specific content. If you're sifting through financial data or researching lengthy case studies, the ability to search within PDFs is a game-changer.

However, there are PDFs, especially those created from scanned documents, that can’t be searched. This is because the document is only an image of the text, which search engines can't read or detect any text from.

Not to worry, though! We'll show you how to make a PDF searchable with four different methods:

  • Using Xodo's OCR online tool
  • Converting PDF to Word
  • Converting PDF to Text
  • Using Xodo’s OCR tool on iOS and Android

We’ll even cover a quick tip to get your content back into a non-searchable PDF if needed. So let’s begin and get ready to convert to searchable PDF!

What is a searchable PDF?

A searchable PDF is a type of PDF document that contains machine-readable text which allows you to search, select, and copy text within a PDF. These kinds of PDFs are created when you electronically generate a PDF file. Fortunately, you have a few options to convert scanned PDF to searchable PDF.

How to make a PDF searchable with OCR

It’s possible to make your PDF search online. You don’t need to install Adobe Acrobat or any other software. All you need is an OCR PDF tool like Xodo’s and you're all set. Just follow the steps below:

1. Go to Xodo’s PDF OCR tool.

2. Upload your scanned PDF.

3. Select .pdf as your conversion output.

4. Download your newly searchable PDF to your device.

Xodo OCR PDF converter online

Once you have your file downloaded, you can then continue to use Xodo to easily search your PDF.

Make a PDF searchable by converting it to Word

Alternatively, you can convert your PDF to Word and then search the text in the Word document, itself. Here’s how:

1. Go to Xodo’s PDF to Word Converter.

2. Upload your scanned PDF.

3. Then click on Convert.

4. Download your Word document to your device or Save it to Google Drive or Xodo Drive.

Make PDF text searchable by using MS Word

You can then open your Word document in MS Word and go the Home tab > Editing > Find, or press CTRL + F. Then type in the word or phrase, along with any other specific details, you wish to locate in the document. 

You also have the option of converting your content back into the PDF format, if you wish. Simply go to File > Save as > Download as PDF.

Convert PDF to searchable Text file

While MS Word is a common format to search for text in a document, you may prefer to deal with only the text of your document, or perhaps you may not even have MS Word. In such cases, you can convert PDF to Text instead.

1. Go to Xodo’s PDF to Text Converter.

2. Upload your scanned PDF.

3. Click on Convert.

4. Download your Text document or save it to Google Drive or Xodo Drive.

Once downloaded, open your text file in Notepad where you can use the search options under the Edit menu to sift through the text in your file.

How to make a PDF searchable on iOS and Android

In all the above steps, we’ve covered Xodo online. However, you can go one step further to make PDF text searchable by using Xodo on your device. Xodo is cross-platform and has an iOS app and an Android app.

Note that the steps are for Android devices but are similar to the steps for iOS devices as well and can easily be followed on iOS.

1. Tap on the Xodo icon on your device.

2. Select and open your PDF file from the list of locations provided.

3. Then tap on the Lightning bolt icon in the upper righthand corner.

4. From the More Actions list, select Text Recognition (OCR).

Xodo PDF OCR tool on Android

5. You’ll have the option to add files to the queue if needed. To do so, simply tap to check the file from the list or tap on Add Files to select it from a different location on your device.

6. Once you have your files lined up, opt whether to save your file to Xodo Drive or not. Then tap on the Apply OCR button at the bottom of the screen.

Your files will automatically be under the Processed Files folder or Xodo Drive.

No matter where you are, you can instantly keep your work going, interacting and sifting through PDF text while on the go.

Creating a non-searchable PDF again

Once you’ve searched for and retrieved the PDF text you needed from your OCR-processed PDF, you can get that content back into a non-searchable PDF again.

This can be ideal if you need to quickly secure the content against others copying or editing, so you can share it safely online with peace of mind.

To do so, follow these steps:

1. Go to Xodo’s PDF to JPG Converter.

2. Upload your PDF.

3. Select your image quality level: Good (Regular Image Quality) or Great (Higher Image Quality).

4. Click on Convert. Note that Xodo will convert each page into individual JPG images.

5. Download your converted images to your devices or save them to Xodo Drive and Google Drive.

Once you have your JPG images, you can use Xodo's JPG to PDF Converter to upload your images and finish the task of converting that JPG into a non-editable PDF that can't be searched.

Transform your digital document workflow

Working to sift through PDF text doesn’t have to be difficult whether you’re using OCR, PDF conversion, or the Xodo mobile app. You can transform your searchable PDF in seconds by following any of the above methods.

And Xodo is about much more than OCR and conversion. It’s about creating a convenient digital document solution. Xodo can help with other PDF-related tasks - editing PDF text, comparing PDF, and more!

As you turn your documents into searchable PDFs, consider what Xodo's online platform brings to the table. Start boosting the way you interact with your digital documents today.

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Reena Cruz

PDF Productivity Expert

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