Portable Document Format (PDF) is one of the most commonly used document formats. If you need to find a specific phrase, word, or a combination of words in multiple PDF files, you usually search for it in each file one by one, which costs you a lot of time and effort. That's why we have come up with the best and easiest methods to let you search in multiple PDF files simultaneously.
1. Adobe Acrobat Reader
Without any doubt, Acrobat Reader is the most commonly used program for reading PDF files, and you can use it not only to read, but also to search text in multiple PDF files. In terms of convenience and ease of use, Acrobat Reader has far fewer capabilities than SeekFast, but there are a few reasons you may still want to use it, for example if you already have it on your computer and don't want to install other software.
Searching multiple PDF files using Acrobat Reader involves the following steps:
1. Download and install Acrobat Reader on your computer and launch it.
2. From the menu, go to “Edit” – “Advanced Search,” or click Shift+Ctrl+F.
3. Choose the “All PDF Documents in” option.
4. Open the drop-down menu box and click on "Browse for location…" to select your searched folder.
5. In the search field, enter the text you want to search and press "Search."
6. After a few seconds, a popup window appears, asking you for permission to access your drives – click on the “Allow” button.
7. In the search results, click the arrow to the left of the file name to see the sentences containing your search terms.
8. Click on the file name if you want to open the file.
Let's now look at the pros and cons of this search method.
- You don't need to install any application other than Acrobat Reader.
- Advanced search is available in the free version.
- Shows sentences containing the searched word.
- Cannot search combinations of words.
- You have to click on the arrow to the left of each file to see the sentences containing the searched words.
- Brings results relatively slowly.
- May not bring the results of fonts that are missing.
- Cannot show more than 10,000 results.
2. Windows Search
You can also use Windows Search to find text in multiple PDF files. For this purpose, however, you need to have a special plugin installed – PDF IFilter – which is used by Windows Search to index the contents of your files.
In order to enable the search in PDF files, follow these steps:
1. From the Control Panel open “Indexing Options” and click on the “Advanced” button.
2. You'll see a pop-up where you'll have to click on the “File Types” tab and search for the “pdf” option in the list.
3. If next to "pdf" option you see the text "Reader Search Handler," then PDF IFilter is installed. Click on the "pdf" option to select it.
4. Click on the "Index Properties and File Contents" button at the bottom. Now you can use Windows Search for PDF files.
If next to the "pdf" option you see the text "Registered IFilter is not found," that means that PDF IFilter is not properly installed. You will have to download and install it from the Adobe IFilter download page.
From this point on, searching in your PDF files is fairly easy:
1. Open File Explorer and navigate to the folder that you want to search.
2. Click on the View menu, and at the right end of the menu, click "Options."
3. In the "Folder options" pop-up window, click on the tab "Search" and check “Always search file names and contents”. Click "OK."
4. Type your search terms in the "Search" field and press "Enter."
Please keep in mind that Windows will need some time to index the contents of your files. After the indexing, you'll be able to perform a text search in multiple PDF files.
Here is a brief look at the pros and cons of searching with Windows Search.
- You don't need to install any application.
- Requires a third-party plugin, which is not always installed by default.
- You will need to adjust the necessary settings in the Control Panel.
- Cannot search for a combination of words.
- Doesn't show the text containing your searched words.
- Doesn't sort results by relevance.
SeekFast is the most efficient and effective tool to search text in multiple PDF files and it's our top pick for many reasons. First of all, it’s simple and easy to use. It takes just a few steps to perform a search:
1. Download, install, and launch SeekFast.
2. Click on the "Browse" button and select the folder that contains the PDF files to be searched.
3. In the "Search" field, enter the word, phrase, or combination of words that you want to search for and press "Enter."
4. In the search results, click on the file name to open the PDF file, or click on the sentence to view a larger part of the text.
Let's briefly summarize the advantages and disadvantages of the tool.
- Allows you to search tens of thousands of documents in a single go.
- Can find combinations of words you searched that may not be next to each other.
- Shows the most relevant results on top.
- You don't need to open the file to view the text – you can do it by just clicking on the search results.
- It shows all the sentences containing the searched words.
- The searching mechanism is fast and efficient.
- Supports all commonly used formats such as PDF, Excel, Word, LaTeX, OpenOffice, LibreOffice, RTF, TXT, and more.
- The free version allows you to search up to 50 documents simultaneously. In order to search in more files, you will have to buy the full version, which costs $47 and can search up to 20,000 documents at a time.
UltraFinder is yet another tool developed by the creators of the very poplar text editor UltraEdit, which allows you to perform text searches in multiple PDFs.
Here are some brief instructions on how to use the tool:
1. Download and install UltraFinder on your computer, and launch it.
2. On the "Find settings" pane, under "Find matches by" choose "File contents."
3. Under "Find what," type the word you are searching for.
4. Under "Find where," click on the "Add folder" icon and choose the folder to search.
5. In the "Session 1" pane, click on the green arrow to start the search.
6. In the results window, click on the file name to open the file.
UltraFinder has a lot of capabilities in terms of settings and filters; however, it has even more significant shortcomings, the main one being the extremely slow search process.
- Support for various kinds of regular expressions including Perl, Unix, and UltraEdit type.
- You can exclude specific directories and file types.
- You can search for case sensitive terms.
- You can search FTP locations or network.
- Search process is extremely slow compared to most similar tools.
- Doesn't have a free version, so after the 30 days trial you will need to purchase the tool, which costs $50.
- It has problems searching files with Unicode characters.
- Cannot search by date and time.
Our last but not least pick is the open source tool DocFetcher. It has a free and a paid version, DocFetcher Pro, which costs $40 and has extended functionality and advanced features.
Like Windows Search, DocFetcher also performs indexing of the files in the folder that you want to search.
Here's how you can search using DocFetcher:
1. Download, install, and launch the tool.
2. Right-click on the lower left pane "Search scope," and choose "Create index from" then "Folder."
3. Select the folder with the PDF documents that you want to search.
4. Type the word you want to search for in the search box at the top and press "Enter."
5. In the results window, click on each file name to view the text with the searched words highlighted.
And finally, here are the pros and cons of the program.
- Has a free version.
- Allows you to search by location, document size, and file format.
- You cannot search for a combination of words.
- You have to click on each filename to see the text.
- Doesn't show the sentences containing the searched words.
- Doesn't support case insensitive search.
The techniques described in this article apply to Windows OS, but we've also considered Mac users. The most important information about this is in the How to Search on Mac article.
There are also some good PDF search tools for Linux, which you can explore in the article How to Search Text in Multiple Files in Linux.
This was a brief summary of my experience in searching PDF files. Now I would like to hear from you! If this article was useful for you, or if you want to add something, leave a short comment in the section below.