How to Search for Words in a PDF Effortlessly


Have you ever encounter the circumstance that you need to find specific content or keywords in a PDF document that has lots of data? For instance, you need to find certain sales data for in a PDF annual report, or you have to search for proofs in a PDF for your essay.

Luckily, it's very easy to search for a word in a PDF with the help of a PDF reader. In this post, we'll list 5 simple ways of how to search a PDF on different devices and different PDF programs including Mac Preview, PDF Expert, IceCream PDF Editor, Microsoft Word, and Google Chrome.

Part 1. How to Search a PDF on Mac

1. Mac Preview

How to search for words in a PDF on Mac computers when you don't have PDF reader programs installed? Don't worry, you can open the PDFs with the built-in application Preview, and you can find specific words quickly with it as well.

Step 1. Open the PDF with the Preview app. Right-click on the PDF file you want to search, choose "Open with", then select "Preview".

PDF Open With Mac Preview

Step 2. Search for your word.

There's a search box on the top right section of Preview, type the word you want to search and hit the "Enter" key on your keyboard. All keywords match your search will be highlighted in yellow color. And on the left column, Preview will show you how many matches every PDF page has. You can click on the specific pages to view the content.

Mac Preview Search PDF

That's it. Isn't that super simple? In this way, you'll search and find words in a PDF in two simple steps without paying a dine.


"Now we know how to search for words in a PDF on Mac, but what if we want to find and replace words in PDFs? There's also an easy solution. You can first convert PDF to Word, then open the Word document and use the "command + F" shortcut to search and replace the words."

2. PDF Expert

With the Preview app, you can only search words in one PDF file once. What if we have multiple PDFs that we need to search for words or phrases? It's time-consuming to search one by one. Thanks for PDF Expert, we're now able to search for specific contents and words in different PDF documents more productively on Mac. Now let's work the magic.

Step 1. Download PDF Expert and install it on your Mac computer.

Step 2. Run PDF Expert and open all target PDF documents with the program.

Step 3. Go to the search field at the top right of the interface, type a word or phrase in it and press "Enter".

Step 4. All search results are showed on the right column of the interface. You can select "All Tabs" or any file tab to preview them.

PDF Expert Search Multiple PDFs

When you click on any search result, the program will lead you to the corresponding page. With PDF Expert, it's very easy to find the exact words and contents you need and compare them in different PDF files.

Part 2. How to Search a PDF on Windows

1. IceCream PDF Editor

How to search for a word in a PDF on Windows? Well, many PDF reader software on your Windows computer can do that. Today we'll take IceCream PDF Editor as a demonstration.

Step 1. Free download and install IceCream PDF Editor for Windows.

Step 2. Open your PDF file. You can open a PDF with IceCream PDF Editor by choosing "Open" on the center of the interface, or by selecting the "File" menu on the top menu bar.

IceCream PDF Editor Open File

Step 3. Click the magnifying glass icon on the right navigation panel to activate the “Search PDF” mode.

IceCream PDF Editor Search Mode

Step 4. On the opening search box, enter anything you want to search and hit "Enter" on your keyboard. You can choose from "Match case" or "Match whole word" below the search box. The search result will be listed as a quick preview in lines below the search box as well. Click on any result to navigate to the specific pages.

IceCream PDF Editor Search A PDF

2. Microsoft Word

If you don't want to install any PDF reader program in your Windows computer, you can always use Microsoft Word to open and search a PDF because it's the default text processing program on Windows. However, your PDF will automatically be converted to a Word document in this way. So please remember to convert the Word to PDF at the final step if you want your file to stay in PDF format.

Step 1. Open the PDF with Microsoft Word in two ways.

1. Open Microsoft Word, click on the main menu, then choose "Open" to navigate to your PDF files on the device.

2. Right-click on the PDF file, choose "Open with" on the opening menu, then select "Microsoft Word" from the drop-down list.

Step 2. When your PDF is opening with Microsoft, there will be a pop-up window warning you that this action will convert your PDF to an editable Word document. Just choose "OK".

Microsoft Word Converting Warning Window

Step 3. Activate the search function by pressing the "Ctrl + F" shortcut on your keyboard or clicking the "Find" icon on the top-right section.

Microsoft Word Find Icon

Step 4. A navigation column will show on the left side of Microsoft Word. Type any word you are looking for in the PDF and hit "Enter". The results Microsoft find will be listed below. You can click on the "Headings" tab or "Pages" tab to view where the keywords you search for are contained in the PDF headings or pages.

Microsoft Word Search A Word

Part 3. How to Search in a PDF with Google Chrome

Many people don't know that a PDF file can be opened in Google Chrome. As a matter of fact, you can not only open PDFs with it but also search for words in a PDF in Google Chrome. How? Let's reveal it now.

Step 1. Right-click on your target PDF file, and choose "Open with" > "Google Chrome".

Step 2. Use the "Ctrl + F" shortcuts on Windows or the "command + F" on Mac to open a search box in Chrome.

Step 3. Type a keyword you need to search on the search box and hit "Enter". All words match your search query will be highlighted with a background color. You can check the next or previous match by clicking on the "Down" or "Up" icon beside the search box.

Google Chrome Search PDF


"You can only search a PDF when it has text layers. That means a scanned PDF is not searchable. You'll have to OCR the scanned PDF before you can search for a word in it."

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