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How To Search a PDF for Words or Phrases

by Hung Nguyen

You can also read this article in German, Spanish, French, Indonesian, Italian and Portuguese.

The easiest ways to search for a word in a PDF using a PDF reader or web browser.

PDFs are arguably one of the most common document formats for sharing and viewing content. Therefore, being able to search for specific content is a standard function for all PDF readers. If you’re new to the world of PDFs, this guide will help you find exactly what you’re looking for in your file.

How To Search for a Word in a PDF Using Any PDF Reader

  1. Open any PDF with your default PDF reader.
  2. Press CTRL+F (Windows) or CMD+F (Mac).
  3. In the text box, enter your search term.
  4. The first match will be highlighted.
  5. Press “Enter” or click the right arrow to navigate between the results.
  6. Alternatively, press the left arrow key to go back.

In a similar fashion, you can type in multiple words to create and search for a specific phrase in your PDF. To end the PDF search, click CMD/CTRL+F again or the little “x” to hide the search bar.

how to search for a word in a pdf

PDF searching made easy

How To Search a PDF for Words Using a Browser


Your favorite internet browsers (Chrome, Safari, Edge, Firefox) all have search functions enabled. All you have to do is:

  1. Using any browser, open a PDF document (right-click > Open with).
  2. Press CTRL+F or CMD+F, depending on your operating system.
  3. Alternatively, access the Find function in the menu bar.
  4. Type and navigate between search results using the arrows next to the search box.
  5. Click X or “Esc” to remove or hide the search bar.

We Make PDF Searching Easy


We’ve developed a free PDF reader that can perform basic functionalities, including the search within a PDF. This enables us to further ease working with PDF files. You can download and install your copy via the Smallpdf PDF Reader page. Then, follow the instructions as stated earlier in this article to search PDF files.

As stated, document searching is similar in pretty much any PDF reader. Regardless of whether you view your files using Smallpdf, Adobe Acrobat Reader, or Preview.



The dialog box is not case-sensitive, so you don’t have to worry about capitalizing the text you want to search for. The search function will still match any of the words you typed in for you.

The Smallpdf reader automatically detects bookmarks and displays them on the left-hand side. This helps you find what you’re looking for without even needing to use the search function. Millions of students, teachers, and business professionals have to go through textbooks and lengthy manuals every day and appreciate our PDF reader for this overview and the PDF search function.

How To Search a Scanned PDF


If the content is placed as an image within PDFs, you first have to convert the PDF file into an editable format, such as Word. For this, you can use our PDF Converter. Afterward, you can download the document and go through its content, just like we did before. Microsoft Word and Excel allow you to search for multiple phrases and even replace a word with another in your document with advanced searching.

2023-10-09 - Como buscar palabras y frases en un PDF

OCR to convert scanned PDFs into a searchable format

What Else Can I Do?


Now that you know how to search a PDF, you can have a look at our other free online tools. Smallpdf offers you lots of ways to modify your favorite file format, including:

  • PDF Converter - Convert scanned PDFs into a searchable format.
  • Compress - Slim file sizes down as much as possible.
  • Split - Cut away needless pages.
  • eSign - Place signatures onto your documents.
  • Edit - Insert text, images or drawings online.
Hung Nguyen
Hung Nguyen
Senior Growth Marketing Manager @Smallpdf