Create A Searchable Pdf File

It is easy to create a searchable file from any PDF document using Adobe Acrobat and its Paper Capture plug-in. The plug-in can take scanned documents and turn them into editable and searchable PDF files using OCR–also known as optical character recognition. It also allows users to make regular PDF files searchable without having to go through the entire document creating bookmarks and formatting headings. The program lets users search the document for a single word or an entire phrase.


1. Scan the document you want to create as a searchable file and save it as a PDF file. If the document is already a PDF file, skip ahead to the next step.

2. Open the Adobe Acrobat program. Look under “Tools” on the Acrobat menu bar to see if your copy has Paper Capture. Paper Capture is included in the Acrobat PDF package, but some older versions were accidentally shipped without it. Download and install the Acrobat Paper Capture plug-in from Adobe’s website (see Resources) if your version of Acrobat does not have it already installed.

3. Click “File” and choose “Open.” Click on the document you want to make searchable and open it.

4. Click “Tools” and “Paper Capture.”

5. Choose the pages of the document that will be searchable. You will have the option to select a specific page, the entire document or a range of pages. Check the box next to the option and click “OK.”

6. Choose how you want the document to be searched. You will be given the option to make the text searchable and ready to edit, make the entire document searchable only or compress the document and make it searchable only. The last option is for documents that contain a large amount of graphics, which can increase the time it takes to search the document.

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7. Click “OK” to start the Paper Capture program. When the process is completed, click “File>Save” and save the document as a PDF file.

8. Press the “Ctrl” button and the “Find” key to bring up the search box. Type in a word or phrase and click “Search” to test your new searchable PDF file.