What is a searchable PDF?

Portrait of Neha Gunnoo
by Neha Gunnoo
4 mins read
last updated on

Have you ever heard the term "searchable PDF"? In today's busy world, no one has the time to go through documents individually and look for specific information. In simple words, a "searchable PDF" is a document that allows users to search for specific words or phrases within the document.

But, how do you create a searchable document?

Definition of a searchable PDF

A searchable PDF is a type of digital document that allows users to search for specific words or phrases within the document. Unlike a non-searchable PDF, where text is treated as an image, a searchable PDF contains text that has been identified and processed using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software

What makes a PDF searchable?

When you create a PDF from Microsoft Word, you can usually search it using programs such as Adobe Reader. However, if you need accurate information or if the PDF was created from a scanned document, then OCR is your best tool.

An OCR software scans the document, identifying the characters within it and making it searchable.

How do I convert a PDF into a searchable PDF?

Depending on your requirements, there are 3 common ways to make PDF documents searchable.

The manual method

This involves copy-pasting or typing text into a Word document or Google doc and saving it in PDF format. And, you can then manually look for information in the document using the "search functionality". This method is only feasible if you have 1-2 PDF files with simple layouts.

We do not recommend manual data entry if you have tons of complex PDFs that need to be processed quickly.

Online conversion tools

Online tools such as Smallpdf are free and easy to use. You just have to upload your PDF, and they will convert it into a searchable one.

The downside of those tools is that they cannot handle large volumes of data and complex files.

PDF OCR software

OCR software is the most popular method for producing a searchable PDF. It can recognize text with high accuracy, especially when the document contains special characters or non-standard fonts.

Benefits of using a searchable PDF by OCR

OCR software converts scanned documents into searchable PDFs, making it easier to find for key phrases, words, or special symbols.

Increased efficiency in data search

This is the biggest advantage of a searchable PDF because it can save you time and resources. Assume you get a large number of e-commerce orders on a daily basis and must manually search for information such as customers' names, what they ordered, and the total amount.

Converting those PDF orders into searchable ones saves you time, and sharing that information with your team becomes much easier.

Original formatting is preserved

If you use online conversion tools, you'll notice that they can't retain the original formatting of the PDF files. This is one of the drawbacks of using free online tools.

Using PDF OCR ensures that the original formatting is kept.

Increased productivity

Searching for information, especially during peak season, can be stressful. Searchable PDF documents help reduce manual time and resources spent. Your team can focus on more productive tasks, such as delivering excellence to your customers.

How to make a PDF text searchable?

Using Parseur to make PDF searchable is quite simple. Parseur is a robust PDF parser with strong OCR capabilities developed to automate data extraction from documents.

The PDF OCR tool automatically converts PDF into searchable PDF. You can either download the new PDF file in CSV format or export it to any other application in real time.

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Common FAQ about searchable PDF files

Can Parseur convert a PDF into a searchable one?

No, Parseur does not offer this feature.

What is the difference between a PDF and searchable PDF?

A regular PDF contains images or content that cannot be selected or searched for whereas a searchable PDF is one that has been processed by OCR making it easy to look for specific keywords.

Which PDF type is searchable?

Any document that has been processed by an OCR engine is searchable.

Is PDF/A the same as a searchable PDF?

No, PDF/A is an ISO requirement specialized for archiving and preserving electronic documents.

Why is my PDF document not searchable?

Not all PDFs are searchable. Scanned documents or image-only files are not searchable.

What software makes a PDF searchable?

PDF parsers with OCR capabilities are the best tools for document searching.

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