How to Search for Text Inside Multiple PDF Files at Once

PDF documents are probably the most commonly used set of documents in most offices today because of their ability to be locked from accidental changes or unauthorized modifications by users. However, it’s a lot easier to find something you’re looking for in a Word document than it is for a PDF document because by default Windows search indexes all of the text inside of a Word document, thus making it easy to search all Word documents quickly.

The text inside PDF documents are not indexed by Windows or by most desktop search programs, so if you need to find a particular PDF doc, you have to manually open each one and perform a search. If you’re simply looking for some text in one PDF, it’s not a problem, but if you need to scan through many PDF documents in a directory, you can use the Advanced PDF search features in Adobe.

Adobe Reader

With the advanced search, you can search all PDF files in a directory and it’s sub-directories in a single go. By default, if you open Adobe Reader and press CTRL + F, you’ll get the normal search box. It is located at the top right.

find adobe reader

To use the advanced PDF search option, you can choose Advanced Search from the Edit drop down menu or press SHIFT + CTRL + F.

Go ahead and enter the phrase you are searching for in the search box. Next choose the All PDF Documents In option under Where would you like to search heading.

search multiple pdfs

Browse to the folder where all of your PDF documents are stored and then choose the options for the search. These include Whole words only, Case-Sensitive, Include Bookmarks, and Include Comments.

pdf searches

Click Search and all PDFs under the current folder will be scanned for your term. Just click on the hyperlink in the results to open the file!

Foxit Reader

If you’re using a different PDF viewing program like Foxit, which I highly recommend, then you can also search multiple PDF files easily. Once you run the program just click on the little folder search icon that is located to the left of the search box at the top right of the program screen.

search pdfs foxit

When you click on that icon, a pane will appear on the right-hand side of the program window and you’ll be able to search all PDF files located in a particular directory.

search all pdf files

Just like Adobe, you have a couple of search options in Foxit also, including Whole Words Only, Case-Sensitive, Include Bookmarks, Include Comments and Include Form Data.

search options pdfI really like the fact that Foxit also lets you search form data too. When filling out some insanely long INS forms years back, it was a life-saver being able to search within the form fields also, so that’s a plus for Foxit.

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