Searching PDF Files on the Net

In Acrobat 6 we had Search the Internet using Google in the Search window and as a separate tool. In Acrobat 7 we had Search the Internet using Yahoo! in the Search window and as a separate tool. In Acrobat 8 we have nothing. The ability to search files on the Internet from a click in the Search window has been removed in all Acrobat 8 viewers.

At first glance you may get a bit annoyed that you lost this feature in Acrobat and Reader. I can’t give you a precise reason for the feature disappearing in Acrobat 8, but my hunch is that the problem lies more with the Web browser developers than it does with Adobe.

It may be that Adobe just can’t keep up with changes made by other developers when revisions are made to the browsers. To do so may be cost prohibitive and the functionality can easily be lost during an Acrobat version life cycle when developers upgrade their products.

For whatever reason we lost the ability to click a link in the Search window to search for PDFs on the Internet, you can still perform this kind of search. Using a search engine such as Google, just type your search word or phrase in the Search text box in the Google search engine, add a space, and then type filetype:PDF.

For example if you want to search for Acrobat 8 and have only PDFs reported in your search results, type “Acrobat 8” filetype:PDF. The Google search results report only PDF documents containing your search phrase. Not all search engines support the extension for searching for PDFs.

If you use Yahoo or, for example, you can’t use the extension. In some cases, advanced search options in search engines can help you narrow a search to report PDFs with the found results. Check your favorite search engine for advanced options to see if searching PDFs is supported.

In all Acrobat viewers, you can search PDF documents with selected criteria without the assistance of a search index. To take advantage of searching with advanced options, click the Use Advanced Search Options link at the bottom of the Search window. When you click the link, a series of advanced options appears in the Search window.


When you click the link to show the advanced search options, the link at the bottom of the Search window changes to Use Basic Search Options. Click this link to return to searching with the basic options. Depending on whether you search an open PDF document or a collection of PDFs stored on drives and external devices, the Advanced Search Options change, offering you different options.

When you select the Current PDF Document from the Look In pull-down menu, the search options are available to you. These options are as follows:

  • Whole words only. When checked, the search results return whole words. If you search for “forgiven,” the search ignores words like “for” and “give” that make up part of the whole word. If the check box is disabled, various stems and parts of a whole word are included with the search results.
  • Case-Sensitive. Letter case is ignored if the check box is disabled. If enabled, then the search results return only words matching the precise letter case of the searched word.
  • Proximity. Proximity is a powerful tool when performing searches. If you want to search for two independent words that may appear together in a given context—for example, Acrobat and PostScript—the Proximity option finds the two words when they appear within a range specified in the Search preferences.

The default is 900 words. You can change the proximity range by opening the Preferences dialog box (Ctrl+K), click Search in the left pane and edit the Range of words for Proximity searches text box.

  • Stemming. If you want to search for all words stemming from a given word, enable this option. Words such as “header” and “heading” stem from the word “head” in the English language. If you type “head” in the first field box and select the Stemming option, all PDFs containing the search criteria from the word head are listed.
  • Include Bookmarks. When Bookmarks are checked, the search results report the found instances in the Bookmarks and the document pages.
  • Include Comments. Text in comment notes and text on document pages are returned when this option is checked.
  • Include Attachments. All PDF document file attachments are searchable. Select the Include Attachments check box and found results are reported in the Results list for all occurrences of the searched word. Clicking a search result opens the attached file in the Document pane.

If you open a PDF Package, the Search window changes to accommodate searching all files in the package. Select from the Look In drop-down menu In the entire PDF Package and Search will search all files in the package. You can search PDF Packages using either the Basic search options or the Advanced search options.

When searching package contents using Basic search options select the radio button for In the entire PDF Package. When using the Advanced options, select In the entire PDF Package from the Look In drop-down menu. Note that both these items are accessible only when you open a PDF Package.

When all the search criteria have been established, click the Search button. The results are reported in the Search window like the searches performed with the Basic Search Options.

When you change the search parameters to search through a collection of PDF documents, the Advanced Search Options change, offering you more options to help narrow down your search.


These options are as follows:

  • Return results containing. Four options are available from this pull-down menu:
  • Match Exact word or phrase. If you search for something like Human Resource Forms, only these three words together in a PDF document are returned as results. The results report the precise order of the words.
  • Match Any of the words. Using the same example, words such as Human, Resource, Forms, Human Resource, Resource Forms, Human Forms, and Human Resource Forms would be reported in the results. Any one of the words or any combination of words in a phrase is reported.
  • Match All of the words. In this case, all the words need to be contained in the document, but not necessarily in the order described previously. You might see returns such as Forms Human Resource returned from the search.
  • Boolean query. You can search PDF collections using Boolean expressions (AND, OR, NOT) without the assistance of a search index created with Acrobat Catalog. Note that Boolean queries are not available when you search an open document. You need to use the Advanced Search Options to search through a drive, external media, or a folder.
  • Use these additional criteria. Up to three check boxes offer you one or a combination of several different options to help you refine your search. The number of check boxes you have available depends on the vertical size of the Search window. If you reduce the size, you may see only a single check box.

From the first pull-down menu you select the primary category. The second pull-down menu to the right of each primary category helps refine that particular category. The options for each of the three check box pull-down menus are the same.

You might, for example, choose Date Created from the first check box option and define the date from the options contained in the adjacent pull-down menu. You then might add another criterion and ask for the Keywords option.

Adjacent to Keywords, you might specify that the file does not contain certain words. In the field box, you type any descriptions for the menu choices you make. From the criteria selection pull-down menu, the choices available to you are as follows:

  • Date Created. If you look for PDF documents that you know were created before or after a certain date, use the Date Created menu option. You have four choices for options associated with this category available in the second pull-down menu adjacent to the first menu choice.

These options are: Is exactly, Is before, Is after, and Is not. These four options are self-explanatory. When you make the choices from the two pull-down menus, your next step is to type the date criteria in the field box appearing below the pull-down menus.

If, for example, you select Date Created and Is not, you then add the date you want to exclude from the search. As an additional aid to you, Acrobat offers a calendar when you select the pull-down menu from the field box.

Make a date selection from the calendar and move to the option you want to change or click the Search button. If you click the month, a pop-up menu showing all months in a year opens. (Note that the calendar is not available on the Mac.)

  • Date Modified. The modified date searches for the date the PDF file was last modified. If you create a file on January 1, 2004 and then save some edits on July 1, 2004, the modified date is July 1, 2004. The manner in which you specify a date is the same as searching for the creation date.

After setting the date criteria from the pull-down menus, open the pull-down menu from the field box to open a calendar to help you find the date parameters to be searched. Click the month name and a pop-up menu opens showing all months in a year.

Below the Use these additional criteria pull-down menus are additional options. These options are the same as those used for the advanced searches on open PDF documents. Jump several pages back in this blog to review the descriptions for the items listed at the bottom of the Search window.