Document Descriptions

Document descriptions are user-supplied data fields used to help you identify PDF files according to title, subject, author, and keywords. At the time you create a PDF document, you may have options for supplying a document description. In other cases, you may add descriptions in Acrobat either individually or with Acrobat’s batch processing features.

After you add descriptions and save your files, the data added to these fields are searchable via advanced searches and index file searches. Developing an organized workflow with specific guidelines for users to follow regarding document descriptions significantly helps all your colleagues search PDFs much more efficiently.

To add a document description, choose File >> Document Properties. When the Document Properties dialog box opens, click the Description tab.


The four fields for document descriptions are as follows:

  • Title. The Title field in this example contains a description of a form. Other forms in a company using a similar schema might use titles such as W-2 Form, Travel Expense, Employee Leave, and so on in the Title field.
  • Author. In the example, the Author field contains the department authoring the form. Notice that an employee name is not used for the Author field. Rather than use employee names, use departments instead. Using departments is a much better choice because a company typically turns over employees more often than it renames departments.
  • Subject. In the example, the Subject field contains Form. The Subject here might be used to distinguish a Form from a Policy, Procedure, Memo, Directive, and so on.
  • Keywords. The first entry in the Keywords field is the form number used by the company to identify the form. Other words in the Keywords field are descriptors related to the form contents. If you want to add an employee author name, add it to the Keywords field.

The reason the field information is important for any organization using a PDF workflow is that document description information can be used when a user searches a collection of PDF files. Each field is searchable by the summary title and the words contained in the fields.

Therefore, a user can search for all PDF files where the Title field contains the word “Purchase” and the Subject field contains the word “Form.” The search results display all PDF documents where the Title and Subject fields have these words contained in the document description.

As a comparison, imagine searching for the words “Purchase Order.” The search would return all PDFs where these words appear in either the document summary or the text in the PDF files. “Purchase Order” might be used in memos, policies, procedures, and forms.

The user might have to search through many PDFs in order to find the Purchase Order form, thus spending much more time trying to locate the right document.

To search for document descriptions, you need to use either the advanced search or an index file search. Press Ctrl+Shift+F to open the Search window in an Acrobat viewer and click Use Advanced Search Options. Select a folder to search from the Look In pull-down menu.

Under Use these additional criteria, select one of the description items from the first pull-down menu (Title, Author, Subject, or Keywords). Select either Contains or Does not contain from the pull-down menu adjacent to the first menu. Type the words to be searched in the field box below the pull-down menus. Continue adding additional description fields as desired.

Note that no criteria need to be supplied in the first field box for specific words to be searched in the document. If you click Search in the Search window with the descriptions, all PDF files in the designated folder with the words “Purchase Order” in the Title field and “Forms” in the Subject field are returned in the results list for files matching the criteria.

You can add Boolean queries when searching document descriptions. You might know some content in PDF files as well as information contained in the document descriptions. In this case you address the additional criteria items in the same manner and add the Boolean query.

When you click the Search button, the number of results returned in the Search window is significantly reduced compared to searching for individual words—especially when common words are contained in many PDF documents. What the document descriptions offer you is a method for targeting the exact file you’re looking for as fast as possible.

If you have 100 PDF documents in the search results list, looking through the list and finding the file you want will take some time. Compare that to two or three files listed. Obviously, the document descriptions offer significant time savings as you search PDFs from among very large collections.