How to Make PDF Searchable Without Acrobat

Fri. 18 Jun. 20213903 min

How do you go directly to the parts that you want to review in a PDF? Search within the file, of course. But have you ever worked on a PDF not allowing you to search the PDF text? Why is the PDF not searchable, is there any solution to make this type of PDFs searchable again? Today, we are here to bring all the answers to you.

In this article, we will focus on multiple ways to make a PDF searchable with/ without Adobe Acrobat, even to make PDF searchable free.

Everything You Need To Know About Searchable PDF

1.  What is a Searchable PDF

2.  Why is PDF Not Searchable

3.  Make PDF Searchable with Adobe Acrobat Alternative

4.  How to Make PDF Searchable without Adobe Online Free

5.  How to Make PDF Searchable in Adobe if You Have

How to Make PDF Searchable Without Acrobat

1. What is a Searchable PDF?

A searchable PDF is the PDF file composed of 2 layers, image layer and text layer. There in the text layer saves the text content and users are allowed to search for or locate the keyword within the document. 

2. Why is PDF Not Searchable?

In most cases, the reason why a PDF is not searchable can be concluded as, the file is not originally generated from documents editors like Adobe, Microsoft Office, it is image-based, which means the text content is saved as bitmap font. These fonts cannot be recognized, therefore the PDF tool cannot do the matching to locate the keywords.

Hence, to make a PDF searchable, you need to make the PDF image text to be recognized, this is just OCR works for.

3. Make PDF Searchable with Adobe Acrobat Alternative

When dealing with PDF files, Adobe Acrobat comes across our minds, it is always standing on the top of PDF solutions. However, not all of us have installed an Adobe, for one reason or another. Never mind, we can still make PDF text searchable without Acrobat. Here PDF Reader Pro with OCR is a good choice. It is a Mac PDF tool designed to make PDF searchable in PDF and other searchable/editable formats, also create searchable PDF files from images. You can find the reasons why PDF Reader Pro with OCR becomes a hit on the market.

Why OCR with PDF Reader Pro?

  • Convert PDF to searchable PDF

  • OCR image to editable and searchable PDFs or TXT files

  • Highly accurate OCR and conversion quality

  • Work on different texts in more than 50 languages

  • Extracting texts from images or scanned PDFs with no quality and format loss

  • Batch convert and OCR PDF files

  • Convert PDFs to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Text, Image, JPG, PNG and HTML, etc

  • Compress, merge and protect PDF output when creating PDFs within the program

Steps to Make PDF Searchable with PDF Reader Pro on Mac

1. Download & Install PDF Reader Pro and launch the app

2. Click the "Open Files" to upload PDFs for conversion

3. Choose the “OCR” feature to convert the scanned PDFs

4. Export the OCR results to PDF or TXT without any loss

5. Search for your results on the searchable file

To get a PDF Reader Pro and make PDF Searchable on Mac Now!

4. How to Make PDF Searchable without Adobe Online Free?

To make PDF searchable free, there are online searchable PDF converters available, you just need to search online PDF converter with OCR feature in Google. Here, according to the test results, we pick 2 online searchable PDF converters for you.

Option 1. Online2pdf

It is always one of my favorite online tools to manage PDF files. You can use its online free service to edit, compress, unlock, protect, merge and convert both native and image-based PDFs. It supports batch conversion and allows users to export PDFs as 10+ formats, including searchable PDF, Word, Text ,etc. However, it supports recognizing only 6 languages (German, English, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese).


  • Make PDF and image in searchable PDF format

  • Export PDF as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Image and others

  • Recognize 30+ languages

  • Batch convert


  • Maximum 20 pages can be converted

  • File size limit: maximum 100 MB for one file, maximum 150 MB for all files

  • Possible risk of information leakage

  • Require manually adjust conversion errors

Option 2. Google Docs

Google Docs, a part of Google office suite, is an online free tool to open and edit PDF or image easily, it builds in the OCR feature to recognize text from scanned PDF or images. In other words, it can make a PDF searchable for free too.


  • Make PDF and image in searchable PDF format

  • Export PDF as Word, ODT, RTF, TXT, HTML and ePub

  • Recognize 100+ languages

  • Edit PDF files


  • Cannot well maintain the original formatting

  • Don't support batch conversion

5. How to Make PDF Searchable in Adobe if You Have

As above, we share multiple ways to make PDF searchable without Adobe Acrobat, but if you have installed Adobe or are considering about subscribing this tool, you can utilize this tool as a searchable PDF converter. But before going to the steps, we have one thing to clarify.

Can Adobe Acrobat Reader Convert PDF to Searchable PDF?

No, you can not. Same as in Mac Preview, you can search PDF text in Adobe Acrobat Reader DC, but if the original PDF file is not searchable, you cannot make it searchable in any Adobe reader. 

Adobe Acrobat reader can only open, view, fill & sign, comment and highlight, you have to pay for its Adobe Acrobat to get the OCR feature to make a PDF searchable.

How to Make PDF Searchable in Adobe Acrobat DC?

1. Right click on the PDF file to open with Adobe Acrobat

2. Once added, Adobe will perform OCR on the file automatically

3. Then save the file as a searchable PDF

4. For users who are using Adobe versions earlier Adobe Acrobat DC, follow the steps: Open > View > Tools > Recognize Text in This File > Save

In Conclusion

It is not as difficult as you thought to make a PDF searchable if we find a tool. You may feel interested in making your PDFs searchable with free tools, but if you want to obtain accurate PDF text and maintain the original PDF formatting, a dedicated PDF OCR program would be the best option. Welcome to take a free trial of PDF Reader Pro !

Get Started with PDF Reader Pro Today!