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How to Search in a Scanned PDF: Unveiling a Quick and Easy Guide

Can't figure out how to search in a scanned PDF that says, 'This page contains only images'? Or you've tried to search for words using the Windows Find feature or CTRL + F, but nothing worked? You must have been searching in a scanned PDF. If you're wondering how to search in scanned PDF documents, we've got you covered! Dive in to explore how.

How to Search for Words in a Scanned PDF?

The thing is, scanned documents don't have any text in them! Since it's just a picture of the document, there's no actual text for Windows to index.

To make your PDF searchable, you have to run text recognition to make the content on the page searchable and editable. You can use any OCR (Optical Character Recognition) function software. It goes through the scanned document, identifies anything resembling a letter or a word, and turns it into actual text.

Multiple PDF editors offer this ability, but we recommend UPDF - your all-in-one PDF solution! It's an AI-powered OCR feature that converts your scanned PDFs, paper documents, and images to editable PDFs with three output layouts to make it interactive and fulfill all your needs. Download UPDF first before we get started to introduce the instructions.

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how to search in a scanned pdf updf

Here are some impressive features of this OCR software:

  • Up to 99% Accuracy: UPDF's advanced OCR technology offers high-accuracy results!
  • The Highest OCR Speed: Who doesn't want to save time? UPDF understands this; thus, its conversion is super swift relative to the competitors.
  • Small Size Output with High Quality: The size of the converted PDF document is much smaller than its original!
  • Supports 38 Languages: It also supports bilingual documents and allows you to select multiple language sets.

Apart from all this, it also reads, organizes, and annotates your PDF and can convert scanned PDFs of any size! So, what are you waiting for? Follow the simple steps below on how to search words in scanned PDFs and get your issue resolved now! All it takes is a few simple steps, and you'll be done quickly!

Step 1: Open PDF and Access to the OCR Icon

Click on "Open File" to import the PDF. You can also use the shortcut Ctrl + or Cmd + O.

Click the "Recognize Text Using OCR" option on the right toolbar. (If this is your first time using this feature, it will lead you to download this plugin. Download in the following window, and wait for it to install.)

how to search in a scanned pdf ocr updf

Step 2: Turn the Scanned PDF into Searchable

Once installed, click the same "Recognize Text Using OCR" button again. You will get two different Document Type options. Choose the "Searchable PDF", as this converts scanned documents into editable and searchable documents.

You must decide on the Layout and Advanced Layout options for these documents. You must also decide on Document Language, Image Resolution, and Paper Range.

For Advanced Layout options, click on the 'Gear' icon to access more Layout Settings such as:

  • If you check 'Keep Pictures,' you'll have to decide its quality ('Low' 'Balanced' or 'High')
  • Compress pictures
  • Keep other document elements (Headers, Footers, Page Numbers, Text, and background colors)

Click on the "Perform OCR" option, then select a location where you want to save the file and click "Save".

how to search in a scanned pdf perform ocr

Step 3: Search Words in the Scanned PDF

After performing OCR, the searchable PDF file will be open automatically in UPDF. Now, you can search in the scanned PDF for your desired words by clicking Ctrl + F or the Search icon in the top left corner.

Enter the word you want to search and it will show all the results on this document. You can click any result to jump to the page directly. This is how you find words in PDF with ease.

search in a scanned pdf in updf

Tip: Which Layout Should I Choose When Performing OCR?

For Searchable PDFs, you have to choose a proper layout depending on which purpose or situation you're using the layout for. By using the available options, you can choose either of the following:

Text and Pictures Only: 

The OCR will recognize and save the text and pictures across the PDF in a smaller file. No transparent image layer will be present to keep the formatting intact. So, the visuals of converted file may be different from the original version.

ocr search pdf text and picture only

Text Over the Page Image:

This mode will retain the illustrations and background images in the source file as a layer under the document's text. It maintains the document's original format. While these files are more extensive, they appear visually different from the original ones.

ocr search pdf text over the image

Text Under the Page Image:

The PDF images are retained, but the text is positioned beneath the images under an invisible layer. So, the document's formatting is maintained by putting a layer above the text. This file type is identical to the original one. The text can be searched, but it cannot be edited.

FAQs on How to Search in a Scanned PDF

Still, have some questions on how to search for words on a scanned PDF. Don't worry. We've got you covered.

1. Why Can't I Search for a Scanned PDF?

When you scan a document, your scanner captures the pages as a flat image, which means there's no text that Windows can index or any PDF viewer can read. You'll have to use UPDF's OCR feature to convert your scanned document to a readable format as we explained above in this article.

2. Can I Use Ctrl F on Scanned Documents?

No. This Windows Find feature only works on documents that have readable text. You can only use this feature by downloading an OCR technology-supporting software, like UPDF, that converts the scan into a searchable PDF.

3. Why Can't I Use Ctrl F on my PDF?

The Find feature does not work on documents or PDFs with images only, like in the case of scanned documents. These images do not have text that Windows can recognize.


So, you can't figure out how to search for a word in a scanned PDF document? No problem - UPDF is your ultimate solution. Its OCR function is easily accessible and straightforward to use, and it can even detect text in a blurry scanned document, something that even other software struggles with! You can convert any image into detectable text with its advanced MRC-based image compression algorithm or change the PDF to an image-only doc!

What are you waiting for? Download UPDF now so you can effortlessly interact with your PDFs and have a much smoother experience with its brilliant AI tools. You can also upgrade to the premium version to unlock all the features without any limitations. This completes our guidelines on how to search in a scanned PDF.

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