How to search for a specific word or phrase in a PDF on your Mac using the Preview app

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How to search for a specific word or phrase in a PDF on your Mac using the Preview app

Category : entrepreneur

  • To search a PDF on your Mac for a specific word or phrase, you just need to activate the search function. This only takes a single click or keyboard command.
  • You can search a PDF using Adobe Reader or Preview, but Preview is built into Mac computers, and it’s easy to use for this purpose.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The PDF is one of the most universal formats for documents and images, on both Mac and PC. 

You can convert pictures and documents to PDFs so that they can be shared and opened looking exactly the same on any device or computer. 

Luckily, most tools also give you the ability to search a PDF for a word or phrase. This is especially helpful if the PDF you’re looking at is especially wordy.

On a Mac, you can open a PDF in Preview, giving you a quick and easy default program for viewing — and searching — the PDF.

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How to search a PDF on Mac

1. Find the PDF you want to search and open it.

  • If you don’t have Adobe Reader on your Mac, it will likely open by default with Preview. If you do have Adobe Reader, however, Preview can still be an easier program to use to search the document.
  • If you have Adobe Reader and want to use Preview, right-click on the PDF. Scroll down to “Open With,” and select Preview in the menu that opens.
Screen Shot 2019 11 27 at 12.42.07 PM

Choose Preview from the list of compatible applications.
William Antonelli/Business Insider

2. Once it’s open in Preview, you can search easily in the search bar at the top. You can get to the search bar by clicking it, or by pressing Command + F on your keyboard.

How to search a PDF on Mac 1

The search bar is small, but always present at the top of the Preview window.
Ryan Ariano/Business Insider

3. Type the word or phrase you want to search into the search box.

4. Once typed in, all the instances of the word will show up in the sidebar.

5. Click on the entry in the left sidebar for a particular appearance of a word, and you’ll be taken to it in the document, or toggle through appearances of the word using the arrows next to “Found on [x] pages,” which is located below the search bar.  

How to search a PDF on Mac 2

Each page will be listed as a separate entry.
Ryan Ariano/Business Insider


Related coverage from How To Do Everything: Tech:

  • How to password protect a PDF on a Mac computer to secure sensitive files

  • How to reduce the file size of a PDF document on a Mac computer in 4 simple steps

  • How to convert a JPG image to a PDF document on your Mac computer using the Preview app

  • How to sign, annotate, and edit a PDF on a Mac computer using Preview

  • How to convert PDFs into Word files and edit them on a Mac computer


About Author

Sammy Singh

Global VC, Founder, and entrepreneur extraordinaire as featured in Inc. Magazine, Bloomberg, and Forbes. Sammy Singh is a graduate of UCLA and Wharton School of Business as well as a former student of Loyola University of Chicago. Sammy is best known as a renowned financial technology global entrepreneur and has founded over 26 different firms across industry and all over the world. He is a venture capitalist,a TV/ Film actor, tax specialist, and marketing solutions strategist. Connect with Sammy Singh on social media below!

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