How To Search Multiple PDF Files at the Same Time

PDF documents are everywhere these days. You probably encounter them all the time if you work in an office, but they are also very common in other environments due to the numerous features they possess and their resistance to unauthorized modification. However, one area where people sometimes struggle when it comes to PDFs is searching through them.

How To Search Multiple PDF Files at the Same Time

Finding a specific piece of text in one PDF is no issue – you just type it into the search box. The problems can arise when you have numerous PDFs to look through. The reason behind this might be the fact that you can’t search through multiple PDFs in the same way you would do that for Word documents, which is what many people have the most hands-on experience with.

You can search multiple Word files at once straight from your desktop – you just use the built-in search functionality of Windows. However, that won’t work with PDFs. But, this doesn’t mean you need to manually open each PDF file you have and search through it. You can search through multiple PDFs at the same time, you just need to conduct your search from within the program you’re using to view those files.

Speaking of those programs, the most popular one is Adobe’s Acrobat Reader. After all, Adobe is the company which developed this format, so it makes sense that their program would lead the way. That is why we will pay the most attention to it. But before we get to Acrobat Reader, we’ll also quickly explain how to search through multiple PDFs using one popular alternative to it – Foxit Reader.

Searching Multiple PDFs with Foxit Reader

Foxit Reader is certainly not as popular as Adobe’s program, but it is not a particularly uncommon sight either. So if you happen to be using it, this is the procedure you need to follow.

  1. After launching the program, look in the top right part of the screen. There, you will see the search box. But since we’re planning to search through several PDFs, you actually need to click on the little folder icon immediately to the left of it. Alternatively, you can press Ctrl + Shift + F at the same time. Foxit search menu
  2. Either way, this will bring up a new panel on the right. There, you will see the question, Where would you like to search? Select All PDF documents in and choose the location where the appropriate PDFs are stored on your computer.
  3. Then, write the text you want to search for in the box and hit Search. You can also click on the little arrow to display some additional options, such as making your search case-sensitive.

Searching Multiple PDFs Using Acrobat Reader

In Acrobat Reader, you also want to get to the menu which will show you all the search options you have at your disposal. You can reach this menu in three ways.

  1. If the search box is visible (you can press Ctrl + F to bring it up if it’s not), press the little arrow and select Open Full Reader Search.
  2. You can also click on Edit in the top left part of the screen and choose Advanced Search. Acrobat search
  3. The third option is to use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Shift + F – the same as with Foxit Reader.

Once you’re in this menu, it’s clear what you need to do. Select to search All PDF documents in and choose the appropriate location. Enter the search phrase, tick some of the options if your search calls for it, and press Search.

Advanced Search Options in Acrobat reader

You can now perform a basic search across multiple PDFs, but there are a few more options you can use to refine the results you’ll get.

  1. Open the search menu in one of the three ways we’ve explained, but now look at the bottom left part of this window and click on Show More Options.
  2. The search menu will now change, and one of those changes will be a new field labeled Return results containing. You have four options here.

Acrobat advanced

Match Any of The Words

Even if just one word from your entire search phrase appears in a document, you’ll see it in the results.

Match Exact Word or Phrase

You’ll only get results that exactly match your entire search phrase, including spaces between characters.

Match All of The Words

All the words you’ve searched for need to be in a document in order for it to appear among the search results, but the order of those words can be different from how you typed them.

Boolean Query

You can use Boolean operators (such as AND, NOT, OR, etc.) to fine-tune your search results. For instance, you can use a Boolean query to search for “sugar NOT spice”, and you’ll only see the PDFs which contain the word sugar but do not contain the word spice.

Widening Your Search

As you can see, performing a basic search for text in multiple PDFs is not difficult – it just takes a few clicks to get to the right menu and set the search location (it gets a bit more complex with Acrobat Reader’s advanced search options, but it’s still perfectly manageable). But even though this is a pretty simple process, it can still save you a lot of time under the right circumstances.

How do you search multiple PDFs? Share your thoughts below.

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