Fan of creative technology, elearning, instructional design and a little geeky

Faster search and retrieval

Digitip 010 – Adobe Acrobat 6

Revision 2.0

If you are used to searching long PDF documents and folders full of PDFs, then you might have been spending quite a bit of time waiting for the search to be completed. When I originally wrote this tip last year I actually measured search times and found that the use of index searching significantly reduces your search times.

The regular search

Through the Edit > Search option in Acrobat, you can access the search features. A number of options will be available, you can search within a current open PDF document, or within a folder containing numerous PDF files.

Search PDF

If you have indeed attempted this method of searching then you must have been looking at the window below:

waiting for search results

A slow progress bar… Were you searching within a folder of PDF files that you have kept for future reference? Well, you might as well go and make yourself a cup of coffee and come back later to view the search results.

My PDF library Index

I love my PDF library, it now contains about 1,000 files presently, that I search regularly. In order to increase my PDF document retrieval speed, I have generated an Index using Acrobat’s Catalogue feature. Select Advanced > Catalogue and click New Index. From this point you can enter the Index definition details.

catalogue in action

Enter your Index Title and any index options (Options… button) and select the directory that needs to be indexed. Then click Build to generate the index file.

Preparing your files for indexing

Just a note: prepare your PDFs prior to indexing by adding relevant metadata in the Description fields (File>Document properties). This will help your search and retrieval later on.

These properties by the way, can be imported automatically from applications such as Microsoft Word, when you’re using the PDF Maker plug-in to generate your PDFs, and have entered property information in the document (File > Properties in MS Word).

document properties

Use the Custom option to add more metadata fields. When working for the government you might have to use a Thesaurus or common keyword list to ensure that you are entereing consistent data, and certain Description fields might be reserved for particular data. Consult with your records manager to find out more about metadata addition requirements.

Advanced searching

Now that you’ve created the index, you can use Acrobat’s advanced search and retrieval features. Start by going to the Search PDF section again, but this time click the Use Advanced Search Features at the bottom of the section. The Search PDF section changes, and now allows you to Select the index of catalogued PDF files you wish to search under the Look In: option. Select your Index, then enter your search criteria.

search pdf advanced


If you’ve entered Descriptive field metadat you can opt to search within those fields. Whatever you select, you’ll find that your morning coffee will have to wait, as your search will return PDF references much, much quicker.


Similar posts
  • Creating a pop-up window in a PDF with Adobe InDesig... In the following YouTube tutorial, we’ll create an interactive PDF from Adobe InDesign, in which we click on a button, which in turn opens up a simple pop-up window containing a close-box. When the close-box is clicked the pop-up window disappears [...]
  • Help improve Adobe’s today launched Ideas. A portal through which you can submit ideas, vote on ideas and comment on other’s ideas. If you not yet used it is well worth a try. You can work collaboratively using For instance use it to set-up shared PDF reviews with your client through Adobe’s ConnectNow, or [...]
  • How to. Create a Button that links to First Page of ... Digitip 074 -Adobe Acrobat 9 Modified: 24 August 9:40pm (slight rewrite, addition Leonard’s comment) Q: I received an email last week, that in a nutshell phrased the following question: How do I create a button on all the pages of a PDF document that, when clicked, links back to the first page of my PDF? [...]
  • Take up the challenge – Acrobat 9 Adobe today officially announced their new Acrobat 9 range of products, off the shelf are rolling: Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro Extended, Acrobat 9 Pro, Acrobat 9 Standard and a new Adobe Reader. Time for organisations to take up the challenge and use Acrobat to its full advantage.  In all honesty what I see in this [...]
  • Output Preview and RGB image display Digitip 058 – Acrobat 8 Professional Someone recently said to me: “I hate the Output Preview in Acrobat”, “If you select the correct similuation profile for CMYK output, it doesn’t show you that your file has RGB images, but just shows you CMYK”. Well, that might carry a little truth, in that when hovering the [...]

1 Comment

  1. pepsicola pepsicola
    February 6, 2009    

    Very nice tip. That’s exactly what I was looking for, because I have to search in 100 scanned books and it was taking me 5 minutes for 1 search. Just a note : in the new Acrobat, the catalogue is accessed through Advanced > Document Processing > Full Text Index with Catalog… It’s not obvious to find 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *