Speed up PDF Search with an Embedded Index

I recently received this query from a customer:

I have assembled over 4000 pages of case data into a single PDF. When I choose Search (CTRL-F) and search for a keyword, it can take a while time to find a word. Is there any way to speed up the search?

Heck yeah! Acrobat Pro allows you to embed a full-text index in a document which greatly accelerates search. The index travels with the document (it’s embedded, duh!). An embedded index speeds up search ten to twenty times.

In this article, I’ll show you how to embed an index in a PDF. You can literally do this in a minute or two!

Note: Acrobat Pro can also create a cross-document index. I’ve written about this before.

Embedding an Index in a PDF

  1. Open the PDF in which you want to embed the index. If the PDF is a scanned document, you should OCR it first.
  2. Open the Tools Pane and click on the Document Processing section:https://blog.adobe.com/media_be05970a2c394a723e4e635a55b3017cf4e46512.gif
  3. NOTE: If you don’t see a Document Processing section, click the flyout menu to make the section visible:https://blog.adobe.com/media_a1f821fe62040bad50a0510f0ecc419ffa3b7cde.gif
  4. In the Document Processing section, choose Manage Embedded Index
  5. https://blog.adobe.com/media_97212ad5a9f28314566dc1bd21c203046d563a46.gif
  6. The Build window opens. Click the Embed Index button.https://blog.adobe.com/media_a650aeadefcf863ece2911d8cc144c440ef2bb75.gif
  7. Depending on the size of your document, building the index may take a few seconds to a minute or two. Generally, Acrobat indexes very fast.https://blog.adobe.com/media_cebcf159484ac8f1b7a381e0e035a1879bd0e053.gif

With that simple change, even the largest PDFs can be searched super-fast.

If you add to your PDF over time, simply update the Embedded Index following the steps above.

Acrobat offers two variants of search.

FIND allows you to find the next or previous instance of search term. You can get to Find by typing CTRL/CMD-F:

ADVANCED SEARCH returns a search results lists which includes a snippet of the text in context. This is one of the best ways to quickly spot a search term. Advanced Search also includes a number of advanced search features such boolean operators (AND, NOT, OR) and many other remarkable features.

How to use Advanced Search in Acrobat

The best way to get the benefit of faster search with an embedded index is to use Acrobat Advanced Search option.

To get to Advanced Search, choose Edit> Advanced Search or type CTRL-ALT-F on Windows or CMD-OPT-F on the Mac.

In the Advanced Search window, simply type in the word or phrase you are looking for and hit the Search button.

Acrobat will return a contextual hit list of words. Below, I searched for the term “preflight” and found 254 instances in the document.