How to Search a PDF on Mac

Suppose you have a large PDF document, and you want to search for a particular phrase or a line within it. It can be cumbersome to go through line-by-line to look for that specific word. Instead, you can use the Preview app’s search function to efficiently look for the word or phrase you want to search for.

In order to search in a PDF on Mac, simply open the file on your system. Make sure you open the file in the Preview Mode and not on any other application. Next, look for the search button on the top-right corner of the file. You can also summon the finder window using the Command + F shortcut. From here, simply enter the word or phrase you are searching for, and that is it.

This article details how you can search a PDF on mac using the default Preview app. 

How to Search a PDF on Mac using Preview App?

Searching for a particular line in a PDF on Mac is very straightforward. Refer to the instructions provided below to learn more. 

  • Power on and sign in to your Mac. 
  • Now, open a Finder window. 
  • Once a Finder window is open, look for the PDF file in which you want to search for items and double-click to open it. 
  • You need to close the application if the PDF opens in another app, like Adobe. 
  • Select the PDF file and use the two-finger gesture on your trackpad to show the context menu. 
  • Select Open with and choose Preview from the list. 
  • Once the PDF file is open inside Preview, you will see a search box in the top right corner. 
  • Click on it and enter the phrase or word you want to look for within the PDF file. 
Search a PDF on Mac
How to Search a PDF on Mac
  • Subsequently, you can use the Command-F shortcut to toggle the search box and do the same. 
  • Once you type and enter the phrase or word in the search bar. 
  • The sidebar will display all the places where the word comes from within the document.
How to Search a PDF on Mac
How to Search a PDF on Mac
  • Click on any particular occurrence of the word from the sidebar, and you will be taken to that specific page within the document. 

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How to Search a PDF on Mac using Browser?

Another method you can use to search in a PDF on Mac is directly on any browser you are currently using. For example, if you are using the Chrome browser, you can use simple steps to find anything on a PDF or webpage.

  • Open a new tab on the browser.
  • Now, drag and drop your PDF file to open it in preview mode.
  • Next, press Command + F from your keyboard to open the Finder option.
How to Search a PDF on Mac
  • Now, type in the word or phrase to search for the PDF.

That is all you need to do in order to search any file. This is the best method to try, especially when the preview app is not working on your system. 

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“Mac Preview Search Not Working”- How to Fix

Well, some of the users have been unable to search their PDF Files in the preview. There could be a number of reasons for it. But all of these can be fixed very easily, and here are a few methods you can try yourself.

  • Start with simply closing and reopening the PDF again. Not the Preview app but the document only.
  • Force quit Preview and try reopening it again with a different document.
  • Delete the file from your system and download it again from the source.
  • Update your macOS to the latest version
  • Use an alternate pdf viewer and see if it is working

Hopefully, these fixes might work for you, and then you can try searching the PDF on Mac.

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How to Apply Filters to a PDF File on Mac?

Applying filters to a PDF File is very easy using the Preview app on Mac. Read the instructions provided below to see how to do it. 

  • Sign in to your Mac and open the Finder application. 
  • Select the PDF you’re looking for and right-click on it. Select Open with and choose Preview. 
  • Once the PDF file has been opened in Preview, hover the cursor over to the menu bar, click on File, and select Export from the list. 
  • A  new pop-up window will be displayed; click on the box next to the Quartz Filter option. 
  • Choose any filter you want from the list and hit Save. 

A new duplicate of the PDF file with the filter will be saved in the same location if you haven’t provided a new one.


That’s about it for this article, folks; you now know how to search a PDF on Mac using the Preview app. You can also use the same method for third-party software like Adobe, as the shortcut is applicable to all of them.

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