Dean Herr

Searchable PDF | How to create one using your MFP

First, let’s take a quick look at what a searchable PDF is and why you might need one.

A searchable PDF is a document that has either been scanned or created from another file that needs to be saved in a more portable manner. When saving a document as a PDF or scanning a document from your MFP, the normal procedure allows for the document to be stored as a flat image file. This means that the document is now basically an image of its former self. This makes for a tidy way to store and file these documents, however it comes with drawbacks. Since the document no longer has the integrity of any text, it becomes impossible to search for a document with anything more than the file name. This becomes problematic when large document storage is needed with the possibility of multiple documents with similar names.


So, how do we make these documents portable with the ability to search within the text? This is where a searchable PDF becomes your best friend. With this technology the document is now saved in multiple layers. There is an image layer which allows for all static images to be placed in one single layer, and then there is an additional text layer. This text layer is the searchable part of the document and is saved while also utilizing technology which allows for the text to be recognized and kept as data rather than an image. Since the text is now digitized, it may be searched and accessed by many different search methods creating an increased ability to store these documents with confidence that they can be retrieved far more reliably.

How do we create a searchable PDF? This can be achieved by a few different methods and although they all work, there are definite advantages to some.

The first way we will discuss is using a program that will take an existing electronic document and formatting it to be saved as a searchable PDF. This is achieved by using a third party program to actually do the conversion. There are many choices (free and paid) that are available to handle the task. I personally haven’t used many of these, so I don’t have a particular one that I am fond of. A quick internet search will reveal a plethora of choices to investigate.

The second method to creating a searchable PDF is by using your copier/MFP. Most (if not all) modern day copiers that have scanning capabilities will be able to create a searchable PDF for you. It is important to ask your vendor if it is something that is available and if there is an added cost to having the feature. The beauty of this system is that you don’t need the document in electronic form. This means that any piece of paper that you currently have may be scanned and made into a searchable PDF. This makes things a whole lot easier when you routinely receive paper documents and need to convert them.

Many of our customers like to use a hybrid version by either purchasing or looking for a “freeware” version converter and also utilizing the feature on their MFP’s.  Either way you decide to proceed, I’m sure that once you know the joys of searchable PDF you’ll never understand how you did without them before.

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