Creating Searchable PDFs
Scanned PDFs can be extremely problematic if not done correctly, since pages are often scanned as images rather than text. This makes it impossible for any type of technology to interact with the document.
Fortunately it is not a difficult problem to fix if you have the right software - software with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) capability.
If you prefer to use a downloadable, printable version, guides for both Acrobat X and Acrobat XI are available in Word and PDF format below. The online instructions are for Acrobat X only.
Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
OCR is software that recognizes and interprets text in an image and converts it to text that a computer can read.
A PDF that has been OCR'd is sometimes referred to as a Searchable PDF. Either way, the resulting document has text that you can interact with.
Benefits of an OCR'd document include the ability to:
- Search text
- Select text
- Highlight text
- Create a Table of Contents
- Listen to text
OCR at the Scanner or Copier
Some scanners and photocopiers have the ability to OCR documents as they scan so that you don’t have to fix it afterwards. Many Xerox photocopiers can scan to PDF via email or network, and you can select the option to make that PDF searchable.
Look for keywords OCR or Searchable PDF in the save options while scanning.
OCR with Adobe Acrobat Professional
Software with OCR capability comes with various levels of sophistication and cost. The cheapest and most common software is Adobe Acrobat Professional (about $99 per copy). This is different than the free Adobe Reader program, which can only read PDFs, not change them.
Some departments at CSU have site licenses for Acrobat Pro, but if yours does not, Morgan Library also has it on all computers.
Use the Recognize Text Tool
- Open the PDF in Acrobat Pro
- Click on Tools at the top right of the document.
- When the toolbar opens on the right side of the screen, click on Recognize Text to expand the menu.
- Select In this File to bring up the OCR menu box.
- Choose a radio button to do either All Pages or just the Current Page, then Click OK. (All pages could take a while on longer documents.)
- Once this finishes running, you should be able to highlight text in the document.
Tags make a document more easily readable with a screen reader by specifying the text reading order and creating a Table of Contents.
To add tags to a document, use the Accessibility Tool.
- Open the Accessibility Tool from the View menu. Click on View, Tools, then Accessibility.
- In the Toolbar, click on Add Tags to Document.
Morgan Library Course Reserves
The Course Reserves system at Morgan Library is a great resource for faculty at CSU. If you commonly use scanned articles or chapters for classes, you can request these titles to be posted online in PDF format. They will be available to any student enrolled in your course.
The library staff ensures that these PDFs are OCR'd, and the turn-around time is typically within 24 hours.
Sign on with your eid on the Library home page Reserves tab to make your requests.
In-depth tutorials on creating accessible PDFs can be found here:
Video Tutorials by Atomic Learning