Performing Boolean Searches in Adobe Reader Across Multiple PDF Files


[author: Cynthia Augello]

Being well-versed in e-discovery, friends and staff members often ask questions regarding various programs and their search capabilities. Through these conversations, it became apparent that a majority of computer users do not understand the full functionality that is built into Adobe Reader. As such, I decided to put together a quick blog post introducing a search technique I have used in the past to quickly search across multiple PDF documents.

1. The first step is to make sure you have Adobe Reader installed on your computer.

2. Put all the PDFs you intend to search into a single directory.







3. Open up one of the PDF documents in Adobe Reader. (I am currently using Adobe Reader X, version 10.1.2.)PDF File Opened in Adobe







4. Go to the “Edit” menu and click on “Advanced Search.” A new window called “Search” will open.PDF Advanced Search










5. In the “Search” window click on “Show more options,” and then click on “All PDF Documents in” to browse to the location of the folder that you placed all the PDFs in. (In this tutorial the folder is called “Search Results – PDFs.”)

6. Once you have done this, you can click on any of the “additional criteria” as well as perform a Boolean search across all the documents in that folder. To perform a search with multiple terms, simply add a Boolean modifier (discussed below) between your search terms.PDF Advanced Search with Show More Options










7. Once you have formulated your search, click on “Search” at the bottom of the new window. Adobe will then search all the PDF documents in the folder you designated.

Adobe Advanced Search










8. Once the search has finished, you can click on any of the PDF documents in “Results” window to view which pages the terms are on.

As you can see, searching multiple PDFs is not difficult, but does require you to understand how Boolean operators work. Since casual computer users will not know any of the Boolean modifiers besides “AND” and “OR,” here are a few that work in Adobe Reader:

  • NOT (or !): Reverse the value of an argument.
  • AND (or &&): Return True if both arguments are True; return False otherwise.
  • OR (or ||): Return True if any of the arguments is True; return False otherwise.
  • XOR: An exclusive or – Returns True if one of the values is True and the other is False. Return False if both arguments are True or both are False.
  • EQV: An equivalence – Returns True if both operands are True or both are False. (The EQV operator is the opposite of the XOR operator.)
  • IMP: An implication – the statement A IMP B is the equivalent of the logical statement “If A Then B.” A IMP B is False only if A is True and B is False. It is True in all other cases.

If your institution has any further questions or concerns about advanced search techniques or e-discovery related matters, please email Cynthia Augello at or call her at (516) 357 – 3753.

A special thanks to Sean Gajewski, a law clerk at Cullen and Dykman LLP, for helping with this post.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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