The Best of Sherlock Holmes


Tips for Using Adobe (Acrobat) Reader

By Randall Stock, January 30, 2013


While Adobe Acrobat Reader (now known simply as Adobe Reader) is fairly easy to use, it has a number of settings and idiosyncrasies that are not apparent to the casual user.  Some of these may be overridden by the creator of a PDF document.  However, users can make some adjustments that will often improve their productivity.




Find vs. Search

Adobe Reader provides three methods for locating text:

1) "Find" function locates text sequentially in a single file

2) "Advanced Search" locates all appearances of text in one or more files

3) "Advanced Search" using an Acrobat catalog Index offers the fastest way to search many files


If your PDF files have an Acrobat catalog, your best choice is to use that catalog for searching the set of files.  See how to set up Advanced Search with catalogs.  The other Tips for Using Advanced Search apply even if you don't have a catalog.


Hot Tip: These are all faster if you have all the PDF files on your hard disk or a USB Flash drive.


Search Efficiently

Your choice of Search term(s) depends on both the text quality of your document and the specificity of your search.  You can also use Boolean expressions for more comprehensive or elaborate searches.


Tip: To find more matches, keep your search term short – even just a few letters


Document text quality matters because text errors can result in not matching an item.  If you were searching for a name and it was misspelled in the original document you might not locate it.  This is even more likely to occur when a PDF document was created from a scanned original, since text recognition errors are fairly common.  Thus, when doing a general search you'll get more hits by using fewer letters.  "Beeton's" will only locate the full term, while "Beeton" will locate the singular, plural, and possessive variants.  To get even more hits, "Beet" will catch some text errors and misspellings.


On the other hand, if your search is very specific, it makes sense to at least start by using more letters or even several words in order to narrow your results list.  If you're trying to locate an article entitled "The Location of The Three Students" you could first try searching on the entire title.  Assuming there were no misspellings or text errors you would quickly locate that article.   Shorter distinctive phrases should be tried if you don't locate it.  "Three Students" occurs very frequently so a better alternative might be "location of the three."


The Search function also supports Boolean expressions (combinations of search terms).  A search for "Beeton OR Christmas Annual" will find any document that contains either or both of the terms.  The inclusive "OR" operator is very helpful when doing research on a subject with several possible terms, abbreviations, or misspellings/errors.


Tip: When using Advanced Search with a catalog index, to perform a Boolean search, choose "Boolean query" from the Return Results containing drop-down menu in the Search window.


Google [Acrobat advanced search Booleans] to find the Adobe online help with details on Advanced Search Options.


Tips for Using Advanced Search in Adobe Reader

For more-detailed instructions with screen shots, see my Adobe Reader Tips PDF.


Advanced Search lets you search one PDF file or an entire folder of PDF files. 

- You see search results in the Search window

- Click the plus-sign icon next to each filename to reveal snippets of search result text in that file. 

- Click the result-text snippet to go to the matched text in that PDF file.


To activate Advanced Search: (or add it to your toolbar)

Edit > Advanced Search or use Shift+Ctrl+F

Enter the word, phrase, or partial word for your search, and click the Search button.

To get more matches, use short terms or even just the first part of word, as described above in Searching Efficiently.


a) Click the plus-sign icon next to the filename for result details

After searching, the Search window will list the files that contain your search term.  Click the plus-sign icon next to each filename to reveal the results snippets for all matches in that file.   Click on the snippet to open the file and go directly to that matched snippet.  When there is more than one match in a file, click each snippet to quickly move through the file.


b) Resize your Search and Document Windows

When using Advanced Search, it works best if your PDF document window is sized to allow you to see both the entire Search window and the entire Document window on your monitor at the same time.  That lets you quickly click on result snippets in the Search Window to move through the open eBSJ file.  To get new files to appear in the same location, when you finish with a file, use the document (not application) close button and then click a new file result in the Search window.


At the top of the Search window, click the Arrange Windows button to fit both the Search and Document windows on your screen at the same time.  I like to make the Search window wide enough to easily read the filenames and result snippets, and that might be wider than the default.  To then make the search window wider, hover your mouse over the right side of the Search window until the cursor changes, and click and drag the window side to your desired width.


If you change the Search Window width, you will want to make the Document window narrower so it is completely visible at the same time.  To adjust the Document window size, click and drag the right edge of the document window to your left (making it narrower).  Then click and drag the title bar at the top of the Document window to move the entire window to the right.


For more-detailed instructions with screen shots, see my Adobe Reader Tips PDF.


Setting up Advanced Search with a Catalog Index

For more-detailed instructions with screen shots, see my Adobe Reader Tips PDF.

Some PDF collections come with an Acrobat catalog index.  This index includes a base file (with the filename extension of ".pdx"), and an associated folder.


In Adobe Reader XI:

1. Choose Edit > Advanced Search.

2. Click Show More Options (near the bottom of the Search window).


3. From the Look In drop-down, choose Select Index.

4. Click the Add button and navigate to the folder with your catalog PDX file

5. Select the catalog index (PDX) file and click Open.

6. In the Index Selection window, click OK.

The Look In drop-down should now say "Currently Selected Indexes"


You can simultaneously search more than one collection / PDX catalog.  Use the same above steps, Add more index files, and be sure the boxes next to your desired index(es) are checked.  Then click OK to make that set your "Currently Selected Indexes."


Those selected indexes remain chosen even if you quit Adobe Reader and reboot your PC.  However, you do need to choose "Currently Selected Indexes" in the Look In drop-down when you start doing Advanced Searches.


You only need to select indexes once at the beginning of your search session.  After that you can just enter new search terms for additional searching.


Note: Catalog indexes created using Acrobat 9 or earlier will not work with Reader X or Reader XI.  You need to get someone with Acrobat X or XI to build a new catalog index for you.  A catalog built using Acrobat X or XI will work with both the current Reader version and with older Reader versions.


For more-detailed instructions with screen shots, see my Adobe Reader Tips PDF.


Toolbar Items in Adobe Reader

Most people will find it better to change their toolbar buttons.  Getting rid of buttons you don't use often means the ones you do want will appear even if your window is small.


Pause your mouse cursor over a button and a tool tip will appear with text describing the button function.  If you don't use it often, or don't think you'll use it, you can hide that button.  For faster changes to your toolbar, right-click over a blank spot on the toolbar and select from the choices to add or hide a toolbar button.


I don't use any of the File Tools, but at minimum I suggest:

View > Show/Hide > Toolbar Items > File

- De-select Convert PDF to Word or Excel Online

- De-select Create PDF

- De-select Send File

- De-select Save Files to


I do use Advanced Search frequently, so consider:

View > Show/Hide > Toolbar Items > Edit > Advanced Search


I find being able to select an area to zoom is helpful:

View > Show/Hide > Toolbar Items > Select & Zoom > Marquee Zoom


If you have Marquee Zoom and the Numeric Zoom, you really don't need the Zoom In/Out buttons

View > Show/Hide > Toolbar Items > Select & Zoom

- De-select the Zoom In + button

- De-select the Zoom Out - button


It can be handy to have Rotate View choice, especially viewing PDFs in your browser:

View > Show/Hide > Toolbar Items > Rotate View > Clockwise


If you have trouble getting text selection to work (in order to copy/paste text from a PDF), try adding the Select Tool:

View > Show/Hide > Toolbar Items > Select & Zoom > Select Tool


Navigation Pane Width in Adobe Reader

Some documents have bookmarks that appear in a Navigation pane on the left side of Reader window.  You can adjust the width of the Navigation pane to a size that suits you for displaying bookmarks versus the amount of document area.  To adjust the width:

- Be sure the Navigation pane is open (click the icon in the left border for Page Thumbnails or Bookmarks)

- Drag on the vertical border between the Navigation pane and the document area to your left or right.


If you make the width too narrow, the pane will snap shut and you'll need to drag the border to the right in order to "open" the pane.  You can quickly open or close the Navigation pane by clicking on the Page Thumbnails or Bookmarks icon at the left border of the Reader window.


Tip: When Bookmarks are shown in the Navigation pane, you can adjust some bookmark options by clicking on the icon directly above the first bookmark.


Set Preferences in Adobe Reader

Some of these preferences can be overridden by settings in a particular PDF document.  However, many documents simply use your preference settings so it is helpful to choose the following preferences.


Edit > Preferences > Page Display (Default Layout and Zoom)

Page Layout = Single Page Continuous.

I find this makes it much easier to read and scroll through pages on screen.  Some PDF files override this setting. 


Edit > Preferences > Page Display (Default Layout and Zoom)

Zoom = Fit Width.

This makes text bigger and easier to read, but you won't see an entire page on screen at one time.  Sometimes it's better to use either Automatic or Fit Page for this setting.  Some PDF files override this setting.


Edit > Preferences > Page Display (Page Content and Information)

Use Logical Page Numbers = checked.

It's much faster to find a specific page using LPN in documents that include this info.  However, if you have problems printing certain pages, you can uncheck this when you need to print.  This setting does not affect documents that do not include LPN.


Edit > Preferences > Search

Always show more options in Advanced Search = Checked.

I almost always want to use one of these options, so checking this box saves a step when I search.


Edit > Preferences > Search

Maximum number of documents returned in Results = 500.

Set this number to be high enough to include all the documents you may find in a search.  This number can be large if you are searching multiple catalog index files (collections) at one time.


Edit > Preferences > Search

Check the box for the "Show document title in search results" option.

For well-designed PDFs, it's usually more helpful to see the Document Titles.  But if the PDF set has obscure Doc titles, you may on occasion want to uncheck this box and show filenames instead.  If you are showing filenames, in the Search window below the Sort results box, be sure to check the box for "Collapse file paths" so you can focus on just the filename.


Edit > Preferences > General

Create links from URLs = checked.

This should be the default setting, but still be sure it's checked.  This allows you to click on any URL in a PDF and have it open your browser to that web page.


Edit > Preferences > JavaScript

Enable Acrobat JavaScript = not checked.

Most PDF files don't need JavaScript, and disabling it can help avoid viruses and malware.


Other Pages with PDF-related tips


Tips for Using the eBSJ


Tips for Using the e-SHJ


Adobe Reader Tips for Searching (PDF)


The Adobe Reader Help file (Help > Reader Help) has additional information on some topics.


More Recommendations


Lists of each year's best Sherlock Holmes books & DVDs, the most famous Sherlock Holmes quotes, and more Top 10 Lists.





Vers. 2.0ax-RN Original work
Copyright ©2016  Randall Stock. All Rights Reserved.