Has anyone found a reliable way to search for text in PDFs on Mac?

macOS & Mac Apps

Hello all,
I'm trying to read some PDF books in Preview and continually run into an issue. Namely, if I use Voiceover find to search for text in a PDF, only a small portion of the PDF is visible to Voiceover at one time, so if I'm looking for something that I know is a few pages down Voiceover find won't see it. However if I use the standard Mac find with command + F, the next match is visually highlighted, but Voiceover focus doesn't move to it properly. Has anyone else found a way to circumvent this issue? Right now I've been using Windows in a virtual machine, but it's a royal pain to navigate to the VM, turn off Voiceover, look for the command I need, navigate to terminal, enable Voiceover, do what I need to, and repeat. Any help you guys can give me would be wonderful!



Submitted by dvdmth on Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Club AppleVis Member

The following procedure works for me, running El Capitan and using the standard method for interacting (the method where you use VO-Shift-Down Arrow to interact with something and VO-Shift-Up Arrow to leave something). If you are using a different setting for interaction, then this might not work.

First, make sure you are not, repeat not, interacting with the text in the PDF. Press VO-Shift-Up Arrow if necessary to ensure this.

Next, press Command-F to activate the search field in the toolbar. Type in whatever you want to search for, but do not press Return or Enter. The find action happens in real time as you enter your search query.

Now, locate and interact with the PDF text. For me I have to interact twice, once to interact with the PDF group and again to interact with the actual text.

When you interact with the text, VoiceOver should automatically focus on the text that is currently selected, which will be the result of the find action.

If you want to find the next or previous occurrence of your search, first stop interacting with the PDF text, then press either Command-G (find next) or Command-Shift-G (find previous). Then re-interact with the text and you should be focused on the next or previous search result. Note that you only need to stop interacting with the PDF text, not the PDF group that contains it. So, pressing VO-Shift-Up Arow, then Command-G, then VO-Shift-Down Arrow should work.

Again, I am not sure how this would work if you use the newer methods of interacting that were introduced with El Capitan.