New Premium Feature: PDF Search

Posted by on 27 Jul 2009

Posted by on 27 Jul 2009

Editor’s Note: As of April 29, 2015, PDF search is a paid feature available to Evernote Premium and Evernote Plus subscribers. To learn more about Premium and Plus, visit our feature comparison page.

Ever since launch, our lab coat-wearing R&D team has been working those slide rules and protractors to improve Evernote’s search technology. We’re excited to unveil our new premium-only feature: PDF search.

What’s new?

There are two types of PDFs in the world: those that are searchable and those that aren’t. Most scanners produce PDFs that are essentially digitized images of a physical page. In the past, these PDFs would not appear in your search results. Starting now, Evernote will run these PDFs through our updated recognition servers, allowing our Premium subscribers to find them when they search.

In addition, our desktop versions will allow premium users to export the searchable PDFs by right clicking on them in the note.

What about old PDFs?

Over the next week, Evernote will process all existing premium user PDFs. Don’t worry, newly added PDFs will become searchable within minutes, though it may take a bit longer while our servers crunch through existing ones.

What if a PDF is already searchable?

If you already have searchable PDFs in your account, Evernote won’t touch them. This is true for all subscribers, free and premium.

What’s next?

The longer you use Evernote, the more critical our super-duper search technology becomes. Rest assured that we’re going to keep on improving it so you’ll never forget a thing.

Evernote Premium

There are lots of great reasons to go premium:

  • Create 500MB of new notes each month
  • Sync any type of file
  • Allow others to view and edit your notebooks
  • Get faster image recognition

And lots more. Check out all the benefits on our premium page.

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87 Comments RSS

  • Andrew8088

    Wow, this is great! I’m glad I went Premium just over a month ago.

    Keep up the great work.

  • David Emmons

    So if we use the Mac’s Shift+Evernote button in Safari is that PDF a searchable type even on the free version? Just curious.

    • Andrew Sinkov

      @David Excellent question. Text within PDFs that were created using our Safari Clipper or by converting an Office doc have always been searchable. This new feature is great for those using a document scanner. The output of most document scanners is essentially an image in PDF form. Now, Evernote will process those PDFs and make them searchable.

  • Espiox

    Another cool premium feature to look forward to when I subscribe (which will be around about the time you guys FINALLY release a native Android app. Seriously, come on).

  • John

    Excellent! I have been waiting for this feature — thank you!

  • Thomas Falk

    Is there a tag to exclude pdf from search. I like the feature but some of my pdfs are that huge that i don’t want to bother the search from looking through all this files?

  • Matt

    This is great news, a lot of people have been clamoring for this. Are there any benchmarks available for how well this PDF OCR does vs. any of the brand name stand-alone OCR apps?

  • Gary

    This is awesome! Andrew – on the topic of PDF’s….any development on web or iPhone PDF thumbnail preview? Most everything I do is PDF….so I really cant take advantage of PDF thumbnail browsing unless I am on the Mac desktop client. ??

    • Andrew Sinkov

      @Gary You’re right (obviously), the other versions of Evernote don’t have PDF previews as this point. The PDF Search will work on all clients, meaning that even though you can’t see the preview, the PDF will pop up in results.

  • Frank McPherson

    Will PDF searching continue to work on PDFs that are moved from a synchronized notebook to a local notebook?

    • Andrew Sinkov

      @Frank Yes, if you move a PDF that has been processed from a Synchronized notebook into a Local notebook, it will retain the search information.

  • Evan

    Awesome news. So can this take the place of having a scanner do OCR on a document at the time of scanning? Right now, my workflow involves scanning documents with my Scansnap, which does OCR on the document and sends it into Evernote. The OCR part is a bit slow, so if this new Premium feature does just as well, I’d turn off OCR on my scanner.

    • Andrew Sinkov

      @Evan Give it a shot. The results you’ll get from Evernote should be comparable to your scanner’s output. If you prefer your scanner, you can always go back.

  • Chris

    @Matt: A benchmark of our OCR software wouldn’t make much sense at this point, since the PDF text recognition process happens up in the cloud, not on the client.

  • Anders

    Does it work with foreign languages – in my case Danish?

    • Andrew Sinkov

      @Anders It is optimized for the languages that Evernote supports (English and Russian). Nevertheless, it may work, we just can’t guarantee it.

  • Tammy

    You guys just keep getting better and better. I can’t imagine a business day going by without using Evernote to help me stay organized and provide great customer service to my clients. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • RickK

    If I upload a PDF while a Premium subscriber and later drop my Premium subscription will that PDF still be searchable?

    • Andrew Sinkov

      @RickK Yes, if you go from Premium to Free, any PDFs that were made searchable will remain searchable. This is our general approach. You don’t lose any of your old stuff when you go from Premium to Free.

  • Terri Schurter

    This is a great feature. I am glad I decided to become a premium user. You guys have a great product.

  • MIke Jones

    Great!I can die now and my life is complete.

  • Jake Pollock

    I upgraded to premium today, purely because of this new feature. As a historian, this is extremely valuable. Thanks heaps!

  • Daryl

    Eek! I thought (wrongly obviously!) that Evernote did this in the standard version already. (Mis-)understood the “We run all of your images through our recognition technology” statement to include anything you uploaded to Evernote… Perhaps that should be made a bit clearer?!

    Not a biggy for me as I’m a newish user and haven’t yet fully incorporated Evernote into my workflow, so I can just set my scanner to create a searchable pdf, without causing any problems to my stuff.

  • hamhead

    wow you guys actually did it. bravo.

  • Remo Knops

    What a great feature and personally I think a very useful one, especially for students (like myself) researchers, pratitioners and everyone who uses pdf-files a lot in everyday life.

    In a short article I just could thinkof one remark. How good is the text-recognition in you upload pdf-files in different languages? I assume English isn’t a problem, but what other languages are supported ?

    • Andrew Sinkov

      @Remo The recognition is optimized for the languages Evernote supports: English and Russian. It may work for other languages, though the results aren’t guaranteed.

  • Steve Rubel

    What if you share a notebook with others who are not premium members? Thx.

  • Philippe

    Hello Guys,

    When will you improve the windows client ? Today it has laess function that the web interface or the mobile solutions.

  • Matthew

    Can the text in the PDFs be copied and pasted, or is it only searchable?

    • Andrew Sinkov

      @Matthew Premium users of the desktop versions of Evernote can export the searchable PDF. The recognized text in those PDFs can be copied and pasted.

  • Max

    What I would really like is if the OCR recognised text in PDFs and more importantly in images could be selected and copied!

    Are there any plans to allow copying of text from inages?

    I am blind and the above feature would allow me to use my screen reader to listen to text contained in image notes. For example, I could snap a picture of some product in a shop with my phone and then have the text read out to me using evernote and Mac OS X’ built in screen reader.


    • Andrew Sinkov

      @Max Recognized text within searchable PDFs can be copied and pasted. Use the desktop versions of Evernote to export the searchable PDF file.

  • Eric

    Great! I’ve been waiting for this to use Evernote with my Scansnap.

    Question: Does the PDF search work as well as the standard search? I’m particularly wondering about handwritten text.


  • michael kastler

    I’m sorry to be so dense, but I’m still trying to figure this out … if I’m a free user, and I upload a PDF that has been run through my own OCR software and made searchable, that document will be searchable within evernote – regardless of my status as a premium or free user? But if I upload a ‘standard’ PDF file, that is non-searchable, it will only be converted to searchable if I am a premium subscriber.

    Is that correct? Also, what does this mean for images – will they also only be searchable for premium users soon?


    • Andrew Sinkov

      @Michael Kastler You’ve absolutely right. If you’re a free user and your PDFs are already searchable, they’re remain that way. Standard un-searchable PDFs will be made searchable for premium users.

  • Bob

    I have the free version and my scanned PDFs have always been searchable. Also, handwritten notes. Are you taking this capability away except for premium users?

  • Chad Dorsey

    You made my day – I and many other Evernote users have been waiting for a looong time for this excellent feature. Thanks for all the great work!

  • Porter

    “In addition, our desktop versions will allow premium users to export the searchable PDFs by right clicking on them in the note.”

    As in, exported to HTML?

    • Andrew Sinkov

      @Porter You’ll be able to export the PDF as a searchable PDF, meaning that you will be able to search within it and copy and paste recognized text.

  • Hector

    Very dissapointed.

    “@Gary You’re right (obviously), the other versions of Evernote don’t have PDF previews as this point. The PDF Search will work on all clients, meaning that even though you can’t see the preview, the PDF will pop up in results.”

    When are goingto have this feature (Windows)

  • Paul

    @Hector: Evernote already said they’re re-engineering the Windows client from scratch. I spotted a Windows alpha build linked in their forums if you want to try it.


  • Hector

    @Paul. Thanks. I already tried the Alpha. It is very nice, but the highlite feature for PDF’s search is not there. It is really too bad. All my excitement fot nothing. I guess it is time to cancel my Premium subscription again.

  • Darren Crawford

    I’ve scanned a few PDF’s from my MFPrinter and am not getting them to be searchable. They have been in the system for a day (for one) and several hours for the other.

    One is a receipt from the UPS store (less than perfect scan) and the other is a document I received in the mail about my health coverage (which has lots of clean text)


  • Maxf

    Awesome guys! Just keeps getting better and better! I’ve been eagerly awaiting this feature and now it’s arrived! I’m over the moon!

  • Rhodri

    This appears to be a great feature – its a pity that the new version of evernote seems to crash on opening when used on a mac running 10.5.7 – any suggestions?

    • Andrew Sinkov

      @Rhodri That sounds like a questions for our tech support:

  • Shane

    I’ve used adobe’s OCR and it was terrible. It got most words wrong on even the most legible of scans. How good is its accuracy? 90%? 95%?

  • E-Cigarette Forum

    PDF support is a great addition. I have kind of been sitting on the sidelines checking out the service. Now that I know it has this feature I had to join. Keep up the great work.

  • Ernie

    All this stuff about searching PDF is great, but I had a terrible time figuring out how to get a PDF into Evernote to begin with. I finally found the File|Import Wizard, but this is hardly easy. Isn’t there an easier way? (Using Windows XP/Vista)

    • Andrew Sinkov

      @Ernie You can drag-n-drop PDFs into Evernote

  • Jen

    Am I missing something? I just upgraded to Premium, and now my PDFs are searchable within Evernote. But how do I export them from my desktop version? I have the Mac desktop version. When I choose a note and try to export, the only options I have for file format are XML and HTML. How do I export a searchable PDF so that I can copy and paste the text?

    • Andrew Sinkov

      @Jen To export a searchable PDF from the Evernote desktop versions, right click on the PDF in the note and select the option to save the searchable PDF. Our philosophy is always to default to the original content that you brought into Evernote. For this reason, the main PDF that will be in your note is the same PDF that you imported, but right-clicking will allow you to export the new, searchable version.

  • Jon


    First, I love Evernote and have convinced/converted at least a dozen folks into the world of Evernote. Great podcasts too.

    I am a premium user that upgraded primarily for the searchable PDF function. It doesn’t seem to work for handwritten notes scanned as PDF’s. Am I doing something wrong, or is this not a supported feature?


    • Andrew Sinkov

      @Jon The new searchable PDF feature is optimized for scanned documents containing printed text.

  • Wil

    I’m working this issue on the Evernote forum and can’t seem to get my pdf’s to become searchable. I do have a premium account. The wildcard here may be that the handwritten notes are coming from my Livescribe Pen, but I am exporting them as PDF’s within Livescribe and importing them into Evernote.

    • Andrew Sinkov

      @Wil The PDF search feature is optimized for printed text–the kind that you would have if you scanned a document.

  • will

    @Andrew Sinkov Is there any plan to make handwritten notes scanned in as PDFs searchable?

    • Andrew Sinkov

      @Will if you are scanning in a handwritten note, my recommendation would be to scan it as an image file (JPG, PNG), this will give you the best recognition results. Some scanners allow you to create presets for different types of scans.

  • Drew Buell

    I recently upgraded to a premium account and love it. I’ve spent the last couple of days adding over 600 different pdf’s, all of which are printed-text but none of them appear to be searchable as of yet. Do I need to turn any of these features on? Or, do I simply need to wait for your servers to finish annalyzing all of the data that I’ve uploaded (I’m almost at my 500 MB limit and it’s only been a couple days)?

  • Ralph Elliott

    Evernote does not seem to be OCRing my PDFs in spite of the fact that I have a Premium account. What do you suggest we do?

    • Andrew Sinkov

      @Ralph This sounds like a question for our support team:

  • niceguy_iquest

    I have a premium accout but i cannot search the pdfs I uploaded. Do I mis understand evernote?
    thanks Doug

    • Andrew Sinkov

      @niceguy_iquest The PDF Search feature is designed to make text-based PDFs searchable, such as scanned documents. The PDF Search feature is not designed to make images saved as PDFs searchable. Is that the type of PDF that you have?

  • John

    Having trouble, as usual, with Evernote. I love Evernote, but I can’t ever get it to search PDFs in a useful way — is this just me? I just signed up for premium again, when I head about this. I have the (latest) Evernote for windows, a beta version (beta 3?) ver. (52487)

    When I search it will bring up all of the PDF notes including that term…but all of the PDFs I have are 10-20 or more pages. How do I see the pages, beyond page 1, where the words are actually located in the PDF file? The only option I can see is opening the PDF in my PDF reader, which does not help since my PDF reader cannot search the PDFs (at least not the ones I’d like to search which are images). How do I get beyond page one? This will make my life so much easier. thanks!

    • Andrew Sinkov

      @John If you right-click on the PDF, you will be given the option to Save the Searchable PDF. This will allow you to search within the PDF using your PDF viewer.

  • Boathead

    Two questions re. using Evernote to create searchable pdfs using ScanSnap S1500:

    1. Had the ability to search OCR’d scans announced in been expanded to free accounts as well?

    2. I have a full version of Acrobat 9 on my machine, but the contents of the scanned, and recognized, and searchable pdf aren’t visible from by Firefox browser. I can download and read with my browser, but hope to be able to view contents before downloading.

    Thanks and Happy New Year to all,


    • Andrew Sinkov

      @Boathead The PDF Search feature is only available to Evernote Premium subscribers.

  • todd david

    Can I get my pdf in my Evernotes as a note where I can view the document jsut like any other note or only as a link to the document where I have to open that link anytime I want to view that note, which is what I am trying to avoid.

  • Naoko Miki

    I have a premium account but PDF search does not work (texts in the pdf document are in print and not hand-written). I see I am not the only one who is reporting this problem but none of the fellow users are receiving a straight-forward answer from you. You are evading the problem. Please tell me why this is not working. Thank you.

    • Andrew Sinkov

      @Naoko, We’ll need a bit more information in order to diagnose the issue. Please contact our support team:

  • Richard

    Just received this from Support …

    Is this true? and if so where does it mention this on the website?
    Tks for any help ….

    Hi Richard,

    Unfortunately you are not going to see highlighted search terms in PDF on a windows computer. You will on a Mac, because the PDF abilities are built into the OS allowing us to do that. Sorry for any confusion. Evernote will find the note. If it is an image PDF and thus not available for searching with a PDF program, right click and save as searchable PDF, you can run a PDF search on that file.

    Hope this Helps!
    Evernote Support

    • Andrew Sinkov

      Richard, this is true. As our support team says, the PDF Search feature will locate the PDF containing the keywords you are looking for, but, on Windows computers, Evernote is unable to highlight the specific instances of the found keyword.

      • Richard


        your page
        does not mention this limitation – may I suggest that you make this clearer. It really would be useful if you could provide this feature.

      • Seanmac

        I have to agree with Richard here. A lot of my PDFs that I store in Evernot have over 20 pages. Have to actualy open the PDF in my local viewer and search then is another step I could really do without. Is there any plans to have a search within PDF inbedded in Evernote for Windows. This would be awesome!


      • Igor

        I have moved to pro for exactly this reason and now there is no highlighting in the WIN Version. This is not what I have expected as there is no clear mentioning of this fact on your page. Is there a way to get back to the free Version?

  • electronic cigarette forum

    Yes this is really great. I am also using the premium features of Evernote. It really helps for me.

    Is there any additional features for this?

  • Jonathan Smith

    Will this search handwritten notes? I’d love to take handwritten notes on my iPad, export them to evernote and have them searchable. I’m not a premium user, but I think this would “turn” me! Keep up the great work!

    • Leo O

      Same for me. I’m a heavy user of Goodnotes to take handwritten class notes and I’d love them to be searchable. but I can only export in PDF, not as an image.
      I don’t want simply recognition and conversion because I like to keep them like that, with all the drawing I do on the side, but I want them searchable and taggable.

  • PDF

    Nice but you can also try

    Find view and download PDF Files.

  • Honoloeloe

    I use

    It finds PDF files and ebooks in open directories with alot of other stuff to download!

  • KilianK

    Would you be able to tell me why search result highlighting is only available on Mac? This is the one thing that got me excited about this feature, but I’m not able to use it (yet). Why?

    • Andrew Sinkov

      PDF support is built into Mac OS. This is not the case with Windows. In Windows, we need to incorporate PDF tools into our application. This adds significant complexity. We’re looking into options that might add the PDF search functionality.

    • JazzyJ

      I too am disappointed after watching the video and trying this on my Windows 7 machine. I even upgraded to premium out of desperation to see this feature work. Come on guys!

    • Sylwia Bialczak

      Yeah, I hope it will be done soon. Works in Mendeley, so it is not like it is impossible. And you should clearly say it is Mac only feature not premium feature.

      • K

        Doesn’t look like EverNote cares too much for it’s now OCTOBER and there is still no PDF highlighting.

        If anything they should update their website to cleary state that feature is MAC only so as not to be considered FALSE advertising…

  • Keith

    I have a fairly simple question but one that I haven’t been able to find a definitive answer on.

    I am currently a free user and plan on upgrading to premium once I’ve really decided I want to permanently use Evernote. If I upload a PDF now as a free user, I understand it will not be searchable. However, once I have upgraded to premium, will the PDFs that I uploaded as a free user then become searchable after resyncing or would they need to be reuploaded entirely?

  • Georgi

    I have a PDF document containing a set of scanned hand written pages. Unfortunately Evernote does not want to search inside this document. Am I missing something?