I got a bunch of notes written by other students, but they are from an old textbook that didn't deal with everything in the same order, so I need to search through the notes for every chapter (each individual chapter is in a different .pdf or .doc) for "trace conditioning" for example.

I used to use Google Desktop for this, I have Launchy now and I told it to search pdfs, but it only searches the titles, not the content.

Thanks for any help.

  • Once you find a match, what are you trying to do? Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 12:47
  • Do you need to know if a string occurs in a file, or where that is as well? Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 13:10
  • Once i find which chapter covers the topic i am looking for I can read the notes on that topic in that chapter, so I just need to know IF and not where. (Please remember when answering that I can't comment on your answers because I haven't got 50 reputation points, I can only comment on my own question).
    – Rabbit
    Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 13:31
  • 2
    You can comment on answers to your question, we're not that harsh.
    – Alaa Ali
    Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 13:42
  • 1
    @Rabbit with your edit summary you blocked me to editing your question to removing "Thanks" ;) Commented Dec 21, 2014 at 15:58

7 Answers 7


Recoll is probably the most versatile document search engine you will find on Linux:

enter image description here

It supports a plethora of different formats and is very customizable.

For installation instructions and other pointers please check out this answer. The official documentation is very useful, too.

  • 5
    Accepting this answer because it's native to linux, it's in the ubuntu software centre and it's all gui. In other words, this is the easiest one :D Thanks :)
    – Rabbit
    Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 17:28
  • 1
    Amazing app. So fast!
    – yuranos
    Commented Mar 5, 2017 at 10:30
  • 2
    Don't forget to install antiword in order to search .doc files as well.
    – lenooh
    Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 23:31
  • Not in the software centre for 20.04.
    – Stefan
    Commented Mar 26, 2021 at 14:13
  • and you can use recolld from the terminal. also I needed to set in recoll settings gui search parameters and unclick dynamically build abstracts (which is the default) to get it to speed up to recolld's speed. it is expensive in time waiting for the results (or I found it so, as in minutes waiting)
    – pierrely
    Commented Jan 4, 2023 at 9:20

Install the package pdfgrep

sudo apt-get install pdfgrep

then use the command:

find /path -iname '*.pdf' -exec pdfgrep pattern {} +
  • Can we able to configure it with gnome search engine ?? Commented May 7, 2015 at 2:52
  • 1
    Thank you! This worked. If anyone is wondering, "pattern" is what you would replace with specific text. If the text has spaces in it, you can enclose it in double quotes. Commented May 8, 2017 at 7:19
  • 7
    If you know where your PDF files are, you can simplify the command to just pdfgrep -r "my expression" where -r searches recursively through directories.
    – LondonRob
    Commented Feb 9, 2018 at 13:08
  • 1
    Worked great for me (on ubuntu 20.04).
    – Stefan
    Commented Mar 26, 2021 at 14:13

Use DocFetcher, it is a native Linux application that indexes and searches through multiple document types.

  • 1
    Thanks! That works well, can't seem to execute it without using the terminal though. I'd vote you up but.. can't vote yet ;)
    – Rabbit
    Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 13:59
  • @Rabbit Um, I think you can also vote on answers to your question.
    – Alaa Ali
    Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 14:21
  • @AlaaAli No, the reputation limit applies to the OP also. Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 17:05
  • 1
    Yup, I couldn't. I can now though! :) I just needed 15
    – Rabbit
    Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 17:29

I understand that Adobe Reader is proprietary software, but it has well designed Search in Files functionality (accessible from Edit->Search menu or by pressing Ctrl+Shift+F).

Simple Search Options

The Simple search window is shown below:

Simple search in Adobe Reader

You need to set Where would you like to search? to All PDF Documents in and then select location from drop-down menu (Browse for Location).

You can enter search item to the What word or phrase would you like to search for? field and specify search options: Whole words only, Case-Sensitive, Include Bookmarks, Include Comments.

Advanced Search Options

Advanced search is more configurable - see image below:

Advanced Search

The search path is set in Look In.
Search item - in What word or phrase would you like to search for?.
Return results containing has options: Match Exact word or phrase, Match Any of the words, Match All of the words, Boolean query.

Other options include: Whole words only, Case-Sensetive, Proximity, Stemming, Include Bookmarks, Include Comments, Include Attachments.

Note: you can still install native Adobe Reader version 9.5.5 as described in other thread.


rga (or ripgrep-all) is a command line tool to recursively search all files in a directory for a regex pattern, that runs on Linux, macOS and Windows. It's a wrapper for ripgrep, the line-oriented recursive search program, on top of which it enables search in a multitude of file types like PDF, DOCX, ODT, EPUB, SQLite databases, movies subtitles embedded in MKV or MP4 files, archives like ZIP or GZ, and more.


There is a tool called PdfgrepGUI. You can get it at sourceforge: https://sourceforge.net/projects/pdfgrepgui/ It is only a GUI for the cli tool pdfgrep.

  1. first download "wine" software in your desktop
  2. In this win install seekfast as link given below
  3. http://seekfast.org/download-seekfast
  4. you can do your work
  5. its working ,if its not then plz comment me
  • 1
    Down-voted for suggesting wine (which means windows), when Linux solutions exist.
    – Sri
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 2:34
  • 1
    sorry bro but when I need it that times I use this that's why Give that suggestion. Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 4:43
  • Running windows application under ubuntu is generally not suggested. As linux is virtually virus free. I go with @Sri 's idea Commented May 7, 2015 at 2:50
  • Good to know about it Commented Jun 12, 2021 at 8:46

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