When I search for a term like "formation water", preview returns everything starting with formation and not the term "formation water". How can I search for a phrase in Preview?

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  • 1
    Without double quotes, the query formation water returns every page that contain both the words formation and water, regardless of how they are scattered around the page.
    – epimorphic
    Nov 9, 2014 at 0:49
  • 1
    I can't believe how broken this app is, and has been for years. One can't make a decent search, the shortcuts are broken, the interface is stupid,... Most things are wrong in a major way. Apple is going downhill in a horrendous way. Steve Jobs would be so ashamed of what the company has become. Shame on Apple leaders. And societies depend on such companies, which is a major (democratic) issue, just like with social medias.
    – plm
    Sep 6, 2023 at 16:03

2 Answers 2


Since early 2023:

Click the magnifying glass icon in the search input field, a drop-down opens, make sure "Exact Phrase" is ticked.

2104 - Up until early 2023:

Just like you would with a Google search, use the double quotes operator to tell Preview the result must be an exact match.

In your case, for example, typing "formation water" should yield the desired result.

  • 2
    Is there Apple documentation for this? Mar 29, 2022 at 4:53
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    This does not work for me. I put in "orthogonal matrix," which does exist, and it says No Results Found. To be clear, it says No Results Found for every input I use. What am I doing wrong? EDIT: The post below this solved the problem.
    – Mote Zart
    Jan 22, 2023 at 19:45
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    Ugh, I hate downvoting a (formerly) correct answer, but sometime in the past year or so Apple broke the " functionality, and Stéphane's answer is now correct. Apr 3, 2023 at 3:50
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    @KennSebesta - one way to avoid downvoting a (formerly) correct answer is editing/suggesting an edit. I just edited it myself.
    – zerohedge
    Apr 3, 2023 at 11:09
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    @zerohedge good thing I didn't downvote! :D Thanks for being around still to update your answer. I'm not in the habit of doing edits which go further than typos, more than that has always felt like putting words in someone else's mouth. P.S. you might link to Stéphane's answer so he can get some rep out of posting the >=2023 solution. Apr 3, 2023 at 18:16

cmd + f and double quotes search does not work anymore.

As described here Searching for an exact phrase in PDF with Preview one needs to click the magnifying glass icon and select "Exact Phrase", then search without double quotes. This doesn't work with cmd + f.

preview sentence search

  • 3
    This should be the accepted answer since the accepted one is incorrect.
    – Atcold
    Feb 27, 2023 at 17:49
  • IDK if the double quote thing worked in maybe an older version of Preview, but this is the only correct answer now. Thank you so much for making Preview actually useful to me. Mar 2, 2023 at 0:37
  • Thanks for the revised answer! I was puzzled why the double quotes wasn't working, since I was certain I'd successfully used it in the past! Weird that they would break the existing feature, rather than just adding that as an additional UI element for the same feature
    – Patronics
    Apr 18, 2023 at 0:37

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