I've added text annotations to a pdf with Tools > Annotate > Text. I'd like to search the text for a specific word, like 'Todo'. Unfortunately, doing a cmd+F to search for this text doesn't work.

Is there a way to make text annotations searchable (by this I don't mean highlights and notes, which I know can be searched)?

I'm using the latest version of Preview (Version 8.1 (877.7)) on OS X El Capitan.

  • I wonder if Evernote Premium supports search through annotations in PDFs? I know for sure that they can search for text in PDFs and graphical files (JPG, PNG, etc) stored in Evernote providing you have Premium, which supports text recognition, but not sure about annotations there. Can't check myself - my premium has expired :) Jan 21, 2016 at 4:34
  • One year later now, this is still a 'bug'.
    – Jurgenfd
    Jan 24, 2017 at 9:44

4 Answers 4


You have found what I consider to be a bug in the spotlight importer for several types of documents that Preview can use. I tested making an annotation with a slightly nonsensical word that spotlight had zero matches for on my Mac. (at least until this text gets indexed as a safari history item)

I tested a PDF and a PNG file with text annotations and none of the importers put that text into spotlight. I have filed a bug with Apple on that, but I would do so as well yourself. If the person screening the bug thinks it's a bug, usually one well document report gets things on the list to be fixed. If Apple considers this a feature, normally many reports asking for the same thing will be needed to change the minds that think not indexing annotations is actually beneficial to the system design.

On the outside, we don't know and can only file reports to change the things we want changed.

Here are the terminal commands I used to verify the bug in case someone has a workaround or knows of a better spotlight importer for PDF/PNG that would index the annotations.

mac:Desktop me$ mdfind ZZqwijibo
mac:Desktop me$ strings annontation.pdf |grep qwijibo
(ZZqwijibo) /AAPL:AKExtras 95 0 R /DA (/Helvetica 59 Tf 0.987 0.129 0.146 rg)
(ZZqwijibo) /DA (/Helvetica 59 Tf 0.987 0.129 0.146 rg) /F 4 /Q 1 /Subtype

The text is plainly stored on the filesystem, but the PDF importer is skipping the annotation text altogether like you report.


You can search your annotations, but you won't be able to edit them anymore. To do this, you have to export your pdf file as a pdf (file > export as pdf). It's probably not the solution you were hoping for, but it's the only solution I know.

  • I don’t know why this answer was ignored. It certainly does the job, though, as you say, the annotations are no longer editable.
    – Manngo
    Apr 9, 2018 at 1:14

If the export as pdf option above doesn't work, you can also hit print --> click the drop down menu at the bottom of the popup --> save as PDF --> this new document will allow all markup text boxes to be searchable.


May be this helps: you can view all the text annotations in the inspector window. Not sure how to search through these for a keyword though.

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