Viewing a pdf with Preview, I do cmdF to bring up a search box and then enter a word and hit enter.

Basically nothing happens even if it's a word that's obviously present. Sometimes if I smash my hands all over the keyboard and spin around in my chair three times the search suddenly starts working again, but I haven't figured out how to do that trick reliably.

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    I have the same issue. Seems like the recent Sierra update messed up the Preview.app. It is all over the place. – Robert Apr 24 '17 at 18:25
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    +1 same problem here with 10.12.5 no mention of any fixes in 10.12.6 which is a pending update I have for installing: support.apple.com/en-gb/HT201222 As an alternative try get.adobe.com/uk/reader – therobyouknow Aug 14 '17 at 15:59
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    The problem remains under macOS 10.13.1. If anything, it seems to have gotten worse over time. – Casimir Dec 4 '17 at 13:54
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    I'll chime in with macOS 10.13.2. I upgraded from Mavericks to High Sierra and noticed this issue pretty quickly. +1. – Peter Dec 12 '17 at 19:10
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    I've encountered this issue sporadically for years, probably on the cats releases. It still occurs on Mojave evidently, and is extremely frustrating. – Paul Carey Oct 3 '18 at 23:53

I selected the "Table of Contents" in "View Menu" and searched again. It is working. Check the screenshot:

enter image description here

Anyway, make sure that your PDF contains texts and not the image of some texts.

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    just saw this after upgrading to Mojave, not sure if it changed the app or reset my defaults, but this fixed it. – naven87 Sep 26 '18 at 5:26
  • Didn't work for me. – johnk Nov 14 '18 at 9:43
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    Worked for me on Mojave. Weird. – Elliott Mar 18 '19 at 23:06
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    It works if I select "Thumbnails" instead of "Table of Contents"... – ashen Mar 20 '19 at 12:01
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    "Thumbnails" also worked for me. Good grief Apple. – natersoz May 16 '19 at 19:01

"BTW, in order to get search working again, you have to close the window (command + w) and reopen on the pdf. Closing Preview all together (command + q) and reopening the pdf doesn't work. This is indeed bizarre." https://discussions.apple.com/message/33927812#33927812

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  • This was the only thing that worked. Cmd-W and then open th file again from 'recents'. Good grief Apple. Fix your pdf reading. – user30994 Jan 5 at 9:02
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    I'm running Catalina and this won't fix it for me. – user3574603 Feb 6 at 10:48
  • I really did not expect it, but ⌘+W instead of ⌘+Q, then reopening the file did indeed fix the PDF search (Mojave, 10.14.16) -- takes it from finding nothing with all search strings to finding what you search for. I thought search was broken entirely, but instead there's just this unfortunate bug. In Apple's parlance: not a crasher, but is a regression. There's a chance that it'll be fixed if an appropriate radar is filed. – ajmicek Feb 18 at 14:32

I've selected File->Export as PDF - reopened saved file and the Search worked. Looks like some encoding issue.

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  • Thank you. This works consistently. – natersoz Jan 22 at 2:24
  • This works. Thank you! – TheEconomist May 31 at 7:12

I experienced this issue as well. For me at least, the problem was that I got stuck searching the annotations or table of contents, and so generally didn't find what I was looking for there. I was able to resolve this by clicking on the x box in the search panel to exit out of the old search and go back to searching through the whole document.

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