How to search a PDF file over the web?

It is sometimes tricky to find a PDF document by the classic search way. Let’s see an overview of several methods that worth to be tried.

1. Dedicated PDF search engines

There are several search engines specialized in PDF search. That would be great in therory, however, our requests provided often low quality results.

Here a list of the most popular PDF search engines:

2. Documents hosting websites

3. Use search filters on classic search engines

Using matures web search engines that offers a file type filter is often a great solution. Indeed, if you add in your Google request the keyword filetype:pdf, the results are only containing PDF files.

You can see it in action for the main search engines:

4. Try in another language

Translate your search keywords in a different language can give surprising results, you must give a try ! Especially if you are looking for a foreign firm manual.

Here a demonstration on the keywords « branding guidelines » translated in few languages over Google search engine:

5. Bonus: 404 file not found?

If you find a file url, but the file isn’t there anymore, we recommend to search over the Internet Archives: Wayback machine. This great tool can sometimes allow you to find a document that has been moved or removed.


Finding precisely what you are looking for might be not easy, depends on the popularity of the documents. In addition to these methods, we did not mentionned the file exchange plateforms or others peer-to-peer methods, but those are more tricky, technically and from a legal point of view.

So we hope that sharing our tips can help you, and we are looking forward your feedback in comments, or helping us to get better and do more efficient searches, thanks for reading!

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