Searching by Patterns and Masks

In addition to searching for one or more text strings, searching can be done using pre-defined patterns or custom patterns, also known as masks.

Click Search on the right of the Home ribbon, To search by pattern or mask, choose Search Multiple in the drop-down list and choose Looks Like Search (TM) Pattern for pre-defined patterns or Looks Like Search (TM) Custom Pattern for patterns you design yourself. See About Searching.

Click Search and Markup at Comments > Annotate for searching by custom patterns to be combined with mark-up so that found items are highlighted, crossed out or underlined – make this choice in the drop-down list.


Click Scan in the Home ribbon and choose Scan and Markup from its drop-down list to apply patterns when scanning. See Creating PDF Files from a Scanner.

Click Search and Redact in Power PDF Advanced, for searching by custom patterns to be combined with redacting so that found items are marked for redaction, as described in Searching and Redacting Text. Find this tool at Security > Redaction.



Pattern searches

Choose Looks Like Search (TM) Pattern in the relevant Search dialog box and choose a pattern. A static text gives the structure that will be searched, together with examples.

Social Security numbers

For the US the pattern is nine consecutive digits or these digits separated by punctuation characters: nnn-nn-nnnn. Patterns for several countries are offered; select an entry to see the pattern for the chosen country.

Phone numbers

Phone number patterns exist for many countries. They are flexible: with or without area and country codes; area codes in brackets are accepted.

Credit card numbers

These consist of 16 consecutive digits, or four groups of four digits separated by punctuation.

E-mail addresses

This pattern looks for the ampersand with characters before and after and typical domain names like com, net, org etc.


This pattern accepts a wide variety of date formats - different orders, with items as numbers or words, with varied punctuation.



Custom pattern (mask) searches

Use a mask if the pre-defined patterns to not meet your needs, for instance if telephone numbers in your documents follow a different pattern, or you want to search items with a fixed structure not covered by a supplied pattern, for example car license plates, flight numbers or document identifiers in your own filing system.


Choose Looks Like Search (TM) Custom Pattern in the relevant Search dialog box and type in a mask. Your mask defines the number of searched characters and whether they will be numbers, letters, punctuation or a mixture. A static text lists the acceptable characters in greater detail than this summary:


A = English alphabet letter only, upper or lower case (A-Z, a-z)

9 = Digit only (0-9)

O = Letter or digit

X = Letter, digit or punctuation (but not accented letters)




Be sure the mask is suitable, particularly if you are searching and redacting.