What you are about to read is unknown by 90% of computer users, according to a 2011 Google survey . Consider the following story.
Two student interns sit side by side in an office. Both receive an email from their boss. Attached to the email are ten PDF documents containing hundreds of pages of business documents. The email reads, “Dear Interns, scan through these documents and write down every page number on which you find the name Dr. Jackson. Email me your findings asap.” One intern gasps, “This could take days!” The other intern says, “Not at all. Let me handle this.” In 10 minutes he has completed the task. What is his secret?
The secret to blazing through hundreds of pages of text lies in knowing about the simple search function built into every browser and PDF reader on the market (and most applications such as Microsoft Office). To access it, simply press the CTRL and F keys at the same time (CTRL+F) on a Windows computer. F stands for find. If you have a Mac, press Command+F (the key with the apple on it). This is known as a “hot key” or “key combination.”
Pressing CTRL+F opens up a small search field in the upper right or bottom left corner of your web browser. Type into this field any word or text combination. Hit enter. With blinding speed your computer tears through hundreds of pages of text and counts the number of times the word was found. The software displays a small arrow or “Next” or “Forward” link so you can jump down through the document to each of the places your “words” were found.
This works in PDF readers like Adobe Acrobat, all web browsers, and many other programs. If CTRL+F doesn’t work, you can hunt through the menu for a “Find” command. Look for icons shaped like binoculars. All these do the same thing. Below are some ways I use CTRL+F.
I have text and PDF versions of some Biblical studies books. I want to see if the writer uses a certain phrase or Bible reference. Rather than read for hours, I press CTRL+F. Within seconds I have all the places in the entire PDF book where the verse or phrase was used by the author.
Want to search a long boring PDF instruction manual for a certain phrase? CTRL+F will read it for you in seconds and find any phrase you tell it to!
Recently my wife and I zipped through an entire year’s worth of phone bills to locate every time a certain person called her. These were 12 PDF bills from our cell phone provider’s web page. In the past this would have required printing all the bills out, and spending an hour scanning each month’s bill with a highlighter in hand. There is always the worry your eyes missed something. Instead, we finished the job in 10 minutes using CTRL+F. Instantaneously we knew if a particular phone number was found in a document, as well as how many times it occurred. Clicking the search results took us immediately to the spot in the document where the phone number was.
When using CTRL+F it is important not to make any spelling mistakes! Your computer will search for the misspelled word instead of the correct word. It is important to realize that CTRL+F can’t read words that are in graphics or photographs; it only works with text. If you can hold your mouse button down and drag it over the text (causing your computer to highlight words in blue or some other color) then it is text that can be searched with CTRL+F.
While the information age has burdened us with thousands of documents to manage, other inventions of the information age can make managing that information a snap. Now, go forth and CTRL+F.