Section C : Background - Rapid searching of numerous PDFs
A large volume of digitised UFO material becomes unmanageable without tools to help search and analyse that material.
Some of the potential search/analytical tools are hard to master (not to mention expensive…), so are outside the scope of this thread about my
recent transcript project.
However, one the simplest (and free!) such tools can search numerous PDFs in a single search. I use this software to search some or all of a directory
containing scans of most of the UFO books that have been published, hundreds of thousands of pages of official UFO documents from around the world,
thousands of UFO magazines, millions of pages of transcripts of UFO podcasts, numerous UFO newspaper clipping collections, various large UFO
databases, case files of various UFO groups/researchers etc).
Basically, I think this simple and free tool (which I’ve mentioned a few times over the last decade or so) has the potential to significantly
improve the quality of UFO research without worrying about any of the fancier search/analytical tools. I’d, once again, like to encourage more
researchers to try it out.
The relevant tool is the free version of PDF-XChange Editor (which does not require a licence) can be downloaded from the link below (free).
PDF Xchange Editor
There are “Plus” (and licenced) versions of the software available on the same website, but the free version without a licence includes the
relevant search functions (and “more than 60% of the features” in the paid-for version). I’ve been using the features available in the free
version very happily for about a decade without any problems.
I know that Adobe Reader (and other pieces of PDF software) allow searching multiple PDF files – but the speed of this PDF-XChange Editor’s search
function made the Adobe Reader’s equivalent search look incredibly
slow when I compared the two pieces of software a few years ago.
PDF-XChange Editor can be used to search an entire directory full of PDF documents (or, indeed, containing sub-directories full of different
collections of PDF documents). For example, I have a directory entitled “Journals” which contains sub-directories for journals published by
NICAP, MUFON, APRO and about 450 other sets of magazines/newsletters in English. I can search one of the sub-directories relating to a specific
newsletter or search all of the newsletters using one simple (and amazingly fast) search in PDF-XChange Editor.
The same searches can now be done off-line on a downloaded copy of the UFO transcript detailed in this thread.
After installing the free version of “PDF-XChange Editor” (see the link above), when you run the program you simply:
(1) Click on the search button (i.e. the image of the binoculars);
(2) Type in the word you want to search for (and – if you want - select any options, e.g. making the search term case sensitive);
(3) Click on the drop down box and select “browse” at the bottom. You can then select the directory of journals/transcripts you want to search
(e.g. your “Fade to Black” transcript directory or a directory containing ALL the UFO tran.journals you have downloaded)
The relevant (fairly simple) steps are indicated by the numbers in the screenshot below:
Very quickly, a search for, say, “pilots”, generates a list of results such as the one below:
Crucially, you can very quickly click on the various results in turn and they are displayed (with the relevant keyword highlighted) in a separate
window next to the list of results.
An example is shown below.
PDF-Xchange Viewer does not create any index - it needs to run through each specified file/folder each time a search is performed. This means it is
quicker to set up than indexing tools, but searches obviously take longer than running a query indexing software.
The search results in PDF-XChange Viewer indicate how many times the relevant keyword or phrase appears in any particular document (with a helpful
snippet of surrounding words, which often allows you to eliminate many of the results) and allows you to click on each one in turn very quickly, with
the relevant page being displayed almost instantly.
Trying to review the results of a search on most indexing software is, relatively speaking, a pain in the backside. There is often a preview window
which displays the first relevant occurrence of a keyword/phrase within a document when you highlight that document's filename, but I've found that
opening each search result found by indexing software can be much slower than opening search results found by PDF-Xchange Viewer – as I mentioned in
a post back in 2012:
I find PDF-Xchange Viewer much more useful on a day-to-day basis than most indexing tools, since the indexing tools can tell you quickly that a
certain document or set of documents contains a keyword but doesn’t let view the search terms in its full context as rapidly as PDF-Xchange Viewer.
I’d rather wait a bit longer for the results (which can be generated while I’m sleeping, watching a movie or going for a walk with my family) and
then zip through the results, rather than getting results immediately but having to spend much longer reviewing the results to find any useful