man pdfgrep




Search for PATTERN in each FILE. PATTERN is an extended regular expression.

pdfgrep works much like grep, with one distinction: It operates on pages and not on lines.


-i, --ignore-case

Ignore case distinctions in both the PATTERN and the input files.

-F, --fixed-strings

Interpret PATTERN as a list of fixed strings separated by newlines, any of which is to be matched.


Use a cache for the rendered text to speed up the operation on large files.

-P, --perl-regexp

Interpret PATTERN as a Perl compatible regular expression (PCRE). See pcresyntax(3) for a quick overview.

-H, --with-filename

Print the file name for each match. This is the default setting when there is more than one file to search.

-h, --no-filename

Suppress the prefixing of file name on output. This is the default setting when there is only one file to search.

-n, --page-number

Prefix each match with the number of the page where it was found.

-c, --count

Suppress normal output. Instead print the number of matches for each input file. Note that unlike grep, multiple matches on the same page will be counted individually.

-p, --page-count

Like -c, but prints the number of matches per page. Implies -n.

--color WHEN

Surround file names, page numbers and matched text with escape sequences to display them in color on the terminal. (The default setting is auto). WHEN can be:


Always use colors, even when stdout is not a terminal.


Do not use colors.


Use colors only when stdout is a terminal.

-o, --only-matching

Print only the matched part of a line without any surrounding context.

-r, --recursive

Recursively search all files (restricted by --include and --exclude) under each directory, following symlinks only if they are on the command line.

-R, --dereference-recursive

Same as -r, but follows all symlinks.

-A NUM, --after-context=NUM

Print NUM lines of context after matching lines. Contiguous groups of matches are separated by a line containing --. With -o, this option has no effect.

-B NUM, --before-context=NUM

Print NUM lines of context before matching lines. Contiguous groups of matches are separated by a line containing --. With -o, this option has no effect.

-C NUM, --context=NUM

Print NUM lines of context before and after matching lines. Contiguous groups of matches are separated by a line containing --. With -o, this option has no effect.


Skip files whose base name matches GLOB. See glob(7) for wildcards you can use. You can use this option multiple times to exclude more patterns. It takes precedence over --include. Note, that in- and excludes apply only to files found via --recursive and not to the argument list.


Only search files whose base name matches GLOB. See --exclude for details. The default is *.pdf.


Use PASSWORD to decrypt the PDF-files. Can be specified multiple times; all passwords will be tried on all PDFs. Note that this password will show up in your command history and the output of ps(1). So please do not use this if the security of PASSWORD is important.

-m, --max-count NUM

Stop reading a file after NUM matches. When the -c or --count option is also used, pdfgrep does not output a count greater than NUM.

-Z, --null

Output a null byte (called NUL in ASCII and '\0' in C) instead of the colon that usually separates a filename from the rest of the line. This option makes the output unambiguous in the presence of colons, spaces or newlines in the filename. It can be used in conjunction with commands such as xargs -0 or perl -0.

--match-prefix-separator SEP

Changes the colon used to separate filename, line number and text in the output to SEP, which can be an arbitrary string. This is useful when filenames contain colons, but only for interactive usage. For scripting, --null should be used.


Enable debug output. Note: Due to limitations of poppler before version 0.30.0, some debug output is also printed without --debug when using such a poppler version.


Print a warning to stderr if a PDF contains no searchable text. This is the case for PDFs that consist only of images, for example scanned documents.


Remove accents and ligatures from both the search pattern and the PDF documents. This is useful if you want to search for a word containing "ae", but the PDF uses the single character "æ" instead. See unac(3) and unaccent(1) for details.

This option is experimental and only available if pdfgrep is compiled with unac support.

-q, --quiet

Suppress all normal output to stdout. Exit immediately with exit status zero if a match is found, even in case of errors. Use this if you only care about the presence of matches, not their number or content.

Errors will be printed and the exit codes will be returned (see below).


Print a short summary of the options.

-V, --version Show version information.


Normally, the exit status is 0 if at least one match is found, 1 if no match is found and 2 if an error occurred. But if the --quiet or -q option is used and a match was found, pdfgrep will return 0 regardless of errors.


The behavior of pdfgrep is affected by the following environment variable.


Specifies the colors and other attributes used to highlight various parts of the output. The syntax and values are like GREP_COLORS of grep. See grep(1) for more details. Currently only the capabilities mt, ms, mc, fn, ln and se are used by pdfgrep, where mt, ms and mc have the same effect.



Cache files written and used when --cache is enabled. At most 200 cache entries older than a day are retained.


Print the first ten lines matching pattern and print their page number
pdfgrep -n --max-count 10 pattern foo.pdf
Search all .pdf files whose names begin with foo recursively in the current directory
pdfgrep -r --include "foo*.pdf" pattern
Search all .pdf files that are smaller than 12M recursively in the current directory
find . -name "*.pdf" -size -12M -print0 | xargs -0 pdfgrep pattern

Note that in contrast to the previous examples, this task could not be solved with pdfgrep alone, but the Unix tools find(1) and xargs(1) had to be used. That’s because pdfgrep itself doesn’t include options to exclude files by their size. But as you see, it doesn’t have to!


Reporting Bugs

Bugs can either be reportet to the mailing list ( or to the bugtracker on gitlab (


pdfgrep is maintained by Hans-Peter Deifel.

See the AUTHORS file in the source for a full list of contributors.


grep(1), pcre(3), regex(7)

See pdfgrep’s website for more information, downloads, git repository and more.