Create an Accessible PDF from a Scanner

If you are creating PDF documents from a scanner, you can apply Optical Character Recognition OCR in Adobe Acrobat during the scanning process.  Applying OCR during the scanning process will prevent you from having to go back into Adobe Acrobat and to apply OCR and to add tags.  To apply OCR, do the following: Connect your scanner to Acrobat, configure pre-set if needed, make sure you allow Acrobat to run OCR process, and perform scans.  PDFs will be searchable and you can repurpose these PDFs by exporting them to text files and other word processing formats.

Configure Scanner Presets

  1. Open Adobe Acrobat Professional.
  2. Go to the File menu; select Create PDF > From Scanner > Configure Presets...

    Selecting the Configure Presets option from the File menu in Adobe Acrobat.
  3. You can also go directly to the Create button on the toolbar, and select PDF from Scanner > Configure Presets...

    Selecting the Configure Presets from the Create button.
  4. The Configure Presets window displays (see screenshot below, at right).

    Configure Presets dialog box. Selecting the scanner, and Make searchable (Run OCR) checkbox.
  5. On the Configure Presets window, you will be able to set up a preferred preset to use when scanning each time.  After saving your preset, it will show up under the "PDF from scanner" menu.  You may have noticed there were already some presets created for Black and White document, Color document, and Grayscale document on the list.
  6. From the Scanner drop down menu, select the scanner device that you will be using.
  7. From the Presets drop down menu, select the name of the preset you want to create/change.  You can select between, Black and White Document, Grayscale Document, Color Document, and Color Image.  Depending on the type of document you will be scanning, you should select the preset document type, e.g. if you are scanning a document with text mostly black and white, you should select the preset for "Black & White Document."

    Selecting the Presets option from the Configure Presets dialog box.
  8. Under Input, chane the default options for Sides, Color Mode, Resolution, and Paper Size as needed.
  9. Select the Prompt for scanning more pages checkbox if you will be scanning more than one page at a time.  If this checkbox is checked, Adobe Acrobat will prompt you at the end of each scan if you want to scan another page.
  10. Under Text Recognition and Metadata, verify that the Make Searchable (Run OCR) checkbox is selected as shown below.  When this is selected, Adobe Acrobat will run the OCR process instead of scanning it as an image.
  11. Under Text Recognition and Metadata, verify that the Add Metadata checkbox is selected.  This ensures that any metadata information from the original file is carried over into the PDF file and makes your PDF easier to search if posted to an online environment.  If not metadata is already present in the file, Acrobat will prompt you with a window to enter Metadata information after the scan.

    Selecting the "Prompt for scanning more pages" checkbox, "Make serachable (Run OCR) checkbox and "Add Metadata" checkbox.

    Selecting settings in the Recognize Text- Settings dialog box.
  12. Under Text Recognition and Metadata, select the Options button.  The Recognize Text - Settings window displays.
  13. Select "English (US)" for the Primary OCR Language.
  14. Select "Searchable Image" for the PDF Output Style.  PDF Output Style is used to determine how Acrobat is going to treat the original scanned information from the print document.  The Searchable Image option will maintain the look and feel of the document intact, and when Acrobat runs the OCR, it's going to place the level of text behind the image thus allowing for a document with searchable text.

    Selecting the "Searchable Image" PDF Output Style on the Recognize Text - Settings box.Searchable Image (Exact) can be selected if you need to prove that the document is exactly as the paper version of the document (this is used mostly for legal type documents).  Searchable image is different from Searchable Image Exact in that it compresses the pixels of the image more and is smaller in size than Image Exact.  To obtain the smallest file size for the PDF select ClearScan.  When selecting the ClearScan option, Acrobat will delete any of the images that it can in favor of the text that it creates.
  15. Click the OK button.
  16. On the Configure Presets window, click the Save button to save your presets.
  17. Click the OK button.  This preset will now be available under the Create from Scanner menu with the specifications you indicated.

Scan the Document

  1. To start scanning using this new preset, click the Create button on the toolbar, and select PDF from Scanner > Name of Preset created.  In this example, we created a preset for a Black & White Document.
  2. The Acrobat Scan window will display.  Your preset scanning information should display in the window.  Click the Scan button to start scanning.
  3. The Save Scanned File As window appears (see screenshot below).  Select a location on your computer to save the file, enter a file name, be sure that the Save as type field displays "Adobe PDF files (*.pdf)" and click the Save button.

    Save Scanned File As prompt displays after setting presets.

    Scanning Progress bar displays after you select the scan button.
  4. After you save the document, the scanning process will begin and a Scanning window will indicate the scanning progress.
  5. When Adobe has finished Scanning the first page of your document, an Acrobat Scan window will ask you to select whether you need to Scan more pages (Put Sheet 2) or if you are done scanning, select Scanning complete.  If you have more than one page to scan, place the second page in the scanner and select Scan more pages option.  If you are done scanning, select Scanning Complete.  Click the OK button when you make your selection.

    The Acrobat Scan dialog box asks if you need to scan more than one page or are done scanning.
  6. Your scanned document will immediately appear on the screen after you are done scanning.  Acrobat should have applied the OCR.

    After scanning document, Adobe Acrobat displays scanned document.
  7. The document should be accessible for the most part at this point.  However, we recommend that you check the document for tags, document language, reading order, accessibility full check, and make any necessary corrections to identify images, text, tables, links, etc. in your document.


  • This training has been funded in part by the EnACT (Ensuring Access through Collaboration and Technology) grant. 
  • Written and developed by Sacramento State Online Learning professionals, Monica Range and Cryssel Vera and technical crew, Ivan Vajar, Ken Young, and Jennifer Wicks with guidance from the CSU Professional Development Work Group.


If you have difficulty accessing any material on this site or need an alternate format, or you just have questions and want to give feedback, contact the Accessible Technology Initiative.

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