Use Bluebeam OCR to make scanned text selectable and searchable

This post is part of a tutorial on how to turn scanned papers into navigable PDF documents.

After you've scanned your paper documents into PDF, you will want to make the text selectable searchable. The good news is you can do this with the click of a button using Bluebeam Revu's OCR (optical character recognition) feature. OCR essentially scans the pixels on your PDF document to identify any text you have on there. You can run OCR on individual PDFs, or on an entire folder of PDFs at once through the Batch menu. There was a significant improvement to OCR with the release of Revu 12, so it runs faster and more accurately than ever.

Before we get started, keep in mind that you will need Revu eXtreme to use this feature. You can see a detailed feature comparison of the Revu versions here.

Another important thing to note is that while OCR is very good at identifying most fonts, it may have problems with some unusual or artsy types (ex: cursive script, old english fonts, etc). If your scanned PDFs are very low resolution and really grainy, that can reduce its accuracy as well. You may not always have control over what paper documents you get to work with, but whenever possible try to stick to common fonts and scan at a moderate resolution.

With those disclaimers out of the way, let's begin:

1. To run OCR on a single PDF, first open it up. Go to the Document menu, where you will see the OCR button. Click on that.

2. You will then be taken to a window where you can adjust the OCR settings to your liking, such as running OCR on a specific page range or the entire document. A handy setting to take note of is the Max Vector Size setting. This will make Revu automatically disregard anything over that size whenever running OCR, which will make running OCR on drawings go much faster. 

3. If you would like to run OCR on an entire folder of PDFs, you can run it as a batch process. Go to the File menu, click the Batch icon and the first option will be OCR. 

4. After selecting batch OCR, you will be taken to the next window where you can select your desired files. You can simply Add Open Files, or click Add to select other groups of files or entire folders of files to the batch OCR process. You can also adjust settings to run OCR on specific page ranges, odd/even pages, or only ones of a certain orientation (landscape or portrait).

5. After running standard or batch OCR, all of that scanned text is selectable and searchable, making it far more useful for us. If you would like to search a PDF for a word or phrase, you can jump quickly to the Search tab by using the Tab Access menu. The Tab Access menu is accessible by clicking on the orange down arrow found in the top left corner of Revu's interface. This is also a great way to quickly access any other tab you may need.

6. In the Search tab, input your desired text into the search field and click Search. Your results will be displayed at the bottom, and you can select them either one at a time or many at once.

4. Once again, you can do this with an entire folder of PDFs if you'd like. The process is going to be the same, except this time make sure you change the Search In field to Folder, instead of Current Document. After selecting Folder, you will be prompted to select the desired folder to run your search. 

In addition to simply finding instances of a certain phrase, you can also apply various settings to one, many, or all of the found instances. Examples would be hyperlinking every instance, highlighting them, or redacting all of them (such as removing social security numbers).


How to Reduce PDF File Size

This post is part of a tutorial on how to turn scanned papers into navigable PDF documents.

One of the many features improved in Bluebeam Revu 12 was the "Reduce File Size" feature, which does pretty much exactly what it sounds like. For anyone who works with PDFs, this feature is tremendously helpful in keeping your PDFs small in size and quick to render.

If you are working with scanned PDFs, embedding images, working with lots of layers, or all of the above, you may have noticed that your PDF files can become large rather quickly. Nearly everyone that works in an office has had the unpleasant experience of being sent or trying to send a massive PDF file; it takes forever to download, and almost as long to open it. Don't be that guy!

Thankfully, every version of Revu has the Reduce File Size feature. Let's see how to use it:

1. First, go to the Document menu and click the Process icon in the toolbar. The first option in the drop-down is Reduce File Size.

2. If you are using Revu 12, you will see this simple slider interface allowing you to scale compression and file quality retention. For those users on older versions, you will instead be taken directly to a menu where you can manually tweak individual settings. If you are a Revu 12 user and want to manually adjust these settings, click on the Edit button.

3. In the Edit menu you will be able to manually adjust all of the various compression settings and see how this will affect your output file. Once you've set everything the way you'd like, click OK and Revu will start the file compression process.

Voila! That bloated PDF is now lean, mean and ready for bikini season (or emailing to grateful coworkers). This feature is an absolute lifesaver for folks struggling with large file sizes.


Tutorial Series: How to turn scanned PDFs into organized and navigable document sets

In this tutorial series, we will show you how to use Bluebeam Revu to turn scanned PDFs into lean, organized, and easily navigable document sets.

There are many reasons that companies choose to go paperless; cost savings is certainly a big one, as is not having to store and manage a large quantity of bulky paper documents. Another big factor is being able to easily edit and navigate these document sets. What good are all those stored records if it's impossible to find what you need, after all?

The first step that most people will take is to scan all of those old paper documents into PDF. This is an improvement over paper, but it does not address the issue of organizing those documents and making them easily navigable. Also, depending on sheet size and resolution they can end up with large files that take up lots of space and are cumbersome to share.

Following the steps below, you will find step-by-step instructions to guide you down the path towards being paperless. Let's get started!

Part 1: Use the Reduce File Size feature to compress scanned PDFs into leaner, smaller PDF files. It is best to do this early in the process because all of the other steps will benefit.

Part 2: Run OCR (optical character recognition) on your scanned PDFs. This will make your scanned text selectable and searchable.

Part 3: Organize your PDFs into manageable document sets by splitting or combining pages. You can also easily drag, copy, and paste pages in the Thumbnails tab.

Part 4: Set up hyperlinks to make your PDFs user-friendly and easily navigable. You can hyperlink to various pages within a document or to completely separate PDF files. You can set up your hyperlinks individually, or create lots of them automatically via the new Batch Link feature in Revu 12.

    Enjoy! You have successfully turned a stack of papers into an electronic document set that is easily navigable, searchable, and shareable. Your coworkers, the environment, and your sanity thank you.


    Bluebeam PDF vs. Adobe PDF: Is there a difference?

    How is a Bluebeam PDF different than an Adobe PDF? If I create a PDF with Bluebeam and send it to someone who doesn't have it, will they still be able to open and view it correctly? These are questions that anyone considering a move to Bluebeam Revu will be pondering. Naturally, there are concerns about compatibility when running in a mixed environment, or working with people who are running other types of software.

    The short answer is that a Bluebeam PDF is the same as an Adobe PDF, there is no difference. This is because as of 2008, PDFs are an "ISO Standard" file format, meaning that it doesn't matter which software you use to create or view a PDF, it's going to look the same. If I create a PDF in Bluebeam and email it to an Adobe user, they will be able to open and view it exactly as I did in Bluebeam. So if all PDF files are the same, why should you use Bluebeam instead of the many other PDF software vendors out there?

    The key thing to keep in mind is not creating PDFs, it's how you are able to use it once you have it. Especially for AEC and technical users, Bluebeam is going to have far more features and functionality designed for your specific workflows; tool sets and visual search are prime examples.

    For more information, check out our breakdown of the top 10 reasons you should use Bluebeam Revu instead of Adobe Acrobat.

    How to Run Bluebeam Revu for Windows on a Mac

    Bluebeam has now released their Revu Mac version, but the good news is you can still use Revu for Windows on your Mac computer. In order to do so, you will need to install Windows onto your computer. Keep in mind that with the release of Bluebeam Revu 12, Windows XP and Vista are no longer supported; you will need to install either Windows 7 or 8.


    Nowadays, running Windows on your Mac is a relatively simple affair. You have several options here:

    1. Virtualization software, which allows you to run Windows within your Mac OS. Some great options:
      1. VMware Fusion allows you to run Windows applications just as if they were native Mac programs. The Windows OS essentially runs in the background, and you can use those Windows applications in the Mac interface you know and love. There is no need to reboot in order to swap from Mac OS to Windows.
      2. Parallels is another great option which does not require reboots to swap between Mac OS and Windows. 
    2. Boot Camp is included with most Macs, and offers a free option to install Windows onto a separate hard drive partition. Whenever you boot up your Mac, you will have the option to boot into the Mac OS, or into Windows.
    • The main benefit of this option is that it's free, but the big downside is the inconvenience of having to reboot any time you want to switch between operating systems. You are probably better off spending the money on one of the above options for a better user experience.


    By installing Windows on your Mac, you can essentially have your cake and eat it too. Also, you will be set up to run any other Windows based applications that you use for your everyday work.

    How to Search PDFs in Bluebeam Revu

    If you're looking for a faster way to count elements in a drawing, then Bluebeam Revu's VisualSearch™ feature is your "Ctrl-F" for images.  The Construction Estimator stands to gain numerous benefits from automating the tedious process of manually counting electrical boxes, plumbing fixtures, etc.  Not only can this tool save you time, but it can also potentially reduce costly mistakes when those same elements are overlooked when drafting an estimate.  Following up on a change order?  A quick visual search can verify that an updated item has been applied throughout a set of documents.

    In addition to simply identifying all instances of a drawing element, the search results can be highlighted, hyperlinked, or a complete count dropped into a Markups List for easy export to a .csv file.  Best of all, VisualSearch can find objects regardless of variations in color, size, orientation, and even overlooks intersecting lines.


    How to use VisualSearch:

    1. In the Search tab, choose the Visual option, then click Get Rectangle.


    2. Click and drag the cursor over the object you would like to search for.  The box next to the Get Rectangle button will display a preview.  The Search In drop down menu allows you to choose a search location other than the current document.  The Options below allow for further search customization.


    3. Click Search.  The results will display in the lower half of the tab. You can select search results individually (or use the check all/none icons) then apply actions like Highlight, Markup, or Hyperlink.

    How to Create Bluebeam Tool Sets

    One of our favorite features in Bluebeam Revu is the Tool Chest. It allows you to save your custom markups for future use, so you don't need to waste time recreating your commonly used tools for marking up PDF documents. Here's how to create custom tool sets in Bluebeam Revu:

    • Open the Tool Chest and click the blue gear icon at the top labeled "Manage Tool Sets".
    • Click "Add" in the dialog box that pops up.
    • Type in the name of your tool set in the "Title" field and click OK.

    • You will now have a blank tool set with your specified title. Now we need to add tools!
    • There are two ways to add tools to your newly created tool set:
      • Click and drag markup tools into your tool set from your recent tools, or other tool sets
      • Right click a markup>Add to Tool Chest>Select your tool set

    • You will now have a custom tool set with all of your pre-made tools, ready to go! No more wasting time recreating your markups.

    • Pro Tip: Bluebeam Revu also comes with a format painter that you can use to apply custom formats to all the tools in your tool set.  Standardize colors, shading, fonts, and line styles with just a few clicks!

    Last but not least, make sure to check out Bluebeam's free tool sets.  These include additional punch symbols, ASME, HVAC, electrical, proofreading symbols, and more.

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