The PDF is the go to file format for exchanging business data. PDFs can quite easily be viewed, downloaded, shared, emailed or printed. But editing or extracting data from PDF files can be extremely tricky– especially when extracting data from PDFs to Excel spreadsheets!
So, why extract data from PDF to Excel?
Detailed business data is often shared as large tables in PDF files. And unlike PDFs, Excel spreadsheets are more convenient to view, edit and manipulate tabular data.
Also, data shared in tabular file formats such as Excel spreadsheets or csv files can be easily integrated into other software or databases. This makes it easier to analyse data and create insightful reports.
In this article you will learn how to extract data from PDF to Excel.
We will look at the top 5 methods to extract PDF data to Excel, starting from the most basic to the most advanced (read automated).
Here are the 5 different ways to pull data from PDF to Excel:
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Copy from PDF and paste into Excel
If you only have a small number of PDF documents with simple tabular data, then you can copy data from PDF files and paste into Excel files manually.
- Open each PDF file
- Selection all the tabular data or just the data in specific tables
- Copy the selected tabular data
- Paste the copied data in a Excel (XLSX) file
If the selected table doesn’t get copied neatly, try pasting the data in a Word document first. Then copy that data from the Word document to the Excel spreadsheet.
If that doesn’t help either, then try the “Paste Special” option in Excel.
This approach just won’t work for complex tables. You will have to spend a lot of time “cleaning up” the data into their appropriate rows and columns.
Online PDF to Excel converters
Online PDF to Excel converters offer a robust alternative that can handle PDFs with complex table data.
These online converters are available as free software, web-based online solutions and even mobile apps. They can convert entire PDFs into an Excel file within seconds. Just upload a file, click convert, and download the converted Excel output.
Here are a few popular PDF to Excel converters:
Online PDF to Excel converters can’t handle document at scale. Most online converters don’t support batch processing and online work on native PDF files. And extracting specific PDF data to Excel is just not possible!
Export PDF data to Excel using Adobe Acrobat
Adobe Acrobat, as the creator of the PDF format, supports superior file conversion capabilities.
Using features available on Adobe Acrobat, users can directly export PDF files to editable Excel documents:
- Open a PDF file in Acrobat.
- Click on the “Export PDF” tool in the right pane.
- Choose “spreadsheet” as your export format, and then select “Microsoft Excel Workbook.”
- Click “Export.” If your PDF documents contain scanned text, Acrobat will run text recognition automatically.
- Save the converted file – Name your new Excel file and click the “Save” button.
Batch processing of PDF files isn’t readily supported – so this approach isn’t easily scalable. And this method doesn’t support selective or specific data extraction – it exports all data in the PDF!
Import PDF data into Excel
If the approach above doesn’t yield great results, you can simply try importing the PDF file directly into Excel.
- Open an Excel sheet
- Data tab > Get Data drop-down > From File > From PDF
- Select your PDF file & click Import.
- You’ll now see a Navigator pane displaying the tables & pages in your PDF along with a preview.
- Select a table & click Load. The table you selected will now be imported on to your Excel sheet.
Extracting data from PDF and importing to Excel might work pretty well with simple tabular data. But complex tables or multi-page tables usually throw up formatting errors!
Most of the methods covered above attempt to extract all the data within PDF documents into Excel.
But what if you just wanted to extract specific data from PDF to Excel? For example, just one specific table on page 3 of a multi-page PDF document?
PDF to table extraction tools can extract specific PDF data and convert into Excel.
PDF table extraction tools such as Tabula & Excalibur allow you to select specific tabular data within a PDF by drawing bounding boxes around it and then extracting that data into an Excel file (XLS or XLSX) or CSV.
While PDF table extraction tools give reasonably efficient results, they require considerable development effort to and support. Additionally these tools only work with native PDF files and not scanned documents (which are more commonly used)!
Automated document data extraction software like Nanonets provide the most holistic solution to the problem of extracting data from PDFs into Excel.
Such automated solutions extract PDF data into Excel accurately – even at scale. They leverage a combination of AI, ML/DL, OCR, RPA and intelligent character recognition.
Thus, Nanonets can handle:
- complex tabular data and convert it into Excel neatly – no data clean up required
- batch conversion of PDf data into Excel – easily scalable
- native PDFs as well as scans, images and multi-page documents
- AI-based specific PDF data extraction to Excel – and not just a blind data dump
Automated PDF data extraction tools, like Nanonets, provide pre-trained extractors that can handle specific types of documents.
Here’s a quick demo of Nanonets’ pre-trained table extractor: