PDF Scraping: A Guide to Extracting Unstructured Data from PDFs

By |2022-11-25T11:00:01+00:00November 7th, 2020|

PDFs are considered the perfect digital alternative for paper-based documents because ofw their excellent compatibility across devices and operating systems. They are widely used for exchanging digital business documents, such as invoices and contracts. The critical advantage of PDFs is that they are portable, platform-independent, and human-readable. However, this format is unstructured, making it difficult to access the information for data analysis. Unlike other documents, such as Excel spreadsheets, PDFs do not have a standard format. Therefore, it is challenging to how to extract data from pdf and understand the data within them. Using PDF extraction, PDF parsing software, or PDF scraping software to extract data from pdf to database is more of a necessity for organizations that deal with many source PDFs and do not want to deal with manual pdf data extraction to excel.

How Businesses use PDF Files?

PDF files are widely used by enterprises because of their versatility and ease of use. They offer ease in easy viewing, printing, and navigating.

Some of the benefits of using PDF files for business include:

  • Fixed Document Format: PDF format files leave the document unchanged despite the type of device, computer, and operating system used.
  • The Universality of Format: It is easy to share PDF files across multiple operating systems without altering their content. It helps ensure the accuracy of the documents shared. Moreover, PDF files are accepted worldwide, which offers the added advantage of universality.
  • Document Security: When working with sensitive data, like credit card information, it is essential to ensure data security. However, user-password-protected PDF files can avoid unauthorized access. It also detects if the document has been edited or opened by unauthorized persons, ensuring security.

pdf extraction


What is PDF Scraping, and Why is it Important for Business?

The problem with PDF report data extraction is that it takes dozens of human hours to retrieve unstructured data manually. PDF data scraping tools simplify this process of pdf data extraction as they extract data from PDF and reports in bulk without any manual effort. Many pdf extractions or data extraction tools are available that can read printed PDF reports using OCR and extract data from pdf to database or excel sheets.

PDF scraping is highly valuable in the healthcare, financial, and automotive sectors. They have large sets of printed datasheets that need to be analyzed, making pdf extraction crucial. Without PDF parsing tools, digitizing this enormous amount of data can take days and directly impact the organization’s bottom line. Hence software to extract data from pdf to excel has become essential in this day and age.

Challenges of PDF Data Scraping

Massive amounts of business data is stored in business documents. However, pdf data extraction to excel for analysis and reporting is a significant challenge for organizations.

For example, most organizations struggle to extract data from PDF to excel. Therefore, businesses’ most common approach is to manually re-key the data in the destination system. However, manual data entry is tedious, costly, and error-prone. Additionally, this approach is inefficient as most businesses process hundreds of PDF files each day. Re-entering the data will require you to have a team that continually works on this day in and day out.

The alternate approach is to code and develop in-house software to extract PDF documents. This is a comparatively better approach, but it comes with its own set of challenges. PDF data extraction to excel is a complex process. It involves many challenges, including capturing data from scanned documents, catering to the countless different formats, and transforming the data into a structure compatible with your storage system.

PDF scraping

PDF Extraction Template in ReportMiner

Automating Unstructured Data Extraction from PDFs

In contrast to manually entering information or building your tool from scratch, our recommended approach is to adopt an enterprise-grade PDF extraction tool for automating the process of screen scraping PDFs.

Astera ReportMiner is an automated data extraction software that extracts data from pdf to excel files or to a database with built-in cleansing and scheduling feature. The tool can also automate the pdf extraction process for files with the same layout and load them into a database or an Excel f le. The visual UI of ReportMiner simplifies PDF extraction while reducing manual effort and speeding up the process of  how to extract data from pdf to excel.

Convert PDF Files to Structured Data

The three most common types of PDF documents that can be structured or scraped using ReportMiner are:

  • Text-Based PDFs: Using ReportMiner, you can extract data from a PDF by creating your data extraction templates based on fields and data regions. This is useful when scraping information from PDF tables, such as an invoice.
  • Form-Based PDFs: Businesses often capture information using PDF forms, such as customer satisfaction surveys. These PDFs contain fields and tables that make information extraction challenging. With ReportMiner, you can create report models and extract tables and fields from PDFs. These models can be reused and replicated for forms with a similar layout.
  • Scanned (Image-Based) PDFs: Scanned PDF documents usually contain information in all shapes and sizes. To scrape text from scanned PDFs, ReportMiner offers you OCR functionality that can help you convert images into text formats. Once the image-based PDF is converted to text, you can scrape the text from it similar to text-based PDFs (using extraction templates).

Extracting unstructured data from PDF documents can be a challenging and complex task, especially if you decide to build an in-house solution. Fortunately, several open-source and proprietary PDF scraper tools are available in the market, like ReportMiner, that simplify this process.

How Does the ReportMiner Data Extraction Tool Help?

Astera ReportMiner, a data extraction platform, is one of the best software for PDF extraction, and PDF data scrap ng. It provides a complete range of features from PDF data extraction to transformation and loading. The data extraction tool helps users easily extract data from PDF files by creating an extraction layout and exporting to the destination of their choice, simply by automatically recognizing data patterns.

Furthermore, ReportMiner also offers a preview feature to help users ensure that all relevant data has been extracted. Once the layout is complete, the users can choose to export the extracted PDF file to Excel, CSV, or any desired database.

Download the trial version if you want to explore ReportMiner and experience how it works.

Download a free 14-day trial and find out how to build source-to-destination data mappings without writing a single line of code with Astera Centerprise.

Extract data with a single click using AI
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