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PDF Scraping: A Guide to Extracting Unstructured Data from PDFs

May 28th, 2024

PDFs have quickly become the go-to format for sharing and distributing documents across various platforms since they provide a consistent viewing experience. They have revolutionized document storage and archiving with their ability to compress large files without compromising quality. Regardless of the device or operating system, PDFs preserve the documents’ original layout and formatting. They also offer robust security features, such as password encryption and digital signatures, ensuring confidentiality and integrity of sensitive information..

While PDFs are designed to be human-readable, their structure often makes it challenging to extract data directly. One way to extract data from PDFs is through PDF scraping. PDF scrapers or PDF data extractors significantly accelerate data extraction process, without any manual effort.

What is PDF Scraping?

Manually extracted unstructured data from PDFs is highly time-consuming and often error-prone, which is why PDF scraping has become a valuable technique for automating data extraction across industries. It allows businesses to efficiently analyze large volumes of data, extract valuable insights, and automate workflows. Whether it’s extracting financial data from annual reports or gathering information from research papers, PDF scraping is a powerful solution for transforming unstructured PDF content into meaningful information.

PDF Scraping Use Cases

PDF scraping is highly valuable in the healthcare, financial, and automotive sectors. These sectors have large printed datasheets that need analysis, making PDF extraction crucial. Without these automated PDF scraper, digitizing an enormous amount of data can take days and directly impact the organization’s bottom line. Here are some of the most common use cases

Insurance Claims Processing

The insurance industry receives many forms when customers want to claim their insurance. These forms are often PDFs, and they contain important information such as the customer’s name, address, claim amount, policy type, and policy number. Processing claims quickly is important for insurance firms to ensure customer satisfaction and maximize efficiency.

Manually copying this information into, say, an Excel sheet is not a good option. It becomes more inefficient when there are hundreds of claim forms. Manual copying can also cause inaccuracies, leading to insurers under/overpaying.

PDF scrapers can help insurance firms automate the whole process.

Purchase Order Processing

Telecom firms receive purchase orders for services like cable and mobile packages in PDFs. These orders contain data such as the name of the customer, the service they want, the price of each service, the date of billing, etc.

They also need to process these POs quickly to ensure high customer satisfaction. Delays in fulfilling service requests can cause customers to switch to a competitor. Using PDF scraping software, telcos can fully automate PO processing. This will allow them to cut the time to parse a PDF from hours to seconds.

Invoice Data Extraction

Businesses regularly receive large amounts of invoices daily. These invoices are usually in the form of PDFs, scanned images or sometimes even hand-written documents, which means that extracting data is no easy task. Invoice data capture is important as it  allows businesses to gain insights into spending patterns, identify cost-saving opportunities, and perform accurate and detailed financial reporting. Moreover, businesses can integrate this data into accounting systems or used for advanced analytics.

Data extraction testimonial

Common PDF Scraping Challenges

Enterprises store massive amounts of data in PDF documents, which makes data analysis and reporting challenging. 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. This approach is inefficient as most businesses process hundreds of PDF files daily. Re-entering the data will requires a large team that continually works on this day in and day out.

The alternate approach is to code and develop in-house software. While this may work, it comes with its own challenges. For e.g., capturing data from scanned PDF documents, catering to the countless formats, and transforming the data into a structure compatible with your storage system.

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 scraper for automating the process. According to research, an organization that leverages automation can save up to $46000 on average. So, it only makes sense to invest in automated PDF scraping tools that can provide businesses a competitive edge, instead of relying on manual processes.

How Does a PDF Scraper Work?

A PDF scraper can effectively navigate the complexities of PDF documents, extract relevant data, and convert it into usable formats for analysis, reporting, or integration with other systems. The accuracy and efficiency of a PDF scraper depends on the capabilities of the OCR engine, parsing algorithms, and its ability to handle various PDF document structures and layouts. Here is how a PDF data extractor works.

  1. Parsing and Structure Analysis: A PDF scraper first parses the PDF file and analyzes its structure to identify various elements within the document. Parsing involves examining the layout, font styles, tables, headings, and other structural components to understand the organization and arrangement of the content.
  2. Text Extraction: The tool then employs OCR technology to convert scanned or image-based PDFs into machine-readable text. OCR algorithms do this by analyzing the visual data in the PDF and recognizing the characters, converting them into editable and searchable text.
  3. Data Extraction and Pattern Recognition: Once the data is converted into a machine-readable format, the PDF scraper applies pattern recognition algorithms to identify specific data points within the text such as keywords, patterns, or predefined structures within the document. For example, the scraper may look for invoice numbers, dates, customer names, or product details based on predetermined rules or regular expressions.
  4. Output and Formatting: The PDF scraper then organizes the extracted data into relevant fields and structured format, such as a spreadsheet, database, or JSON/XML for further analysis.

Benefits of using an Automated PDF Scraper

ReportMiner testimonial

Automation streamlines data management, leading to quicker decision making. Here are some key advantages of adding an automated PDF scraper to the organization’s technology stack:

  • Efficiency and Time-Saving: Manually extracting data from PDFs can be a time-consuming and labor-intensive task. PDF scrapers can significantly reduce the time and effort required, enabling employees to focus on higher-value tasks.
  • Accuracy and Consistency: Manual data extraction can lead to mistakes and inconsistencies, especially when dealing with large amounts of data. Automated tools, on the other hand, employ advanced algorithms to accurately extract data from PDFs, reducing the risk of human error.
  • Scalability: PDF scrapers are designed to handle large volumes of PDF documents, making them ideal for organizations dealing with extensive archives or frequent influxes of PDF files.
  • Standardization and Integration: Standardization allows for seamless integration of extracted data into existing systems, software, or databases. It facilitates data analysis and reporting, enhancing decision-making and operational efficiency.

How to Choose the Right PDF Scraper?

When selecting a PDF scraper, a business should:

  1. Accuracy and Reliability: Opt for a tool that offers higher levels of accuracy in extracting data from PDF documents. It should have robust OCR capabilities to accurately convert scanned or image-based PDFs into machine-readable text. Additionally, the scraper should be able to handle various PDF layouts, fonts, and structures to ensure reliable extraction results.
  2. Flexibility and Customization: Evaluate whether the PDF scraper allows for customization and configuration to adapt to specific data extraction requirements. The tools should have features that enable defining extraction rules, patterns, or templates to extract data points in a structured and consistent manner. The ability to handle different PDF formats, including text-heavy documents, tables, or mixed content, is also important for versatility.
  3. Automation and Scalability: Assess the level of automation provided by the PDF scraper. It should offer batch processing capabilities, allowing you to extract data from multiple PDF files simultaneously. Consider if the scraper integrates with other systems or workflow automation tools to streamline your data extraction process. Scalability is also important, as the scraper should be capable of handling large volumes of PDFs efficiently as your data needs grow.
  4. Integration and Output Formats: Check if the PDF scraper supports exporting the extracted data in the desired format for further processing and integration. It should provide options to export data in commonly used formats such as CSV, Excel, JSON, or databases. Compatibility with other software or APIs used within the organization is also worth considering for seamless data integration.
  5. Support and Updates: Ensure the PDF scraper has reliable technical support and regular updates so that any issues or bugs can be addressed promptly, and the scraper remains compatible with the latest PDF standards and technologies.
  6. User-Friendly Interface: A user-friendly interface and intuitive workflow can make a significant difference in the ease of using the PDF scraper. Look for a scraper with a well-designed interface that simplifies the configuration, monitoring, and management of PDF extraction tasks.

Astera ReportMiner as a PDF Scraper


Astera ReportMiner is an AI-powered, automated data extraction software that extracts data from PDF files. The solution offers automated PDF data extraction for invoices and purchase orders with multiple layouts. It easily extracts data from PDFs and loads them into a database or an Excel file. The visual, code-free UI of ReportMiner simplifies PDF extraction while reducing manual effort and speeding up the process of extracting data from PDF documents.

Here’s how Astera ReportMiner stands out as a PDF scraper:

  • Intelligent Data Extraction: Astera’s AI-powered engine can extract data from various templates within minutes. The best part about the tool is that you only need to identify the fields you want to extract, and Astera ReportMiner easily handles all kinds of variations in different templates.
  • Data Transformation: It provides capabilities to transform the extracted data into a desired format or structure, allowing you to normalize, cleanse, or reformat the data as per your requirements.
  • Batch Processing: The tool supports batch processing, enabling you to extract data from multiple PDF documents simultaneously or in a scheduled manner.
  • Integration with External Systems: It can integrate with other systems or databases, allowing you to directly load the extracted data into your preferred destination.
  • Error Handling and Logging: ReportMiner is powered by robust error handling mechanisms to deal with exceptions during the extraction process. It also provides logging capabilities to capture and track any errors or issues encountered during extraction.

Download a 14 day free trial to try Astera ReportMiner today and accelerate data extraction from PDFs.


  • Tehreem Naeem
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