PDF Parsing: How It Works and When to Use It

by Altaf Shaikh
PDF Parsing: How It Works and When to Use It

You can see the use of PDF files in any professional environment. They’re easy to share and save, which may be why they’re so popular. But what happens if you want to extract the data when working with PDF files?

That’s where PDF parsing comes in. 

While it might not seem difficult to extract data from a PDF file at first, it’s more complicated than it seems. Even though you can see the text and understand it, converting what’s on the page to text requires a few more steps.

Keep reading to find out more about how PDF parsing works and when to use it.

What Is a PDF Parser?

A PDF parser is software used when extracting data from a PDF file. There are different kinds of PDF parsers, from developer libraries to standalone software. PDF parsers are often used when you need to extract data from a large batch of PDF files.

Since the introduction of PDF, most work environments have adopted them into everyday use. PDFs are now the go-to file when exchanging documents. Text paragraphs, tabular data, and singular data fields are examples of data that you can extract. 

PDF parsers are useful in document management and document indexing. You can also automate the business process by extracting PDF data automatically.

The nature of the PDF file is a big factor in whether you can extract the data. That’s why accessing the data stored on PDFs can sometimes pose a challenge.

The Challenge of Extracting Data

The main problem with extracting data from PDF files is that it wasn’t designed for data entry. Rather, it’s designed to be an output format that has control over the final document.

The text data on PDFs isn’t stored as paragraphs or words that you can access with ease. It’s actually stored as characters embedded into certain locations on the page. When word documents get converted into PDF, most of the content semantics can get lost.

Another problem is that most PDF files are actually scanned images. The software will not be able to understand the scanned character on the PDF. This is without first running Optical Character Recognition or OCR.

Once you run your PDF files through an OCR PDF Scanner, you can then extract them by a manual copy and paste method.

How to Parse a PDF File

There are many different methods of parsing a PDF file. The number of files you want to parse will determine what the most efficient method to do so is. 

Manually Re-Keying Data

If you only have a few documents that you need to extract from, the fastest option would be to manually re-key data. All you would have to do is open all the documents then find and select the text you need. After, you can copy and paste to where you need the data.

This also works with tabular data, selecting the table on the PDF file and pasting it onto an excel file. Alternatively, you could also use a tool called Tabula to extract tabular data from PDFs.

Using Run Command Tool

The most common way of parsing documents is by using the DocToText app, which you can pull up by the Run Command Tool. You can run this program at the command line, which will convert the files into plain text. Afterward, you can use Alteryx to read the text.

This method is easy to accomplish. However, it isn’t always the best when dealing with low-quality or handwritten scans.

Using Google Tesseract OCR

Google Tesseract is an OCR engine that supports Unicode. It’s able to recognize more than a hundred languages and even has the ability to learn to recognize more. Along with Python script in Alteryx, you can use Google Tesseract and convert or parse PDF files into text.

One problem that you may encounter when using this method is not being able to extract checkbox data. This can be frustrating when handling and gathering responses you’ve gotten through checkboxes.

Using Docparser Tool

Docparser auto-extracts specific data fields from your PDFs or scanned documents. Using Docparser, you can also convert PDFs to excel files easier.

The documents produced won’t always give the same results. However, you can adjust and fix the alignment to better the outcome.

Using Docparser also gives you the option to parse checkbox results. Be sure to adjust as needed and set up parsing rules. You can fix the parsing rules to parse the data you need based on another field.

It bases the data on pixel coordinates, but the outcome isn’t always exact. This is because coordinates on PDFs are still different, even if they are similar.

Using Adobe Acrobat Pro

Adobe Acrobat Pro is an OCR system that you can use to convert PDFs into documents you can edit and search from. It has tools that allow you to make changes to the PDF file and extract the data with no problem.

You could convert your PDF files into excel format. After, you can then use Alteryx to parse the new excel files and write them into your database.

Using C# Parse

You don’t need an extended knowledge in C# to parse PDFs with this method. You can check this site for more information and a tutorial on how to parse a PDF with C#.

Using the right tools like an IronPDF and a C# Library, you can extract data from any PDF file you need.

Everything You Need to Know About PDF Parsing

If you’re new to PDF parsing, it can be difficult to understand what it is, what it’s used for, and how to do it. With PDF files becoming the standard format, it’s important to know how to extract the data you need.

We hope that after reading this article, we could give you more insight into the matter.

If you enjoyed this article about PDF parsing and want to see more, don’t hesitate to check out the rest of our site.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment