Extract text from pdf – Automate & free up your time

Posted 10-01-2019

What is a pdf ?

PDF (Portable Document Format) is a file format which is used to present and exchange documents reliably, independent of software, hardware, or operating system. PDF was invented by Adobe and is now an open standard maintained by ISO. Nowadays PDF files are compatible and generated by majority of software applications. PDF documents can contain all types of media in them like links, inout form fields, video and can be signed electronically.

Typical use cases to extract text from pdf files – Key data extraction

  1. In a document intensive business, huge volume of pdf documents need manual processing for data entry which demands huge workforce. As a result it slows down the business, hence adds more costs and introduces manual errors.
  2. Key data elements from pdf documents (e.g, Invoice Number, Date, Total etc. from an Invoice) need to extracted and exported in a structured format like Excel, Microsoft SQL Server etc.
  3. When a business need to build analytics on extracted data to gain insight on the data currently sitting in pdf files.

Specific use cases to extract text from pdf files

  1. Supplier Invoices.
  2. Purchase Orders.
  3. Insurance Contracts & Claims.
  4. Customer on boarding forms.
  5. Standardised Reports.
  6. Electronic Health Records.
  7. Shipping documents
  8. Proof of delivery
  9. and the list goes on and on…

How harder it is to extract text from pdf files?

It depends on the type of pdf file which can be either a searchable or image based.

  1. Extracting data from huge volume of image based pdf files can get really time consuming, messy and error prone. Scanners normally produce Image based pdf files. In this case the pdf file contains a scanned image/photo of the actual document. There is no way to copy/paste the text from an image based pdf, so an operator needs to manually read and key in text in the destination software application.
  2. Nowadays there are some advanced Optical Character Recognition (OCR) based document scanners available in the market. These smart scanners extract actual text from paper documents on the fly during scan process and the final output is a pdf file with the text which can be searched, hence the name “searchable pdf”. In this case the data entry operator can locate, copy & paste the text from pdf files to the business application and will be less time consuming.

Should i automate extracting text from pdf files?

That depends on the volume, type (image/searchable) and the amount of text/data you need to process from each pdf file;

Single/Multipage low volume:

To be honest, if we are talking about few pdf files per day, it’s not a huge challenge to manually extract data and key in that data in your line of business system. So it won’t make any sense to introduce automation, as it is going to be an overkill.

Single/Multipage high volume:

In this case data entry operator has to individually open each pdf file, locate the data fields from the correct pages, then copy/paste data in case of searchable pdf. It would get harder for the operator to manually type in the text in the destination system when pdf is not searchable. Formatting the dates, numbers during data entry process would further make it more time consuming and error prone.

So using a modern data capture cloud based software like DocAcquire to automate data entry process would yield a huge ROI to any business.

What tools are available to extract text from pdf files – Full page data extraction?

If you simply want to convert a pdf file to any other standard format then you can use the following tools;

  1. Adobe Acrobat
  2. PDF To Text
  3. Online OCR – Allows you to convert PDF to Word, PDF to Excel & PDF to Text
  4. Many more just Google “convert scanned pdf to text”

I don’t want to extract all the data from pdf files

If your requirement is to extract only key (specific) data fields from pdf files. An example would be Invoice Date, Invoice Number, Tax, Total from a Supplier Invoice. If you are also looking to store extracted data in the structured format like Excel, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Sharepoint or in your business system.

If above is the case, you are looking for an “automated data capture software” which is based on Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and Machine Learning.

How automated data capture software works?

Majority of modern automated data capture platforms are build on workflow system. A typical document extraction workflow goes through the following stages;

  1.  To extract only specific data fields, you can train the software with a bunch of documents.
  2. Configure the workflow to import, classify, extract, verify and export the extracted data to your choosen destination.

Here are the workflow steps of an automated data capture software


A variety of file types like pdf files and scanned images can be uploaded to data capture software. These documents can come from an array of sources;

  • Email Inboxes (Digital Mailroom)
  • Network Folders
  • Mobile Phones (Document Scanner Apps)
  • Directly uploaded/imported into software
  • Cloud based file storage applications like Google Drive , Box , Dropbox etc.

DocAcquire has a strong integrations engine which enables to import documents from wide variety of sources.


Every document is classified based on the its layout and the content. Once classified, the document is ready for the next stage for data extraction. System marks the document as Unclassified if it can’t recognise the document layout and content. In such case the document needs to be trained.


Once the document is classified, based on the initial training the required data/fields are extracted. Once the data extraction is done, the document is sent for the next stage of the workflow for verification.


This is the stage where a human operator comes in and verifies the extracted data, fixes any potential errors and marks the document Ready for next stage for Export. This is normally less time consuming process as majority of the heavy lifting is already done by the data extraction software. The involvement of a human to verify the extracted data guarantees the maximum accuracy of data after data extraction.


At this stage, a document extraction is already done and data is verified by a human operator, the data is then exported to the selected destination.

How DocAcquire extracts text from pdf files

DocAcquire is a modern cloud based data capture software which can extract data from variety of file formats like pdf, png, jpeg and tiff. By default DocAcquire uses OCR engine called Tesseract to read the text from documents.

DocAcquire Key features for pdf data extraction

  1. If your pdf documents are poor quality (scanned) or you need to read handwritten text from them, you can easily configure DocAcquire to use Google Vision. Google Vision is a powerful image analysis service based on Machine Learning, and delivers extremely high accuracy when it comes to extract text from pdf and other file formats.
  2. Supports multi-page documents (max 50 pages).
  3. Support for extracting table data.
  4. A seamless user interface to verify the extracted data from multiple pages.
  5. Send extracted data to any business application on-premises or on the cloud using standard REST API endpoint.
  6. You can even pull out the extracted data using REST API endpoints in JSON format.
  7. You can also extract your data directly to Microsoft SQL Server.

Here is a quick sneak peak of DocAcquire which shows how easier is it to get started. Hope you found this blog helpful and if you have any specific question please Contact Us and we would be more than happy to help.







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