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How might I copy or export a table from a PDF document into Word, Excel, OneNote, etc. as a table instead of plain text?

Example pdf: ftp://ftp2.cits.rncan.gc.ca/pub/canvec/doc/CanVec_transition_guide_en.pdf, starting at page 9. I'm using Office 2003, OneNote trial 2007.

Integrated Answer

Free Online Services

www.freepdftoword.org - Does a reliable job of creating true tables objects in Word. Options for tailoring layout fidelity or text flow. Results are prompt. The service is email based, so there is the potential of opening yourself up to spam. The wizard does have an option to opt in/out of their newsletter.

www.pdfonline.com - visually faithful to original and retains table structure. Some cleanup needed as the pasted tables contain interleaved blank rows. Result is downloaded via browser (no email needed).

Free Desktop

OpenOffice with the PDF Import Extension. There is also a portable apps version.

KWord on linux, which requires virtual machine to use on Windows.

Commercial Software

Open the document with Adobe Acrobat . Click File > Save As. Select "HTML 4.01 with CSS 1.0 (*.htm, *.html)" in "Save as type", then save. Then open the saved HTML file in Microsoft Word, and it will be displayed as a table instead of plain text. (Note: not to be confused with the free Adobe Reader which can't do this).

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How do you use the PDF Import Extension to copy the table? I can open the PDF document, but I can't select the table to copy it's contents, I can only select one cell at a time. –  Sam Skuce Jul 18 '11 at 21:55

10 Answers 10

up vote 2 down vote accepted

You might try Tabula (http://tabula.nerdpower.org/) - works pretty well for data oriented content placed in tables.

A short intro can be found on the homepage.

Using the tool for the pdf attached to this question you have to:

  1. Download the file to your local disk
  2. install and start the tool follow the instructions on the homepage
  3. upload the pdf and select "Submit"
  4. navigate to the first table and select the table. Ensure that you do not select the header and footer of the page to get a more accurate result. enter image description here
  5. choose "Repeat this selection" if you want to select the following tables as well using the same coordinates.
  6. choose "Download all data" and you get enter image description here
  7. choose "Download data" to get a csv file with the extracted tables. This file can be open with MS Excel or any other application which can read the csv format for further processing.
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1  
Can you maybe add some screenshots or step-by-step explanation of how to do this using the software you suggest? –  MaQleod Apr 14 at 15:33

You can use Okular document viewer available on Linux and Windows trough http://windows.kde.org/ installer.

It can select text as a table, where you can define rows and columns.

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Open the document with Adobe Acrobat. Click File > Save As. Select "HTML 4.01 with CSS 1.0 (*.htm, *.html)" in "Save as type", then save.

You can then open the saved HTML file in Microsoft Word, and it will be displayed as a table instead of plain text.

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This is a good answer for people who've purchased Acrobat. Any suggestions for those who don't have it? Save as other type is not available in Adobe Reader. –  matt wilkie Jul 9 '10 at 15:58
1  
For free alternatives, will OpenOffice show tables when opening a PDF document? –  MainMa Jul 9 '10 at 20:20

This is a tough one. If you have the means, the easiest solution is going to be contacting the person who made the PDF. Chances are they made it from a .doc file. If you can get the original, you have what you need with no conversion necessary.

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+1. By the way, copying content from a PDF document (and edit it?) may not be permitted if the document is copyrighted. So contacting the author is obviously the best solution. –  MainMa Jul 9 '10 at 20:22

www.freepdftoword.org - free online service. Does a reliable job of creating true tables objects in Word.

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Thanks. It worked perfectly using the default options and didn't have the extra row problem of the only other successful online converter. –  matt wilkie Jul 9 '10 at 20:39

MirzaD, thanks for suggesting Okular. I have it installed in my ubuntu desktop, and never took it seriously .. until now. Thanks to you.

Okular is awesome in the features it packs, and can certainly address the needs of the guy asking the question. With Okular, you use a Table Selection Tool and define an area, and then click in column borders to mark fields .. and then copy. When you paste it, you get a consistent tab-delimited output that any serious tool can be coaxed into handling as a CSV file.

I have this need (to extract a few tables from a PDF doc) now on a Centos desktop running gnome/xfce, and installing okular would mean installing a whole bunch of other KDE graphics tools. So, I will try first with tabula (which looks very promising too), and if that fails, then okular it would have to be.

Would this work for windows? Yes, KDE can be installed in windows, but KDE applications come with some decent overhead of other needless software .. So, it depends on how great your needs are, this may be a viable option for even windows.

Read more about Okular here .. and their slogan More Than a Reader certainly fits .. I am really impressed with what Okular can do .. in a neat and fast enough application with a small footprint.

KDE Windows project .. makes it easy to install a subset of excellent KDE apps in windows.

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option 1: use an online pdf conversion service.

This post is a work in progress and will be updated as I try various services

Google Docs: didn't work, same result as select & copy text from Adobe Reader

http://www.convertpdftoword.net/ - visually very faithful to original, but table structure was lost with the text in myriad text-boxes instead. Order of magnitude file size increase, 130k to 4.3mb.

http://www.pdftoword.com/ - "Service Unavailable"

http://www.pdfonline.com/pdf2word/index.asp - success! visually faithful and retained table structure. Filesize actually decreased somewhat, 130k to 115k. Some cleanup needed as the pasted tables contain extra interleaved blank rows.

http://www.freepdfconvert.com/convert_pdf_to_source.asp - failed to convert. It thinks, wrongly, that the test pdf (from Q above) is password protected.

http://www.zamzar.com/ - visually faithful but table structure lost, requires email, filesize increased to 8mb(!)

pdf2html@adobe.com - tables retained, some column mixups, no images or colour, very little layout preservation.

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option2: use the linux KWord application to import the pdf.

There isn't a Windows version available, but linux is easy to run on Windows under a virtual machine.

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option 4: Use OpenOffice with the PDF Import Extension. There is also a portable apps version.

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I don't like adding extra software or sending my data offsite to an external site to convert it. Usually because of the time aspect!

But within PDF's you can select data in columns by holding down Alt and dragging, aslong as your table isn't huge (ie you'll have to do it for each column). Just copy and paste each into word.

Not ideal, but it works without having to install anything extra!

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