I have an influx of reports coming at me, and I need to extract some of the data and put it into a better format(an excel worksheet.) The reports come in docx or pdf and look something like this.

Miscellaneous data...................    
Unneeded data.......        
             North               South            West
Name         Lakeview Church     Lakeview Church  
Making       Brick               Wood  
Status       Gone                "small checkmark"
unneeded data.......    
Name         Baxter Building                      Baxter Building
Making       Brick                                Brick
Making       Gone                                 Great

The PDFs have highlight-able text but, the text isn't all in tables, in neither the PDFs or word documents. Some are, others are just in appropriately placed text boxes.

I'm kinda going out on a limb here, but I was hoping there would be something that allowed me to make some sort of template that extracted the appropriate data and re organized it something like this:

Name               Direction        Making          Status
Lakeview Church    North            Brick           Gone
Lakeview Church    South            Wood            Good

Also, there are some small images in the reports. I don't need to extract the images, but if they could be translated into something to show an image was present it would be great. And, if I could tell it to do things like ignoring all things with "Church" in the name on the North side, it would be perfect.

I don't need a solution to docs and Pdfs. I can use whichever is easiest.

Please point me in the right direction for whatever would be the quickest/easiest way to accomplish these tasks. Whether there is a convenient program that can do this or if this is something I'm going to have to program myself. But, I'm a novice so please give me a novice-appropriate starting point.

  • This is not a question, it's a software project.
    – teylyn
    May 2, 2016 at 3:39
  • @teylyn Apologies. I was intending to ask the method and starting point for doing this kind of thing. I really don't have enough information about the area to ask a more specific question other than listing what I'm trying to do and saying "How do I do that?" Do you have any advice on how I should change this/where I should ask/how I should re-word it/ whatever is necessary.
    – Jake Holds
    May 2, 2016 at 4:13

1 Answer 1


There are a variety of approaches depending on your budget and degree of automation you expect.

Cut/paste and custom parsing

You manually open documents and copy the contents as text into some other program, which could be Excel. Somebody with programming experience then writes programs, or Excel macros, to try and extract the tables from the text, and produce Excel spreadsheets with the tables properly laid out.

Optical Character Recognition (OCR)

There are OCR applications that you can purchase that can extract structured data from documents and/or images, and output to Excel spreadsheets. The simple applications just output the text, but the higher spec applications will be able to determine table layouts. Search for "OCR applications" on google.

Document capture

The most automated solution is one where you "teach" the application about your document structure, so that it can extract just the data you wish. An example of this would be something like Kofax Express. It is primarily a scanning application, but it can also be used to process documents. This is the most expensive, but most powerful solution. Be warned, the Kofax website is overloaded with intimidating business software, but I think Kofax Express is the entry level offering.

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