PDF data: how to convert and extract
If you are part of a company, whether it is a small family business or a large corporation, you have likely had to work with all kinds of document formats. One of the most common digital formats for business documents like invoices, POs, receipts, claims, rebates, and much more is called a Portable Document Format (PDF). These files are secure electronic documents that make sending files from business to business quick, easy, and reliable.
However, there is a downside to documents sent to a business as PDF files. Often, the data inside PDFs is trapped, as it were, inside the digital file. This means that PDF data is often uneditable and requires an extraction process similar to how data is extracted from physical documents.
At a basic level, PDFs are often scanned or photographed images of a document. Sometimes the document was created in a digital word processing or spreadsheet software and converted to a PDF file, and other times businesses will send scans of documents that were printed and filled out by hand.
If you have ever opened up a PDF file and found that you could not copy and paste digital text from the PDF to another file format, you know that PDF data extraction is not a simple process.
Especially for large businesses, figuring out how to extract data from PDF files means finding an efficient and thorough process. This way, the data can be imported into the business systems used by the company.
There are several ways to extract data from PDF files. One is to follow the manual method and hire employees to read and retype the data from PDF files into an editable format. Another way is to utilize an Intelligent Document Processing platform that can handle data extraction automatically. Rossum is just such a platform that can make extracting PDF data an efficient process.
PDF data entry: manual vs. automated
Extracting data from PDF files has most commonly been done through manual data entry procedures. This method has been useful and has worked well for businesses since the 1990s.
But that was before the introduction of OCR and automated data capture systems. Now that these technologies exist, it might be time for businesses to consider changing their traditional PDF data entry processes.
Manual data entry procedures might be a time-proven strategy, but this traditional approach carries many flaws. Starting with a PDF document that the data entry department receives, the clerk or employee must open up the business system used by the company for document processing.
With the PDF document open on one side of the monitor and the business system on the other, the clerk must read through the PDF file and figure out where the data corresponds to a field in the business system.
Then, the clerk has to manually type and retype all of the data from one field in the PDF file to the corresponding field in the business system until all of the data has been copied into the correct system.
The employees that are required to perform this manual data extraction are doing a task that is extremely repetitive and tiring. Errors are likely as time goes on, and employees get tired of this same process day after day. Some companies choose to outsource this process, but that leaves room for even greater risks of error because the contractors do not have a great incentive to be careful.
While this manual process may work for some businesses, there is an option for PDF data entry that is far more efficient and less prone to error. It is called automated data extraction. With the creation of platforms like Rossum, companies can automate their PDF data extraction process so that documents are processed faster, and employees are happier.
PDF data extractor: what it is and how it works
A PDF data extractor is an option for businesses that want to find a less manual way of extracting data. This tool makes it easier to extract data from a PDF file without having to read and type out the information manually. Different versions of these tools work in different ways.
For instance, a free PDF data extractor will have fewer features and abilities than one that must be purchased.
At their core, PDF data extractors digitally scan the PDF file and extract data from it. Most of these extractors will end up displaying the extracted data in code. The Adobe PDF data extractor can read the data and formatting of the PDF document, but it converts that data into JSON format. There is also a way to extract PDF data for free using Python, but this would only help in a limited way.
Using automated data extraction from PDF
Another method for extracting data from PDF documents is to use an automated system. Automation does not mean that data extraction is converted to another format that must be manually entered into the business system for document processing. This is called unstructured data, and through automated data extraction is converted to structured data.
True automation is not just about speeding up one area of the process but about making the entire data entry process automatic instead of manual.
Automated data extraction from PDF files means that the data is extracted and imported into the business system in the right fields and without extensive human involvement. The best-automated PDF data extraction systems use deep learning to improve the process continually.
A deep learning extract text from PDF process uses AI to learn how and where to export the PDF data and import it into the business system’s fields so that every document’s data is imported automatically and with precision.
To extract data from PDF to Excel files, automated data extraction tools make this simple. If your business uses Excel for document processing, these tools will work for you.
But, if your company uses a different business system, then an AI-powered automated data extraction platform like Rossum would be a better choice. This is because it can learn how to export the data into the unique system your business uses.
Extract text from PDF programmatically
Small businesses that do not work with thousands of business documents or simply want to find a way to extract data from their files without using an automated platform might be interested in using programming for text extraction. While this is not an efficient way to process documents for large companies, it is a method that should not be overlooked.
If your business wishes to extract text from PDF programmatically, there are a few options. One programming language for data extraction is called Python. It is relatively easy to find tutorials on extracting data from PDF to Excel using Python. However, remember that this requires a basic understanding of the programming language and is only really helpful if your business uses Microsoft Excel.
Another option is to go directly with Microsoft’s programming language, Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). If you want to extract data from PDF to Excel using VBA, there are some simple tutorials for this method.
Another tool from Microsoft that could be used for this process is PowerShell. Using PowerShell script to extract data from PDF to Excel files is one of the easier ways to extract text from PDF programmatically.
For businesses that do not want the hassle of hiring programmers or need more versatility in their PDF data extraction processes, going with an automated data extraction software like Rossum can be a better option.
PDF data extraction software
A PDF data extraction process should be comprehensive. The manual method has proven useful and has worked for years, but it is also inefficient and prone to error. A PDF data extractor can be a helpful tool, but its lack of features will not save time.
Using programming languages to extract data from PDF files is another tool that can improve the data entry process, but it lacks versatility. The only natural process that is comprehensive and can improve all areas of data extraction from PDF files is an automated platform that does the work for you.
An excellent PDF data extraction software will use AI to minimize human involvement in the data entry process. This kind of tool is called Intelligent Document Processing (IDP). Instead of just reading the PDF file and exporting the raw data into a programming language, IDP uses AI to export the data directly into the business system used by the company for processing documents.
Additionally, it can extract data from multiple PDF files to Excel with no trouble at all.
The best free data extraction software will only be able to extract data from the PDF, it will not be able to import that data into the business system.
This is where platforms like Rossum can be one of the best options for PDF data extraction. With a free trial, businesses can easily test the Rossum platform and see if AI-powered data entry could benefit their overall goals.
Perhaps the most important role that an Intelligent Document Processing platform plays is automating the complete business document process. Extracting data from PDF files is just one small piece of the enormous puzzle that is document processing. That is why automated platforms like Rossum exist.
These platforms automate every piece of the document processing puzzle so that businesses can focus on making sales instead of retyping data. If you’re interested in changing your company’s process of extracting and converting PDF data into usable formats, you should try Rossum.