How to extract text from PDFs

Portrait of Neha Gunnoo
by Neha Gunnoo
8 mins read
last updated on
extract text from pdf

Extracting text from PDFs can be a challenge, especially if you receive hundreds of PDF documents on a daily basis. In this article, we’ll guide you on how to extract text from PDFs automatically in a few clicks so that you can save countless hours of manual data entry work.

Why extract data from PDFs?

PDF documents have become the go-to solution to share documents across organizations. Developed in the 1990s by Adobe, PDF (for Portable Document Format) is the de-facto standard that allows you to create documents from virtually any software and share them with the certainty they will be displayed on any device (and printed on any printer) exactly as they were intended to.

However, there is a drawback: data stored in PDF documents is unstructured or semi structured by nature. What that means is that the PDF format cannot be used to automatically exchange structured data between applications and organizations. You first need to extract text and images from PDFs and structure the data before other applications can make use of it.

Challenges of manually extracting text from PDFs

PDFs are basically a combination of images and text, so some characters can be displayed as images rather than text. Other characters may be hidden behind other objects on the page or even entirely missing from the document.

Because of this, manual data extraction or manual data entry can be very difficult and time consuming. To be sure you haven't missed anything crucial, you might need to read every word on every page. Even so, there is no assurance that some or all data has been correctly extracted. And, let’s not forget the challenges in extracting tables from PDFs!

Gartner Research found that poor data quality is responsible for an average of $15 million of losses per year

Since manual data extraction from PDFs necessitates human interaction, there is always a risk of error or mistake, which can seriously affect the quality of your data.

By automating the data extraction process, structured data collected will include fewer errors, and business reports will be more accurate.

What is automated PDF data extraction?

PDF data extraction is the process of retrieving specific data from PDF documents from different unstructured sources. We can also refer to PDF data extraction as PDF parsing. PDF parsing allows users to extract text or images from PDF documents.

Benefits of automating text extraction from PDFs

Without a doubt, automating the data extraction process from PDFs is crucial to any business. There are so many benefits associated with it such as an increase in employee motivation and productivity. Let’s have a closer look at all the advantages of extracting data from PDFs automatically.

Time and cost saving

Needless to say that it saves time and money as you won’t need to manually extract data from each page of your PDF file. You just need to load all the pages of your PDF file at once and it will be automatically extracted. This helps you save money by preventing you from having to hire a data entry experts to complete this work for you, as well as a great deal of time and effort, especially during busy seasons.

Nearly 60% of employees surveyed estimate they could save almost a full workday if the repetitive aspects of their jobs were automated.

Data Accuracy

By assuring accurate data extraction from all of your papers, it protects the reputation of your company. For instance, if data extraction from one document is incorrect, it could trickle down to all your processes and create mistakes down the line, which could lead to the loss of customers. There is no need to be concerned about this issue with automatic PDF data extraction software because it provides 100% accuracy when extracting data from any document.

The use of machine learning-related approaches such as optical character recognition (OCR), for example, can greatly improve the speed and accuracy of data entry.

PDFs documents can be extracted in bulk

Instead of manually going through PDFs one by one, all documents can easily be processed in bulk, thus reducing the amount of time and effort required.

Here at Parseur for example, we can process thousands of documents automatically every minute minute.

Seamless integration with various applications

Very often, companies have to export the extracted text to another tool such as an ERP or a CRM. With data extraction software, you can easily integrate with other apps and create an automated workflow to send the parsed data from your PDFs to another tool.

Use cases of PDF data extraction

No matter in which industry you are, PDF documents are now part of any company’s routine. The good news is that a PDF data extraction tool can be used for any use case. We have highlighted the main use cases for our customers below:

Invoice data capture

Businesses receive invoices or payment receipts in digital format. Hiring a data specialist to manually extract specific information from invoices cost time and money. By using an automated Invoice data processor, companies can save countless hours of manual processing, especially during peak seasons (auditing). By automating the invoice process, further reporting or financial reconciliation can be done more quickly and accurately.

Bill of lading (BoL)

Maintaining shipping documents is a tedious and expensive process for freight forwarders. Automating the B/L processes will minimize your costs and reduce paper waste as well.

Learn how Parseur can help with Bill of Lading automation.

E-commerce orders

Imagine receiving hundreds of e-commerce order confirmations daily (which is excellent for business!) but having to manually extract the order details. It’s time-consuming and in the food industry, delivering food orders quickly is of utmost importance.

Extracting data automatically from food orders helps to save time and be more efficient.

Bank statements

Data on bank statements are confidential and crucial. If you have thousands of bank statements or credit card statements to go through manually, it could be time-consuming and prone to errors (for example, missing specific information).

Parseur can help you automate the data extraction process and convert bank statements to Excel or any other format you want.

IDs for identity verification

You can extract key fields from passports, national IDs and driving license (such as name, date of birth or ID number) instead of manually filling forms. Signatures can be extracted as well.

Ways to extract data from PDFs automatically

We have already talked about manual data extraction in the beginning. Copy pasting is part of extracting data manually from PDFs. There are smarter ways for PDF data extraction which are quicker and more effective.

PDF Converters

PDF converters are software programs that enable users to convert PDFs into text or images. Along with supporting file types like Word documents and Excel spreadsheets, they can also convert PDFs back into other formats.

PDF converters are the go-to easy tools if you need to convert a full document quickly without specific requirements. However, one of the most frequent issues with PDF converters is that the resulting document remains unstructured or semi-structured. You cannot use it to send data to other applications.

Furthermore, there isn't much room for customization. For instance, some users want to alter the font size or style of their papers before turning them into PDFs, but many PDF converters don't let them do so.

PDF Parsers

A PDF parser eliminates manual data extraction from PDF documents automatically. PDF parsing tools use advanced technologies such as OCR and machine learning for data extraction.

One such tool is Parseur which helps to automate text extraction from different types of documents. Parseur is a powerful PDF parser and OCR software that uses pre-trained data models to automatically process the right PDF document.

The main features that Parseur provides as the best PDF parser available today are:

  1. No-code point and click editor
  2. Template based extraction and automatic layout detection
  3. Pre-built templates for different use cases
  4. Zonal OCR and Dynamic OCR

With a PDF scraper tool like Parseur, you can easily:

  1. Convert PDF to Excel or Google Sheets
  2. Extract PDF to CSV and JSON
  3. Extract data from repetitive structures

How to extract data from PDFs automatically?

We’ll take the case of a coffee supplier who receives hundreds of invoices on a daily basis. He has to manually go through those invoices and extract specific information to share with the team. As you may have already guessed, this process is time consuming and not error-free.

With Parseur's new OCR engine, text extraction from invoices and other PDF documents can be done quickly.

Extract text from PDF automatically
A powerful PDF parsing tool will help you automate your business, saving you countless hours of work.

Step 1: Create your Parseur mailbox

Parseur is free to start with all the features available. Create your account and the free mailbox. Make sure to select “emails and documents (default)” when creating your mailbox.

Create a free mailbox with Parseur

Create a free mailbox with Parseur

Step 2: Upload PDFs directly to the Parseur mailbox

You can either forward the documents to the Parseur mailbox or upload them directly as shown in the screenshot below.

Upload PDF directly to the Parseur app

Upload PDF directly to the Parseur app

You will notice that the invoice received in the Parseur mailbox looks exactly as your original invoice.

Step 3: Create a new OCR template

Creating a template is as easy with the Parseur app. For the purpose of this article, we will create a custom OCR template.

Automating data capture from documents in Parseur is as easy as point and click

Once done, click on “create template”. Your parsed results will appear like this:

Parsed data from PDF extraction

Parsed data from PDF extraction

From now on, all the documents that you send to this Parseur mailbox will be processed automatically.

Step 4: Export PDF parsed data to any applications in real time

You can either download the parsed data or export it to any application of your choice using our native integrations such as Zapier, Power Automate or Make. For this article, we’ll send the parsed data to a Google spreadsheet automatically.

Parseur already provides you with a default formula to export the extracted data. All you have to do is copy and paste the formula in the Google Sheets and, let the magic happen.

send extracted data to any apps

Export data to any application of your choice

Extract text from PDFs automatically and scale your business

The move to an automated PDF text extraction has now become a necessity if businesses want to scale up in their industry. And, investing in the right PDF parsing tool will benefit you in the long term.

All-in-one data extraction software. Start using Parseur today.

Automate text extraction from emails, PDFs and spreadsheets.
Save hundreds of hours of manual work.
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