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PDF files are commonly used to exchange business data, as they can easily be viewed, shared, emailed, or even locally stored. However, it is often difficult to extract data from PDFs into Excel spreadsheets.

This challenge of how to import PDF to Excel efficiently is a common pain point for many professionals.

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So, why extract data from PDF to Excel? 

Data related to businesses is usually shared in PDF files as large tables, despite Excel spreadsheets being better suited for viewing, editing, and manipulating tabular data.

Also, data shared in tabular file formats such as Excel spreadsheets or CSV files can be easily integrated into other software or databases. This makes it easier to a data and create insightful reports. Often data is also parsed on Excel spreadsheets to further structure data.

If you've ever spent hours manually transferring data from PDF to Excel, you know how crucial it is to find a more efficient method. In this article, you will learn how to extract data from PDF to Excel.

Copy PDF tables Export extracted PDF table data to Excel

PDF → Excel in seconds!

Upload your PDFs or drag and drop them into our free PDF-to-XLSX converter, and within seconds, you'll have an editable spreadsheet ready to use.

We will look at the top 6 methods to extract PDF data to Excel, starting from the most basic to the most advanced (read automated).

Method Ease of Use Accuracy Complexity Handling Speed Cost Best For
1. Copy-Paste Easy Low Poor Slow Free Simple, one-off tasks
2. Online Converters Easy Moderate Fair Fast Free to Low Occasional use, simple PDFs
3. Adobe Acrobat Moderate High Good Fast Adobe license Complex PDFs, preserving format
4. Excel Import Feature Easy Good Good Fast Excel license Most standard PDFs
5. PDF Table Extraction Tools Moderate High Excellent Moderate Free to High Specific table extraction
6. Automated AI-OCR (Nanonets) Easy (after setup) Very High Excellent Very Fast Subscription High volume, varied PDFs

1. Copy from PDF and paste into Excel

Click on 'Paste Options' to use the text import wizard
Click on 'Paste Options' to use the text import wizard

If you only have a small number of PDF documents with simple tabular data, then you can copy data from PDF files and paste into Excel files manually. This method is like using a pair of tweezers to transfer data – precise but time-consuming for larger datasets.

Here are the steps involved:

  1. Open each PDF file
  2. Selection all the tabular data or just the data in specific tables
  3. Copy the selected tabular data
  4. Paste the copied data into an Excel (XLSX) file

If the selected table doesn't get copied neatly, try pasting the data in a Word document first. Then, copy that data from the Word document to the Excel spreadsheet.

If that doesn't help either, then try the "Paste Special" option in Excel. You can also use the Text to Columns feature in Excel to split the pasted data into separate columns. Choose "Delimited" and select the appropriate delimiter (e.g., tab, comma, or space), or go with "Fixed width" if the columns are aligned consistently.

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This approach just won't work for complex tables. You will have to spend a lot of time "cleaning up" the data into their appropriate rows and columns.

2. Use online PDF to Excel converters

Use Nanonets' free online conversion tool to extract tables from PDFs
Use our free online conversion tool to extract tables from PDFs.

Online PDF to Excel converters offer a robust alternative that can handle PDFs with complex table data.

These online converters are available as free software, web-based online solutions, and even mobile apps. They can convert entire PDFs into an Excel file within seconds. Just upload a file, click convert, and download the converted Excel output.

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Many free tools require uploading files to their servers, risking sensitive information. Before using, review privacy policies and data practices. Look for encrypted uploads, automatic file deletion, secure HTTPS connections, and GDPR compliance. Choose reputable services that protect your data throughout the conversion process. 

The typical workflow looks like this:

  1. Visit the converter website
  2. Upload your PDF file
  3. Wait for the conversion process
  4. Download the resulting Excel file

Here are some of the popular PDF to Excel converters available:

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Online PDF to Excel converters can't handle document at scale. Most online converters don't support batch processing and online work on native PDF files. And extracting specific PDF data to Excel is just not possible!

If your PDFs deal with invoices, receipts, medical records, offline forms, passports, or driver's licenses, check out Nanonets' PDF scraper or PDF data extractor to capture data from PDF documents.

Automated data extraction using Nanonets

3. Export PDF data to Excel using Adobe Acrobat

How to access Adobe Acrobat Pro's Export a PDF feature
How to access Adobe Acrobat Pro's Export a PDF feature

Adobe Acrobat, as the creator of the PDF format, supports superior file conversion capabilities.

Using features available on Adobe Acrobat, users can directly export PDF files to editable Excel documents:

Step 1: Open a PDF file in Acrobat.
Step 2: Click on the “Export PDF” tool in the right pane.
Step 3: Choose “spreadsheet” as your export format, and then select “Microsoft Excel Workbook”.
Step 4: Click “Export.” If your PDF documents contain scanned text, Acrobat will run text recognition automatically.
Step 5: Save the converted file - Name your new Excel file and click the “Save” button.

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Batch processing of PDF files isn't readily supported - so this approach isn't easily scalable. And this method doesn't support selective or specific data extraction - it exports all data in the PDF!

Want to replace hours of manual grunt with low-cost, no-code, AI-powered data extraction workflows that does the same job within seconds? If yes, Click below to Schedule a Free Demo with Nanonets' Automation Experts.


4. Use the built-in Excel Import feature

How to access Excel's Get Data tab to extract tables from PDFs
How to access Excel's Get Data tab to extract tables from PDFs

If the approach above doesn't yield great results, you can simply try importing the PDF file directly into Excel.

  1. Open an Excel sheet
  2. Data tab > Get Data drop-down > From File > From PDF
  3. Select your PDF file & click Import.
  4. You'll now see a Navigator pane displaying the tables & pages in your PDF, along with a preview.
  5. Select a table & click Load. The table you selected will now be imported onto your Excel sheet.

Using Power Query Editor, if you click 'Transform Data':

  1. You can remove unwanted columns or rows
  2. Change data types of columns
  3. Split or merge columns as needed before loading to Excel
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Extracting data from PDF and importing to Excel might work pretty well with simple tabular data. But complex tables or multi-page tables usually throw up formatting errors!

5. Extract data using PDF table extraction tools

Snip tables in PDFs and extract them using Tabula
Source: Tabula Py

Most of the methods covered above attempt to extract all the data within PDF documents into Excel.

But what if you just wanted to extract specific data from PDF to Excel? For example, just one specific table on page 3 of a multi-page PDF accounting document?

PDF to table data extraction tools can extract specific PDF data and convert it into Excel accounting documents.

PDF table extraction tools such as Tabula & Excalibur allow you to select specific tabular data within a PDF by drawing bounding boxes around it and then extracting that data into an Excel file (XLS or XLSX) or CSV.

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While PDF table extraction tools give reasonably efficient results, they require considerable development effort to and support. Additionally these tools only work with native PDF files and not scanned documents (which are more commonly used)!

Want to capture data from PDF documents or convert PDF to Excel? Check out Nanonets' PDF scraper or PDF parser to scrape PDF data or parse PDFs at scale!

A super-happy Nanonets user

Reduce expenses by 90% while increasing your team's productivity by 10x with Nanonets' low-cost, no-code, AI-powered data extraction workflows. Schedule a Demo Now to know more.


6. Automate data extraction with AI-powered PDF to Excel tools

Automated document data extraction software like Nanonets provides the most holistic solution to the problem of extracting data from PDFs into Excel.

Here's a quick demo of Nanonets' pre-trained table extractor:

Nanonets' pre-trained Table Extractor model

Such automated solutions extract PDF data into Excel accurately - even at scale. They leverage a combination of AI, ML/DL, OCR, integrated workflows, RPA and intelligent character recognition.

Thus, Nanonets can handle:

Automated PDF data extraction tools, like Nanonets, provide pre-trained extractors that can handle specific types of documents. The platform also adheres to strict GDPR, SOC 2, and HIPAA compliance standards, ensuring your data's confidentiality and integrity.

Nanonets can also convert images to Excel and automate data processing (data migration, data wrangling, data transformation, data integration & more).

Next steps: Maximizing your extracted PDF data

Once you've successfully extracted data from PDFs to Excel, the real work of turning that information into actionable insights begins.

Here are some key steps to consider:

1. Data transformation

  • Use Nanonets' post-processing options to standardize dates, remove special characters, or format numbers
  • Apply find-and-replace rules to correct common errors or inconsistencies

2. Validation and approval workflows

  • Implement Nanonets' approval rules to flag entries needing human review
  • Set up multi-stage review processes for complex documents

3. Automate data export

  • Set up Nanonets to auto-export data to your preferred systems (QuickBooks, Xero, Salesforce)
  • Use webhooks to trigger real-time data transfers to your custom applications

4. Data enrichment

  • Set up database matching to verify extracted vendor names or invoice numbers
  • Use this feature to automatically populate additional fields from your records

Conclusion

Importing PDF to Excel is just the first step in your data journey. Implement the above techniques to turn the raw information into actionable insights. This way, you can make decisions based on solid data, not just gut feelings.

FAQs

How to insert a PDF file in Excel Office 365?

To open a PDF in Excel Office 365:

  • Go to Data > Get Data > From File > From PDF
  • Select your PDF and click Import
  • Choose the tables you want to import in the Navigator pane
  • Click Load or Transform Data for more options

Can you import a PDF into Excel?

Yes, the easiest way is to use Excel's built-in feature:

  • In Excel, go to Data > Get Data > From File > From PDF
  • Select your PDF and choose the tables you want to import
  • Click Load to bring the data into Excel

How do I import multiple tables from a PDF into Excel?

Use Nanonets’ automated extraction tool. Follow these steps:

  • Log in to Nanonets and select 'Tables' OCR
  • Upload your PDF with multiple tables
  • Review and correct extracted tables
  • Download data in Excel format
  • Open the file - each table is on a separate sheet

How do I convert a PDF to Excel?

Here's how to copy PDF tables with formatting:

  • Log in to Nanonets.
  • Select 'Tables' OCR.
  • Upload your PDF.
  • Review and correct extracted tables.
  • Download data in Excel format.

How to convert PDF to Excel using Adobe Acrobat Reader Pro?

  • Open your PDF in Adobe Acrobat Reader Pro.
  • Click 'Convert' in the top menu.
  • Choose 'Microsoft Excel (XLSX)' as the output.
  • Select your document language.
  • Adjust 'Save As XLSX Settings' as needed.
  • Choose where to save the file.
  • Name your file and click 'Save'.