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Xtractor

Review of online PDF to Excel services, March 2016

Introduction

There are now a large number of free or cheap services in the cloud for extracting tables from PDFs. They fall into two groups:

Clean extractors are particularly useful if you want to run at large-scale.

Clean v messy extraction

This review covers online services only – there are also many installable solutions

Reviewed
Adobe
CometDocs
Docs.Zone
FoxyUtils
Nitro
PDFconvert
PDFtables
smallPDF
Zamzar
Zanran

Conclusions

  • 1st choice for automated table extraction: Zanran
  • 1st choice for semi-manual table extraction: smallPDF or Zanran
  • 2nd choice for semi-manual extraction: Nitro or Adobe
  • Avoid: FoxyUtils, PDFtables and Zamzar
  • Results table

    * Scoring: excellent 4; good 3; usable 2; poor 1; useless 0.

    Comments

    Adobe – impressed that it combined a continuous multi-page PDF into a single table.

    CometDocs – their results didn’t have background fill, which made some tables more difficult to follow. Their software is also used in: ‘able2extract’, ‘pdfconverter.com’, and ‘pdftoexcel.org’.

    FoxyUtils – all their output files came up with error messages – they didn’t seem to be proper .xls

    Nitro – when the table boundaries were clear – no nearby graphics or other tables -– then results were good

    PDFconvert – their system kept returning 'Conversion Failed' - we collected no reliable data

    smallPDF – creates many false tables. A human can skim through them quickly, but it would not be suitable for automated processing.

    Zamzar – their other format conversion algorithms are very good

    Zanran – disclosure: the author is a Director of Zanran

    Details

    The PDFs. The test PDFs were all real documents. Two are in the public domain. The economic stats report was taken from the South African Statistics website, and the engineering doc from a supplier. The brokers report was found on the internet.

    The evaluation. The results were evaluated according to the following criteria:

    Please get back to us if you have any comments or questions – or if you find any new software that we have missed.