Anyone working in human resources, sales, accounting or administrative roles will be all too familiar with the time-suck job of copying information from hiring forms, invoices, sales orders, bank statements, reports and other PDF forms into the respective software.
Not only is time-consuming to do such a mundane task, PDFs can be difficult to work with, especially when they are scanned, and, of course, the final document is susceptible to human error. After your fifth cup of coffee, who knows if that’s a nine, a five or just an elaborate semicolon.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could automate the whole process and never have to manually extract data from PDFs ever again?
Extract Data from PDF Forms Manually (The Old Way)
If you keep doing what you’ve always done, that means copying and pasting every bit of data from each form you have into your new spreadsheet, which can take hours, or even days.
And if you’re PDF forms are scanned, you’re in for an even worse time. For those, you’ll be stuck manually re-keying every line of data you need from scratch.
Even if you’re fortunate enough to be able to hand this over to an intern or outsource it to your friendly VA (virtual assistant), that’s still a lot of wasted hours and/or money on someone’s part that could go to much more productive activities if you were able to automate the task.
Well, lucky for you, you can…
Extract Data from PDFs Automatically (The New Way)
The best way to extract data from PDFs automatically is by using data parsing software. If you’ve never heard of data parsing before today, consider your life permanently changed for the better.
Data parsing involves splitting documents into small pieces of data that be easily stored and manipulated. Data parsing software allows you to set ‘parsing rules’ just once, and then it does all the rest for you.
Over the past few years, a few data parsing software have popped up on the market, but when it comes to parsing PDF data, you’ll want to check out Parserr for several reasons:
• With a free account option and monthly pricing starting at $22.99 per month for up to 450 emails and 250 documents per month, Parserr is the most affordable option on the market
• Not only does Parserr enable you to extract data from several file types, it also allows you to use Zapier to push the extracted data into a wide range of other software, including Google Sheets, Quickbooks, Zoho CRM and other popular business tools
• When it comes to PDFs, Parserr works on both original and scanned PDFs and other documents, so no need to worry if you’re working with previously-printed or compressed files
• Have no clue what you’re doing? Parserr helps new customers by setting up your first few rules for you, so you can see firsthand how it’s done.
The PDF Parsing Process
Here’s a step-by-step outline of how the PDF parsing process works
1. Upload a sample PDF document
Choose one of the PDF documents from your pile and upload it into your parsing software. This document has to have a similar structure to the others in other for automated parsing technology to work. We’ll get into details of why this is necessary further down. In some software, like Parserr, you submit documents for parsing via an email address they provide during sign up.
2. Select the areas for parsing
Once you upload the document, your software will walk you through selecting and labeling the specific areas for parsing. Don’t worry, it’s a lot easier than it sounds. All you have to do is draw a rectangle around the data (number or text) that you want to copy and give it a name. Do that for each item, save it, and then move on to the next area.
In this example below, we’re selecting the invoice number and giving it the name “Invoice Number”. See, simple right?
You’ll repeat the process for each area that you want selected. This should take you only a few minutes.
3. Upload remaining documents
Once you’ve selected all areas and labeled them accordingly in your sample document, it’s time to upload the documents you actually want to parse. In most cases, you will need to re-upload/re-send the original document you used as a sample if you want it to be included in your final output.
4. Parse away!
Once you’ve submitted all the documents you want to extract data from, simple click Parse (or other similar button) and watch your software go to work. It goes through each document and copies the information automatically for you. Once the information is extracted, you can export it to the document of your choosing, such as a spreadsheet, or transfer it directly to your chosen tool.
Et voila! Your work is complete, with you barely lifting a finger.
Setting up your first PDF may seems a bit complex and daunting, especially if you’re not highly tech-savvy. But rest assured that once you set up one document, the whole process will be automated. Your large batch of PDFs will be handled in mere minutes, without any further input from you.
Now the only work you’ll have is figuring out what you’re going to do with all that free time.