Learn how to efficiently and cost-effectively retrieve data from websites that store information in PDF and other file formats.

There are two main types of PDF files: those built from a text file and those built from an image(likely scanned in). Adobe’s own software is capable of PDF scraping from text-based PDF files but special tools are needed for PDF scraping text from image-based PDF files. The primary tool for PDF scraping is the OCR program. OCR, or Optical Character Recognition, programs scan a document for small pictures that they can separate into letters. These pictures are then compared to actual letters and if matches are found, the letters are copied into a file. OCR programs can perform PDF scraping of image-based PDF files quite accurately, but they are not perfect.

Once the OCR program or Adobe program has finished PDF scraping a document, you can search through the data to find the parts you are most interested in. This information can then be stored into your favorite database or spreadsheet program. Some PDF scraping programs can sort the data into databases and/or spreadsheets automatically making your job that much easier.

Let’s explore some real-world examples of the uses of PDF scraping technology. A group at Cornell University wanted to improve a database of technical documents in PDF format by taking the old PDF file where the links and references were just images of text and changing the links and references into working clickable links thus making the database easy to navigate and cross-reference. They employed a PDF scraping utility to deconstruct the PDF files and figure out where the links were. They then could create a simple script to re-create the PDF files with working links replacing the old text image.

A computer hardware vendor wanted to display specifications data for his hardware on his website. He hired a company to perform PDF scraping of the hardware documentation on the manufacturers’ website and save the PDF scraped data into a database he could use to update his webpage automatically.

PDF Scraping is just collecting information that is available on the public internet. PDF Scraping does not violate copyright laws.

PDF Scraping is a great new technology that can significantly reduce your workload if it involves retrieving information from PDF files. Applications exist that can help you with smaller, easier PDF Scraping projects but companies exist that will create custom applications for larger or more intricate PDF Scraping jobs.

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