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PDF to Excel

October 19, 2017 - by Bill Jelen

PDF to Excel

How to get data from a PDF file in to Excel. The dirty secret? Word.


Katie Sullivan is a Project Manager on the Microsoft Word team. For today's tip, a benefit of Word.

While Excel fans sometimes tease that Word and PowerPoint are freeware apps that come on the Excel DVD, there are times when Microsoft Word offers a feature that Excel does not. In those cases, it makes sense to copy your data from Excel, paste to Word, do the command, then copy back to Excel. Here are some examples of techniques that are better handled in Word than in Excel.

Technique 5

Extract Data from a PDF

Say that someone has an Excel workbook and saves that workbook as a PDF. They send it to you. This is annoying, and clearly they don't want you to reuse the data. If you open the PDF in Acrobat Reader, copy the data, and paste to Excel, it will unwind into a single column. But here is the secret: Paste that data to Word first. The rows and columns will paste properly. You can then copy from Word and paste back into Excel. (If you are stuck in a pre-2013 version of Office, I recommend Able2Extract:

Here is the original data on the left and how it looks when you paste directly from PDF to Excel on the right. You can see that the data “unwinds,” with B1:C1 going to A2:A3 and so on.

Original Data
Original Data
Copy and Paste from PDF
Copy and Paste from PDF

Paste that same data to Word (below left), then copy from Word and paste to Excel (below right). The data stays in the original order. You can unapply Word Wrap and adjust the column widths to get back to the original data.

PDF to Word
PDF to Word
Word to Excel
Word to Excel

Watch Video

  • Exporting Excel data as a PDF
  • Today's trick is from Katie Sullivan on the Word team
  • There are a few cases where Microsoft Word can do things better than Excel
  • One of those is pasting data from PDF files
  • Paste to Word
  • Copy the data from Word
  • Paste to Excel
  • In the outtake, a way in Acrobat to Copy with Formatting and it will paste half-correctly to Excel

Auto-Generated Transcript

  • Learn Excel from MrExcel Podcast
  • episode 2050 to PDF to excel hey welcome
  • back to the MrExcel NetCast I'll be
  • podcasting this entire book click the I
  • in the top right hand corner to get to
  • the playlist today we're talking about
  • those evil people who have data in Excel
  • but they don't send you the data in
  • Excel they send it as a PDF so file
  • export create a PDF wanna open file
  • after publishing call it podcast 2052
  • click publish alright there is our data
  • in the PDF now I got this PDF but I want
  • to create a pivot table or to create a
  • chart or do something but I can't do
  • that from the PDF so I select the data
  • in the PDF ctrl C to copy this annoys me
  • so much why can't the Excel team take
  • their own data they created that PDF why
  • can't they paste correctly and have it
  • pasted into a table instead of down a
  • column all right word ctrl V look it
  • pastes correctly select the data in word
  • ctrl C switch from word back to excel
  • ctrl V to paste and it round-trips
  • correctly like an word do this and not
  • Excel
  • well this tip and a lot of other tips
  • are in the book click the I in the top
  • right hand corner to buy the book all
  • right episode recap started out
  • exporting excel data as a PDF today's
  • trick is from Katie Sullivan on the word
  • team one of those things where word is
  • better than Excel is accepting pasted
  • data from PDF files scrape the data from
  • the PDF file ctrl C to copy go to word
  • paste the word it'll paste correctly
  • copy the data from word and back to
  • excel paste to excel yet another thing
  • that Microsoft Word does better at then
  • Excel thanks for stopping by we'll see
  • you next time for another net cast from
  • MrExcel this is an outtake it's such a
  • weak weak trick if you need to go
  • directly from the PDF to excel and you
  • have full Adobe Acrobat instead of just
  • Acrobat Reader you can right click and
  • copy with formatting then when you come
  • to Excel and paste ctrl V but look it's
  • not
  • as our

Download File

Download the sample file here: Podcast2052.xlsm

Title Photo: Milosz_Karski / Pixabay

Bill Jelen is the author / co-author of
MrExcel LIVe

A book for people who use Excel 40+ hours per week. Illustrated in full color.