How to Copy a Table from PDF to Excel: Tips, Tricks, and Hacks

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In today’s data-driven world, extracting information from PDF documents and converting it into Excel spreadsheets has become a common necessity for many professionals and students. However, copying tables from PDF to Excel can be a daunting task, especially when the content is complex, and the formatting varies.

In this article, we will explore various methods to copy tables from PDF to Excel, as well as some clever hacks to streamline the process. Whether you’re working with financial reports, research data, or any other tabular data in PDF format, these techniques will help you efficiently and accurately transfer the data to Excel.

Method 1: Manual Copy-Paste

The simplest and most straightforward method to copy a table from a PDF to Excel is manual copy-paste. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Open the PDF document containing the table you want to copy.
  2. Select the table by clicking and dragging your cursor to highlight the content. Make sure to include the entire table, including headers and any footnotes.
  3. Right-click on the selected area and choose “Copy” from the context menu.
  4. Open Microsoft Excel or your preferred spreadsheet software.
  5. Create a new worksheet or open an existing one.
  6. Click on the cell where you want to paste the table data and right-click. Choose “Paste” from the context menu.

The table should now be pasted into your Excel spreadsheet. Depending on the complexity of the table, you may need to do some formatting to adjust column widths, row heights, and cell formatting. This method works well for simple tables but may become cumbersome for large or intricate tables.

Method 2: Use the “Insert Data from Picture” Feature (Excel Mobile App)

If you have access to the Excel mobile app, there’s a handy feature that allows you to insert data from a picture. Here’s how to use it:

  1. Take a clear photo of the table from your PDF using your mobile device.
  2. Open the Excel mobile app.
  3. Create a new worksheet or open an existing one.
  4. Tap on the “+” icon to add a new item and select “Data from Picture.”
  5. Choose the photo you took in step 1 from your device’s gallery.
  6. The app will analyze the image and convert it into a table in Excel. Review and confirm the results.

This method is especially convenient for on-the-go data extraction, and it often provides accurate results. However, it may not handle very complex tables as effectively as manual methods.

Method 3: Use Adobe Acrobat (Paid Version)

Adobe Acrobat is a powerful tool for working with PDF documents, and it offers features for exporting tables directly to Excel. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Open the PDF document in Adobe Acrobat (requires a paid subscription or trial version).
  2. Click on the “Export PDF” option in the right-hand pane.
  3. Choose “Microsoft Excel” as the export format.
  4. Click the “Export” button.
  5. Save the Excel file to your desired location.

Adobe Acrobat’s export feature often preserves formatting and structure well, making it a suitable choice for complex tables. However, it may not be a cost-effective solution if you only need occasional PDF-to-Excel conversion.

Possible Hacks:

  1. Online PDF to Excel Converters: There are numerous online tools and websites that offer PDF to Excel conversion services. Some of them are free, while others may come with certain limitations in terms of file size or the number of conversions allowed. Tools like Smallpdf, ILovePDF, and Online2PDF can be quite useful in a pinch.
  2. Using OCR (Optical Character Recognition) Software: If the table in your PDF is not selectable or is part of an image, you can use OCR software to convert it into editable text. Tools like Adobe Acrobat Pro and ABBYY FineReader can recognize text within images and convert it into Excel-readable format.
  3. Excel Add-ins: Some Excel add-ins are designed specifically to enhance the functionality of Excel for tasks like PDF to Excel conversion. Tools like Able2Extract and PDF2XL provide advanced features for extracting and formatting data from PDFs.
  4. Data Scraping Tools: If you frequently need to extract data from PDFs and other sources, consider using web scraping tools like Python’s Beautiful Soup and Scrapy. These tools can be programmed to extract data from PDF files and convert it into Excel or other formats.
  5. Convert to a Text File First: If the table in your PDF is simple, you can convert it to a text file (such as a CSV) first and then import it into Excel. This may simplify the formatting process.


In conclusion, copying tables from PDF to Excel can be a straightforward task or a challenging one, depending on the complexity of the content and the tools at your disposal. While manual copy-paste is the most basic method, it may not be efficient for large or intricate tables.

Utilizing the “Insert Data from Picture” feature in the Excel mobile app offers a convenient option for mobile users. Adobe Acrobat provides a reliable solution for preserving formatting, but it comes at a cost. The possible hacks mentioned in this article offer additional options, depending on your specific needs and the resources available to you.

Choose the method that suits your requirements best, and with practice, you’ll become adept at seamlessly transferring data from PDF to Excel, saving you time and effort in the long run.

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