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3 Ways to Convert a PDF to Excel

Business people send PDF files to each other all the time.

Like a lot of people, we share information with colleagues and business partners in PDF documents on the daily – and it would so be handy to use the data from some of those PDF files in an Excel spreadsheet.

But… is it possible to convert a PDF to Excel? Yes, it is!

If you work with documents, here are articles on how to convert a PDF to Word and how to convert a PDF to Google Docs.

Here are 3 ways to convert PDF files to an Excel spreadsheet.

1) Convert PDF Data Using Copy and Paste

If you need to convert PDF data to an Excel spreadsheet, sometimes using copy and paste is the easiest solution. Just be aware that copy and paste is only useful for converting small amounts of data.

Using the PDF document and Excel file from the example below, here’s what you would do.

  1. Drag to select Last Name from the PDF document on the left then click Copy in the Home > Clipboard group on Excel’s Ribbon. (or press Ctrl + C).
  2. Select cell A1 then click Paste (or press Ctrl + V).
  3. Rinse and repeat until all of relevant data from the PDF file has been copied to your Excel spreadsheet.
Using copy and paste to convert PDF data to Excel

Unfortunately, if you try to copy larger amounts of data, you’ll quickly become aware of the limits of copy and paste when it comes to PDF to Excel conversion.

In the example below, I copied all of the text from the PDF file and attempted to paste it into my Excel spreadsheet but the Excel conversion really didn’t work the way I wanted it to.

Copy and paste all

2) Convert a PDF File to Excel with Power Query

Power Query, also known as Get & Transform in Excel, lets you connect to an external data source to manipulate and import data from a variety of file formats, including PDF documents.

Let’s bring the participant list PDF in to our Excel file using Power Query.

  1. Select the Data tab on Excel’s Ribbon then click Get Data in the Get & Transform Data group.
  2. Select From File from the list of options, then click From PDF.
    The Import Data dialog box appears.
Get data from PDF
  1. Find the Participant List PDF file and double-click it.
    The Navigator appears.
  2. Select the table containing the list of participants, then click Transform Data to launch the Power Query Editor.
Navigator
  1. Select the Transform tab on the Power Query Editor’s Ribbon then click Use First Row as Headers in the Table group to use “Last Name” and “First Name” as headings in the imported table.
  2. Click Close & Load in the Home > Close group to import data from the selected table in the PDF file to Excel.

The Power Query Editor is a provides various tools to help you manipulate and import external data into an Excel file.

3) Use Adobe Acrobat (or an Excel Converter) to Convert PDF Files

There is no shortage of PDF to Excel conversion utilities – just Google “Excel converter”… but if you prefer to stick with a trusted brand, Adobe Acrobat will do the job nicely.

Here’s how you convert PDF files with Adobe Acrobat.

  1. Open the PDF file in Acrobat.
  2. Click Export PDF in the right pane.
  3. Select Microsoft Excel (*.xlsx) as the export format then click Convert.
  4. Enter a filename for the converted file and click Save.

Note: The ability to convert a PDF to Excel requires a paid subscription. You can sign up for a 7-day trial of Adobe Acrobat Pro here.

How Do I Convert a PDF to Excel for Free?

If you haven’t been able to convert your PDF to Excel using any of the methods listed above… and you don’t really want to sign up for a paid Adobe Acrobat Pro subscription, Adobe offers an online tool to convert PDF files to Excel for free.

Just head over to https://www.adobe.com/ca/acrobat/online/pdf-to-excel.html to convert a PDF to Excel online.

Convert PDF Files to Excel Spreadsheets in a Snap!

I hope you have found this article informative. There are so many occasions when it is useful to be able to convert PDF files to Excel spreadsheets.

While there is no PDF converter that will work in all situations, using one of the techniques outlined above, you should be able to convert your PDF files to editable Excel files as needed.

By Michael Belfry

Working as a full-time training consultant, Michael provides Microsoft Office courses to government and private sector clients across Canada.