How to Convert PDF to Google Sheets the Automated Way

Find out how you can manually or automatically convert PDF to Google Sheets online with our step-by-step guide.

 min. read
May 28, 2024
How to Convert PDF to Google Sheets the Automated Way

PDFs are everywhere nowadays, with an estimated 2.5 trillion documents in this format across the world. It's easy to see why people love PDFs. They provide a convenient and secure way of exchanging data and documents. Unfortunately, as convenient as PDFs are, they can be difficult to work with sometimes. That’s because the information trapped within these documents isn't always structured or usable for computational work. You have to convert PDF to Google Sheets to enable that.

In this blog post, we will look at various ways to perform this conversion process. We'll highlight some of the challenges you need to anticipate when converting PDF to Google Sheets and introduce you to different ways and an automated solution that will convert PDFs into Google Sheets without the need for any manual intervention. Let's delve right in!

Google Sheets is an incredibly powerful tool for organizing and analyzing data. Converting PDFs to Google Sheets allows you to take advantage of the features offered by Google Sheets.

As we've already pointed out, data in PDFs is not structured, meaning that it cannot be understood or processed by machines. This makes it difficult to analyze and manipulate the data in a meaningful way. By converting PDFs to Google Sheets, you can quickly and easily organize your data into columns and rows so that it can be processed or analyzed more effectively.

Google Sheets also offers a range of advanced features that allow you to manipulate your data in powerful ways. You can use formulas to calculate values from multiple cells at once, create charts and graphs to visualize your data, or even write custom scripts with Apps Script to automate complex tasks.

Converting PDF to Google Sheets can be a challenge due to the differences between the two formats. PDFs are not organized or structured in the same way as other data formats, such as JSON or CSV.

JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) is a lightweight, human-readable format that stores data in an organized way. It is often used to store and share data from web applications, such as API responses or user-generated content. On the other hand, CSV (Comma Separated Values) is a plain text file format that stores tabular data in rows and columns. It is commonly used to store large amounts of data, such as spreadsheets or databases, and can be imported into many different programs. Converting both of these formats to Google Sheets is relatively straightforward, as the data is already organized in a structured way.

The lack of such organization in PDF files presents a challenge during the conversion process. Additionally, PDF files often contain images that cannot be converted without the help of advanced technologies such as OCR (Optical Character Recognition) and machine learning. Therefore, it is important to use a tool that is capable of accurately converting PDFs into Google Sheets while preserving the original formatting and structure.

Native PDFs refer to PDFs that were generated by a program, such as Microsoft Word or Adobe Acrobat. On the other hand, Non-Native PDFs are usually created from images, scanned documents, or online webpages and cannot be opened in programs like Microsoft Word and Google Docs.

As we discussed above, it’s impossible to convert non-native PDFs to Google Sheet without the help of AI technologies such as Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and Machine Learning (ML). Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) integrates various technologies to help businesses automate data extraction from unstructured files like PDFs to structured data formats like JSON and CSV, which can be uploaded to Google Sheets.

Data trapped in unstructured formats like emails, PDFs, and scanned documents can be automatically extracted by IDP. The extracted data can then be used in various applications for further processing, calculation, or analysis.

Converting PDFs to Google Sheet with IDP is quite simple.

Let’s see how simple it is to do so with FormX.

Step 1: Sign up for free trial

You can create an account here.

Step 2: Create an extractor

After creating an account, you can then create different types of extractors based on your needs. FormX provides a set of pre-built extractors and also allows you to train your own extractor by providing sample images and marking the areas where the desired information is located.

Step 3. Upload your master image and label the anchor and detection region

After creating your extractor, you can then label the anchor regions, which are regions with fixed positions, and detection regions, which are the places where the data can be found.

When labelling the detection regions, you have a variety of auto extraction items or data types that you can choose to maximize the accuracy of the extracted results.

Step 4. Test your extractor

Upload a sample image to test the accuracy of your extractor.

Step 5. Set up integration for automated PDF to Google Sheets Conversion

There are a few ways for you to do this.

You can set up a Webhook and use Zapier to connect it with Google Sheets.

The second method will be using our Desktop App to convert PDF to CSV, and then open it with Google Sheets. You can find the link to download the Desktop App in the “Extract” tab.

Lastly, we can also automatically send API to Google Sheets for you to have a completely automatic workflow of PDF to Google Sheets conversion (contact us for closed beta).

There are several ways to convert native PDF files into Google formats. In this article, we'll look at two methods: manual copy and paste and convert PDF to CSV, then open with Google Sheets.

The simplest way of converting a native PDF file into a Google format is by manually copying and pasting the content from the PDF into a new document in the desired format. This method is time-consuming and error-prone.

To manually copy and paste data, open the PDF file in your preferred reader and select the texts you want to copy. Then open a new spreadsheet on Google Sheets and paste the text into different cells. You may need to adjust formatting as needed, such as font size or spacing.

Although it is sometimes feasible to convert PDF to Google Sheets using Google Docs, it only applies to native PDFs. However, most of the time Google Docs will not be able to keep the format of the table and the content of the PDFs. You will have to manually make some adjustment, which might take even longer time compared to manual copy and paste.

Another option to convert PDF to Google sheet is by first converting them into CSV files and then opening them in Google Sheets. This method is more complicated than the others but can be useful if you need more control over how your data is formatted when converted from one format to another.

Let’s take the PDF file below as an example.

Step 1. Upload your PDF file to Google Drive

Step 2. Double click on the file and click on “Open with Google Docs”

Step 3. Make some adjustment before formatting

As you can see from the image above, some of the numbers and texts aren’t at the right places. Add some spaces and switch some lines so that it will be much easier for you to format later.

Step 4. Use the “Find and Replace” feature to replace all single space character “ “ with a comma character “,.”

After you replace all the single spaces with commas, your data will then look like a CSV file. Note that sometimes the values might have spaces within in and therefore should be adjusted again to avoid formatting issues.

Step 5. Export is as a txt. file.

Step 6. Change the file name from .txt to .csv

Step 7. Upload it to Google Drive and open it with Google Sheets. You have successfully converted your PDF to Google Sheets

Note that this only works for native PDFs. It’s impossible to convert PDF containing images or non-tabular data without using AI technologies.

Converting PDFs to Google Sheets can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Whether you need to convert native or non-native documents, there are several tools and methods available that can help make the process simpler and more efficient. Instead of manually copying and pasting text from a PDF file into Google Docs, you can try leveraging IDP technology. With the right tools, such as FormX, you can make sure that your data stays up-to-date and accessible so you can get back to focusing on what’s most important.

Ready for the FormX experience? Get in touch with us today to schedule a demo.