Tired of manual data entry? Check out our list of the top 9 data extraction tools for you to automate data extraction from different data sources.
July 25, 2023
Data makes up the building blocks of most business operations these days, informing everything from sales and marketing to financial decisions. What makes this increasingly difficult however is the range of formats that data is packaged in. Different file types, be they physical or digital documents, and layouts make extracting relevant information through a single processing stream extremely challenging.
Data extraction has come a long way though, with multiple offerings that make it easier and quicker for businesses to process information. We’ve narrowed down 9 of the best tools for data extraction that can help automate data handling and ultimately improve daily business tasks.
What is Data Extraction?
Very simply, data extraction is the process of identifying and retrieving relevant information from various data sources and turning it into structured formats. Once that’s done, the data is then far easier to analyze and take further.
When we refer to “structured data”, what we mean is that the information is organized in a way that it’s very easy for software or computers to understand and process. On the opposite end of this spectrum is unstructured data and it is what PDFs tend to contain, making extracting data from PDF quite a challenging task. As the name suggests, there’s little structure to this data which makes it difficult for machines to decipher it. Semi-structured data is somewhere in between these two extremes.
Data can be obtained from a myriad of sources and arrive in any variation of the types just mentioned, but structured data is what’s needed before it can be processed through other software. The true value of business data lies in how it can shape analytics and strategies, but that requires extracting and combining information from multiple sources. Formats and file types should not be preventing your business from seeing the full picture of its data.
Data management is generally guided by the ETL process: “extract, transform, and load”. Nothing happens until data has been extracted accurately. While this was once a manual task, data management tools have largely streamlined this job and made it easier for businesses to use technology to assist with other aspects of data handling as well. Data extraction done right is the jumping-off point for all the analysis and predictive modeling businesses rely on so much now.
The Benefits of Using Data Extraction Tools
Data can hold a significant amount of strategic value for businesses, but that means nothing if it isn’t extracted accurately and made available in a format that automation technology can use. Here are some of the key benefits of using data extraction tools in your data approach:
Improve Accuracy: Switching from manual to machine, especially when AI is involved, means far less chance of human error affecting the quality of your data.
Save Time: Data extraction tools are generally automating what would have been time-consuming, menial tasks. They make the process much quicker, which only brings further benefits.
Increase Efficiency and Productivity: Faster data extraction has a knock-on effect on everything else and tends to improve overall efficiency and productivity. The quicker relevant information is taken from documents, the quicker it is to process all of it and move on to the tasks it's affecting.
Gain More Insights. Ideally, data extraction tools are able to retrieve information from multiple formats, be it financial statements, IDs, or receipts. The advantage this offers is that businesses can do more with all that information and better understand everything from customer behaviors to the financial health of the organization.
Scaleability. As a business grows, so too does the data it needs to process. Manual data extraction requires hiring to be done to match that growth, but data extraction tools scale as you do. It’s much easier to expand how software deals with increased data volumes than it is with a staff of people.
The Top 9 Data Extraction Tools
With so many data extraction tools available now, it can be difficult to understand which niches each one fits and how they might best integrate into your business. Here are nine of the best data extraction tools and what they have to offer:
Powered by OCR and Machine Learning, FormX is a uniquely intelligent tool in that it can extract data from images and PDFs. The AI capabilities that it offers mean that this tool is not only trained to process certain document types but can also be expanded upon by users to suit their own needs. It can extract tables and a variety of data fields, such as date, time, address, phone number, product information, etc., for businesses to eliminate manual data entry.
It comes with pre-trained extractors for some of the most widely processed documents such as IDs and passports, receipts, proof of address documents, and invoices. To create your own no-code extractors that suit other kinds of documents, you simply upload a master image, label the data fields and test the extractor.
It’s designed to be as simple as possible to use and integrate into existing business workflow.
FormX can extract and return data in either JSON or CSV, the two most relied-upon structured data formats. Using the extractor API, you can then easily set up an automated data extraction workflow or use our web app to produce a CSV file that can be processed on Google Sheets or in Excel. FormX makes sure that automating data extraction doesn’t complicate your business processes, but instead makes the whole system more streamlined so that the work of analyzing and using the data can be focused on instead.
This data extraction tool is specifically focused on scraping web data to help build powerful eCommerce analytics. It’s well-reviewed for its ease of use, especially for anyone new to this kind of software, and for how quickly it’s able to gather accurate data. Data can be exported to Excel and CSV, but the site also offers users the opportunity to use them for data analysis and visualization as well.
Import.io can help businesses perform tasks such as comparing online retailers to their competitors and monitoring what customers might be saying about them. Since so much of how businesses operate is web-based, a tool like this can be highly useful for getting a better sense of what that online landscape is looking like and where a business is fitting into it.
E-Commerce Scraper API
A very similar option to Import.io, this web scraper is designed to collect data from e-commerce websites. It’s particularly useful for businesses that want to keep an eye on real-time prices, catalog mapping, and competitor analysis. Its UI has garnered it a lot of positive attention, as well as the power of its web scraping functionalities.
For anyone focused on web data, this is another great data extraction tool to help people who have no coding skills, and don’t plan to learn any. It converts web pages into Excel spreadsheets with just a few clicks, making it great for anyone who wants a quick, easy solution to their web data woes.
Scraped data can also be downloaded as CSV, API, or saved to databases. It has a particularly useful scheduling function so that you can automate when scraping is done and not just the web extraction itself.
This is a full-on data pipeline tool, meaning it can automate extraction, send it to data warehouses, and then run analytics on that data and deliver operational intelligence to whatever other business tools are in place.
We said at the start how difficult it is to process data through a single system but innovations like this are helping to solve that issue. Hevo Data is built to support a range of plugins and data sources and as such, is quite an adaptable tool. It’s an end-to-end product that can completely restructure how a business handles data.
Bright data is an extensive platform that beyond web scrapers, also offers a few other tools related to web data including datasets and analytic capabilities. It's aimed mainly at developers, but added assistance is available for anyone new to the technology and like any great tool for data extraction, it’s highly scalable. This API has a strong reputation, especially for good customer service and strong data delivery.
Tabula is a data extraction tool with a very narrow, but useful focus: extracting information from data tables in PDF files. PDFs are an unstructured form of data storage which means that without something like Tabula, you would usually have to copy and paste rows of data out of PDF files to start creating something more structured. Tabula retrieves all that information and delivers it as a CSV file or Excel spreadsheet far quicker than it would take to do manually and with much less chance of error.
This tool has its limitations though as it doesn’t use OCR. The consequence of that is it can only process tables in native PDF files and cannot perform data extraction on scanned PDF documents.
Most people in need of a tool like Webscraper are unlikely to have coding experience, which is why it’s so great that this browser extension has been built to be used by anyone. Their goal is to make web data extraction accessible to everyone, regardless of your expertise. The software allows users to tailor data extraction to the sites they’re looking at and export all that information in CSV, JSON, and Excel files. Like Octoparse, it also has a scheduler so that web scraping can be automated.
Besides FormX, this is the only tool for data extraction on this list that also uses OCR technology. This means that it can extract data from a range of formats, including PDF files, images, and Word documents, to be exported as CSV, Excel, JSON, or XML formats.
Information can be extracted from things like invoices, bank statements, and purchase orders in a fraction of the time it would have taken to do manually. That said, this tool isn’t powered by machine learning which means that it’s not able to handle dynamic layouts in the way FormX can.
Extract Data with FormX
Our use of both ML and OCR technology means that FormX offers a particularly powerful data extraction tool to businesses wanting to streamline their data practices. Not only can it be adjusted to suit multiple dynamic formats, but we’ve also made sure to have preset tools for the most common business tasks.