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How to Convert PDF to Google Sheets (3 Easy Methods)

Converting PDF documents to Google Sheets can be extremely useful for importing data and tables from PDF files into Google Sheets.

The process of converting a PDF to Google Sheets allows you to take information that may be locked in a PDF file and import it into Sheets, where you can then edit, analyze, and work with the data. 

Today’s post will review several ways you can convert PDFs to Google Sheets. 

Whether you’re just getting started with Google Sheets or have a bit of experience navigating this spreadsheet application, you should be able to seamlessly convert PDF to Google Sheets after reading today’s guide. 

But before we review all of the different ways you can convert PDF to Google Sheets, let’s quickly give you an overview of how the conversion process works. 

An Overview of the PDF to Google Sheets Conversion Process

The overall workflow for converting a PDF file to Google Sheets consists of a few key steps:

  1. Upload the PDF file to Google Drive for easy access and conversion capabilities.
  2. Open the uploaded PDF using Google Drive’s built-in PDF viewer.
  3. Use Google Drive’s “Open with Google Docs” option to convert the PDF to an editable Google Doc file.
  4. Copy or export the desired data tables or content from the converted Google Doc.
  5. Paste the copied data into Google Sheets for further analysis, charting, calculations, and editing.

Essentially, you first want to get the PDF into Google Drive, convert it to a Google Doc, which allows you to selectively copy data from it, and then paste that data into Google Sheets.

The Challenges of Importing Data from PDF

PDF documents are created using a format developed by Adobe that excellently preserves the formatting and layout of any document or data. However, this complex formatting can pose challenges when trying to import the data contained in PDF files into other digital platforms.

A few reasons extracting data from PDFs can be tricky:

  • PDFs store documents differently than programs like spreadsheets or word processors, making the files unreadable if directly converted to other formats.
  • Data in PDFs lacks a consistent structure and can’t be easily edited.
  • Information is displayed in fixed locations on a 2D plane without organizational tags or hierarchy.
  • There’s no distinction made between textual elements, images, charts, or tables.
  • PDFs can contain large volumes of data spanning many pages, including rich media and attachments.

Simply put, the propriety PDF format prioritizes formatting over function. While this makes PDF great for preservation and presentation, it poses obstacles to extracting and analyzing data. 

That’s why specialized PDF conversion tools are needed to import PDF data into more flexible platforms like Google Sheets.

Converting PDF to Google Sheets – Exploring the Different Methods

Now that you are aware of some of the common challenges of importing data from PDF, let’s quickly review the different ways to convert PDF to Google Sheets. 

Method 1: Convert PDF to Google Sheets Using Google Docs

This is arguably one of the most straightforward methods of converting PDF to Google Sheets. 

In this section, we will show you the step-by-step process of converting a PDF document to Google Sheets using Google Docs. 

Let’s dive right in, shall we?

Step 1 – Upload the PDF File to Google Drive

Begin by navigating to Google Drive’s homepage. Look for and select the “New” button, located in the top left corner of your screen, to reveal a dropdown menu. 

Within this menu, choose the “File upload” option. 

This action prompts your computer’s file explorer to open, allowing you to select the PDF file you wish to convert. 

Upon selection, the upload to Google Drive will commence automatically.

Step 2 – Open the PDF With Google Docs for Conversion

After the upload is complete, locate the PDF file in your Google Drive and double-click on it. A preview window will appear. 

In this preview, locate and click on the “Open with Google Docs” option, situated at the center of your screen. 

Google Docs will then launch, displaying your PDF content in an editable format. It’s advisable to thoroughly inspect the content for any discrepancies or errors at this stage.

Step 3: Copying the Data from Google Docs

With the PDF now open in Google Docs, proceed to highlight the data you wish to transfer to Google Sheets. Once selected, copy the data by pressing Ctrl + C (or Cmd + C on macOS).

Step 4: Pasting the Data into Google Sheets

Open your target Google Sheets document and click on the cell where you intend to start pasting the data. Paste the copied data by pressing Ctrl + V (or Cmd + V on macOS). 

The pasted data will populate the cells within the spreadsheet.

Here is what ours looks like:

Note: It’s crucial to verify the formatting and accuracy of the data in Google Docs before transferring it to Google Sheets. Proper formatting in Google Docs ensures a seamless transition and accurate representation of data in Google Sheets. 

Feel free to adjust and format the data in Google Sheets as needed to finalize your document.

Method 2: Convert PDF to CSV, then Import to Google Sheets

The first method we covered utilizes Google Docs to convert PDF files directly into Google Sheets. However, that approach can run into issues when working with plain-text PDF documents. An alternative is first converting the PDF to CSV format before importing it to Sheets.

If your PDF file contains primarily plain text data (no images, complex formatting, etc.), it is better to first convert the PDF to a CSV file. 

CSV stands for “comma-separated values” and is a basic data format compatible with Sheets. Converting to CSV acts as an intermediary step before import. 

Here are the major benefits:

  • CSV is a structured format optimized for data, avoiding inconsistencies from direct PDF imports
  • The import from CSV to Sheets will cleanly preserve columns, rows, and formatting
  • Useful for PDF tables, reports, or other datasets best represented in tabular format

While adding the CSV conversion step takes some extra time upfront, it helps ensure seamless data transfer into Sheets without surprises. Follow these key steps:

Step 1: Upload PDF to Google Drive

Navigate to Google Drive’s main page. Click on the “New” button, located at the top left corner of the window, to access the dropdown menu.

Select “File upload” from the dropdown menu. This action opens your computer’s file browser.

Choose the PDF file you wish to upload and select it. The upload process will start automatically.

Step 2: Open PDF with Google Docs

Once the PDF file upload is complete, find the file in your Google Drive and double-click on it. This action opens a preview of the file.

In the preview window, click on the “Open with Google Docs” option, typically found at the top or middle of the screen.

Google Docs should instantly launch, displaying the document you just opened. 

Step 3: Convert PDF Data to CSV Format

With your data now accessible in Google Docs, it’s time to format it for CSV. Start by clicking on “Edit” in the menu bar, then select “Find and Replace.”

In the “Find and Replace” window, input a space in the “Find” textbox and a comma in the “Replace with” textbox. 

This action prepares to convert the document’s spaces into commas, which is essential for CSV format.

Click “Replace All” to substitute all spaces with commas. 

If specific adjustments are needed, such as keeping spaces between first and last names, manually make these changes by adding spaces where commas were incorrectly placed.

Step 4: Download and Save as CSV

After ensuring the document’s formatting is correct, proceed to download the file. Click on the “File” menu, navigate to “Download,” and then select “Plain Text (.txt)”

Once the file is downloaded to your computer, open it with a text editor.

Save the file with a “.csv” extension, effectively converting it into a CSV file.

With that done, all that is left to do is open the text file you just saved as .CVS in Google Sheets. If you did everything right, you should have neatly formatted data in Google Sheets. 

Here is what ours looks like:

Method 3: Online PDF to Google Sheets Converters

Instead of relying on Google’s built-in conversion tools, you can also use dedicated third-party websites to convert PDF files into Google Sheets. Online PDF converters automatically translate the data in PDF documents for easy importing into Sheets.

There are many reputable sites available, usually for free or with premium paid plans, that streamline PDF to Sheet conversions:

  • pdfFiller – Excels at extracting tables and data from PDFs with a free tier available
  • DocHub – Cloud-based suite supporting many file conversions, including PDF to Excel
  • Nanonet – Popular online converter supporting exports to XLSX, ODS, CSV formats

These web tools interface directly with Google Drive, allowing you to swiftly upload PDFs and convert them into formatted, import-ready spreadsheets for Sheets. They provide advanced customization for handling complex documents.

For this section, we will use pdfFiller to show you how to convert PDF to Google Sheets. 

Let’s jump right into that. 

Step 1: Accessing the Online Converter

Visit the PDFFiller website and log into your account. If you don’t have an account, you’ll need to create one.

Step 2: Upload the PDF Document

On the PDFFiller dashboard, locate and click on the “Selectfrom device” button.

Navigate through your device’s files, select the PDF document you wish to convert, and upload it to the platform.

Step 3: Edit Your Document (Optional)

Once your PDF is uploaded, PDFFiller offers tools to edit your table or document directly within the platform. Make any desired changes to your document at this stage.

Step 4: Download the Document

After editing, click on the Done checkmark icon to initiate the saving process.

In the “Save as” options, select Excel as the format to convert your PDF into and choose Google Drive as the destination for your file.

Step 5: Import into Google Sheets

Go to your Google Drive, locate the downloaded file, right-click on it, and select “Open with > Google Sheets.”

Your file will now open in Google Sheets as a new spreadsheet, ready for further editing and use.

Considering the Cost of Online Converters

It’s important to acknowledge that while PDFFiller and similar online tools offer convenient conversion services, they typically require a subscription after the free trial period ends. This means that for ongoing use, there will be associated costs.

How Modern PDF Converters Like pdfFiller Works

Modern PDF documents are converted into editable formats or data structures like Google Sheets through a sophisticated process that typically unfolds in three main stages. 

This sequence ensures the data is not only accurately extracted but also appropriately cleaned and formatted for use. Here’s an overview of these stages.

Stage 1: Preliminary Data Cleaning

Before any data extraction occurs, the initial step involves refining the PDF document to ensure optimal clarity. This process, known as data cleaning, involves removing any unwanted artifacts or distortions that could hinder data extraction. 

Techniques such as applying filters for noise reduction, correcting skewness, and binarization are employed to prepare the document. 

This stage is crucial for enhancing the effectiveness of subsequent optical character recognition (OCR) efforts, as a cleaner document allows for more accurate data identification and extraction.

Stage 2: Comprehensive Data Extraction

At the heart of the conversion process is data extraction, where the actual retrieval of information from the PDF occurs. This phase utilizes a combination of OCR for recognizing text within the document and advanced pattern recognition technologies powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms. 

These technologies work in tandem to interpret and extract data from the document, even allowing for customization and learning from specific datasets to cater to unique organizational needs.

Stage 3: Detailed Post-Processing

Following the extraction of data, it remains in a raw, unstructured form. The post-processing stage addresses this by applying a set of rules for parsing and formatting the data according to specific requirements. 

Whether the target format is JSON, XML, CSV, or directly into a Google Sheets-compatible format, this phase involves organizing the extracted data into a structured, usable format. 

For Google Sheets, this includes the creation of rows and columns for tables or appropriately dividing the data into sections such as paragraphs and headings, ensuring the data is ready for analysis or further processing.

This three-step approach, encompassing data cleaning, data extraction, and post-processing, represents the sophisticated process behind modern PDF conversion technologies. 

By leveraging advanced AI and machine learning techniques, these systems not only extract data but also ensure it is clean and formatted to meet the specific needs of users and applications.

Data Types Extractable from PDF Files

Modern PDF converter tools can recognize and extract a wide variety of data elements commonly found in PDF documents. Some of them include: 

  • Text – The core textual content, including paragraphs, sentences, and formatted lists.
  • Tables – Structured tabular data such as charts or data tables.
  • Images – Embedded images, logos, diagrams, and other graphical elements.
  • Headings – Title and section headers formatted into a document hierarchy.
  • Lists – Bulleted, numbered, or other types of lists.
  • Key-Value Pairs – Data formatted into a key and corresponding value.

More advanced algorithms can also parse underlying PDF architecture, including objects, metadata, cross-reference maps, trailer definitions, and details on embedded media properties.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Import a PDF into Google Sheets?

There are a few options for getting the data from a PDF document into Google Sheets. The easiest method is through Google Drive – upload the PDF, then open with Google Docs and copy the converted data into Sheets. 

Another option is converting the Doc to CSV format and importing that CSV data into Sheets. This preserves the tabular formatting.

Can I Extract Scanned Document Data to Google Sheets?

Yes, you can import scanned PDFs like documents or forms into Sheets. One method is by copying any converted images or text data from the PDF using Google Drive and Docs. For more advanced data, use optical character recognition (OCR) software to scan and extract information into importable formats. This makes even scanned text readable in Sheets.

What’s an Easy Way to Turn a PDF Table into a Spreadsheet?

Specialized paid software exists, but the simplest method is using Google’s own free PDF conversion tools. Upload the file to Drive, open it with Google Docs, then copy the extracted tables or data and paste them into Sheets for instant formatting and editable cells. This workflow quickly converts PDF tables into spreadsheets.

Final Thoughts

Converting PDF files into Google Sheets is an extremely useful skill that unlocks access to data that may otherwise be locked away in PDF documents. As we have covered, there are several effective methods you can leverage to convert PDF to Google Sheets.

The easiest approach leverages Google’s own integrated Drive and Docs tools to directly open, convert, and import the contents of PDF files into Sheets for further use and analysis. 

For more optimized data imports, converting through an intermediary CSV file or relying on specialized third-party PDF converter web tools are also great options.

A key consideration is that while automated PDF import works well for many documents, complex formatting and layouts can cause inconsistencies in the resulting spreadsheet. 

Overall, whether you need to access tables, reports, forms, or other data locked in PDFs, converting these documents into flexible Google Sheets unlocks extensive new analytical potential. 

We encourage you to explore the different methods covered to find the right PDF to Sheet conversion workflow for your needs.