PDF to Excel Free is a free web service that is specifically designed to convert PDFs with lots of data tables into Excel files. It will automatically detects data tables, transfer them into Excel format, and recreates their formatting and appearance. Conversion is performed remotely on the site; you will have to upload your file and provide an email address where a link to download the converted file will be emailed back to you.
I’ve written a number of postings about converting PDFs into Word DOCs or RTFs, including a comparison of free PDF-to-Word options. One issue that frequently comes up in comments and emails, however, is that of converting table-intensive PDFs, where someone might have pages of tables full of data in a PDF file that they want to be able to work with freely. For documents like this most PDF to DOC/RTF converters usually do not output something that is easy to work with. Even the best PDF to DOC converters can result in an unstructured jumble of data where columns and rows are not well defined, and where the data would be very hard to distangle without investing considerable time and effort into manually “massaging”, re-formatting and restructuring the data, and having to check it against the original at every turn (which, for long documents, is not a practical option).
This is where PDF to Excel Free steps in. It is the first free service that I know of that can deliver high quality PDF to Excel conversions designed specifically to handle large tables of data and to transpose these into Excel with a high degree of fidelity.
The test: to test this service, I created a PDF report that had a number of data tables and other elements (see image to the right) and converted it to .XLS format using Free PDF to Excel. I also converted the same file to .DOC/RTF using three other free services for comparison purposes (Koolwire, PDF to Word Free, and Some PDF to Word Converter).
Needless to say, for the purposes of working with the data in Excel, Free PDF to Excel was the best solution in that (a) it created an XLS file that I could instantly load up in Excel and work with, and (b) was able to translated all tables and data perfectly, to the extent that the merged cells in the original were translated perfectly.
It is notable, however, that both Koolwire and PDF to Word Free were able to create a .DOC/RTF file where the data tables were converted well enough to allow for easy transfer to excel using some manual cut/paste activity. “Some PDF to Word” fared the worst, creating a useless, unrecognizable mesh that was impossible to work with.
Here are some more notes on this Free PDF to Excel:
- How it works: upload your PDF file into the Free PDF to Excel website and provide an email address. It will be processed for you on their servers and a link will be sent back to you where you can download the converted file.
- Results: converts your PDF to .XLS format with a high degree of fidelity for tables and data, as well as formatting and look-and-feel. Images and charts, however, are not rendered as well.
- Performance: very fast. The email with the converted file arrived in a manner of minutes.
- Max uploadable file size: is unclear. I tried uploading a 43 meg file to test for the usual 10 meg max file restriction; it seemed to accept and to NOT have a size restriction (the upload timed out, but that was probably due to my bad Starbucks WiFi connection).
The verdict: an excellent service. Although most people with PDF conversion needs are probably looking to convert them to Word DOC/RTF files, for those with data tables in their documents this service will prove invaluable. Simply terrific.
Compatibility: All platforms, all browsers.
Go to the PDF to Excel Free site.