Just because your coworker sent you a PDF file instead of the Excel document you wanted, doesn’t mean you have to stick with it. In this guide, we’ll teach you how to convert a PDF into an Excel document in a few quick and easy steps. We’ll even teach you a few different ways to do it.
Adobe Acrobat DC – Premium app conversion
As one of the world’s premier PDF reading and editing applications, Adobe Acrobat DC is one of the more popular methods for converting a PDF into an Excel file. As fully featured as it is though, it is a paid-for, premium application. Fortunately, there is a free trial, so if you’re just looking to do a one-off conversion, this method works great.
Step 1: Download Adobe Acrobat DC’s seven-day trial and install it.
Step 2: Open the software and select the “Tools” tab.
Step 3: Click the “Export PDF” icon.
Step 4: Click “Select a file” and choose the PDF you want to convert from the resulting window. Then, select “Spreadsheet” from the list of export options and decide whether you want an “Excel Workbook” (.xlsx), or “XML Spreadsheet 2003” (.xml) format.
Step 5: If you want to adjust your eventual Excel document’s settings, click the gear icon on the right-hand side of your selection. You can choose how many worksheets are created, as well as what symbols were used as data separators.
Step 6: When happy with your settings, click the blue “Export” button.
Step 7: Decide where you want to save your new Excel document. Either pick one of the “Recent Folders” on show, or click the blue “Choose a Different Folder” button. In the resulting pop-up file browser, click “Save.”
Depending on the complexity of your data set and the speed of your computer, you may have a short wait while the conversion takes place. Once completed, the new Excel document will automatically open. You have now officially converted your PDF to an Excel document.
Tabula – Free app conversion
The issue with using Adobe Acrobat DC to convert a PDF into an Excel document is that eventually, you have to pay for the privilege. If you want a more long-term solution that doesn’t mean breaking out your credit card, Tabula is a popular free alternative that runs from within your browser. It doesn’t change your PDF into an Excel document itself, but it extracts the PDF’s data into a format that Excel can read without difficulty.
Step 1: Download Tabula and run its installer. Don’t be concerned about the Command Prompt window that appears, that’s part of the process.
Step 2: Run the Tabula application and it will open a new window in your web browser of choice. If it doesn’t, do it yourself and input “http://127.0.0.1:8080/” into the address bar and hit the “Enter” key.
Step 3: Click the “Browse” button and select the PDF you want to convert. Then click “Import.”
Step 4: A processing bar will then appear. Wait for it to complete the importing process.
Step 5: Either manually select the content you want to extract from the PDF by clicking and dragging boxes around it, or use the “AutoDetect” tables button to have it find tabled data automatically. Once you’re happy with the selection, click the green “Preview & Export Extracted Data” button.
Step 6: Select your chosen export format using the drop-down menu — the default “CSV” should be fine for most — and then click the “Export” button.
Your PDF data has now been extracted and saved into its own file. You can now open that in Excel, and edit it at your leisure.
Tabello – Freemium extension
Tabello is another easy-to-use method for converting a PDF to an Excel document and it does it through a browser extension. Currently compatible with the Chrome browser, it’s able to convert a PDF’s contents into an Excel-friendly format right in your browser. No need to download the PDF and upload it somewhere else or run it through a conversion tool. Find the content you want, select it, and export it straight away.
We received an assertion from the developer that Tabello also retains all private information locally and only ever sends tabular structure data to a remote server, so your information should be entirely protected while making the conversion.
Better yet, it’s entirely free for your first five conversions, so if you just need a one-off or a handful of conversions, Tabello works great. After that, you can spend five dollars per 20 conversions, or pay a monthly subscription for ongoing service.
Tabello’s only real downside is its limitation to the Chrome browser (for now) and the fact that it doesn’t work with PDF images as of yet.
Step 1: Install the Tabello Extension through the Chrome Web Store (along with some of our other favorites), or visit its homepage for easy navigational links.
Step 2: Find the PDF you want. Either navigate to its URL, or open the local PDF in Chrome. That latter option takes an extra quick step to enable local file parsing, but Tabello walks you through it easily.
Step 3: Click the Tabello icon in the top right-hand corner to activate it.
Step 4: Follow the on-screen instructions to select the content you want to convert to an Excel-friendly format.
Step 5: Once you’ve selected your content, it will automatically be converted. Click the “Copy to Clipboard” button at the bottom.
Step 6: Open Excel or a compatible editor and paste the content directly into it. That’s it! Your content is now in Excel.
PDFtoExcel.com – Free online conversion
If you can’t install applications on your system, or would simply rather a remote server did the brunt of the work for you, you can convert a PDF to an Excel document online instead. Although there are a number of online converters out there, our favorite is PDFtoExcel.com because it’s free, has a clean interface, and does its job quickly.
It’s important to note that although PDFtoExcel does pledge to remove all files within six hours of upload and doesn’t look at the contents of your files, you are still sending them to a remote server. If you’re working with important data, consider a local conversion solution instead.
Step 1: Open a browser window and go to PDFtoExcel.com.
Step 2: Click the “Upload” button and select your chosen PDF, or drag and drop it onto the designated area.
Step 3: You’ll see a progress bar appear for the upload itself, followed by another for the conversion process. If you are working with a large PDF and/or dataset, those steps may take a little while, but overall the process should be swift. Once complete, click the “Free Download” button.
That’s it! Your PDF is now converted to an Excel document (.xlsx), which you can open and edit in Excel to your heart’s content.
Now that you have an Excel document to work with, check out our guide on some handy Excel tips and tricks for the Microsoft Office application.
Updated – added Tabello extension method.