Acrobat How-To: Reuse Table Information in a PDF

Tables are not generally considered exciting, but they are an important and necessary part of business documents. Until Acrobat 6 it was difficult to deal with tables in PDFs; Acrobat 6 included a Select Table tool, and Acrobat 7 takes your table manipulation capabilities to new heights.

Suppose you have a PDF document containing tables, and you need to use the table information but don’t have the original source file. Or suppose you want to cut a table out of a PDF document to use as a separate PDF file. In earlier versions of Acrobat, the only way to reuse table data was to export the content as a rich text format (RTF) file, and then reassemble and restructure the table in Microsoft Word or Excel.

How you select table information differs depending on whether the document is tagged. First, let’s work with an untagged document.

Select your text and expand your selection area to include some or all of the content from the table. If you see a Select Table icon when you move the tool over the table, you can automatically select all the content.

Wait a couple of seconds for the Select text icon to display over the selected table content. Move the pointer over the icon to open the menu, and choose an option. You can also right-click or Control-click the selected text to open the shortcut menu and choose the same options, and the shortcut menu includes other text manipulation options as well.

Regardless of the menu you use, Acrobat automatically recognizes the text as belonging to a table format, which gives you three table-specific options in addition to the customary Copy to Clipboard command. You can:

1. Choose Save As Table; the Save As dialog box opens. Name the table, and choose a format from the pull-down list. Then click Save.

2. Choose Open Table in Spreadsheet. Your spreadsheet application, such as Excel, opens and displays the imported table in a new worksheet.

3. Choose Copy As Table to copy it to the clipboard. Open the document you want to paste the table into, and choose Edit > Paste.

In both Word and Excel, the tables taken from the PDF document are editable and ready to use.

Why a Table Is a Table
Spreadsheet programs are designed using a structure called comma-separated values (CSV). Exporting the content from the table using the CSV process pastes the content from a cell location in the Acrobat table to the equivalent location in the spreadsheet.

Tag It
If your document is tagged and you merely want to copy and paste a table, don’t spend time selecting tools, selecting text, and selecting commands. Instead, open the Tags pane and click the table’s tag. Choose Options > Copy Contents to Clipboard from the Tags pane’s menu. Then open the document in which you want to use the table and paste it in. The table is pasted and includes its data as well as any formatting such as borders, fonts, and so on. How cool.

Using Tables in a Tagged Document
Tagging a document can be really beneficial — if, as with most things in life, you know how to use those tags to best advantage.

When a document is tagged, Acrobat 7 automatically recognizes the structure and gives you yet another Select tool to use for your document manipulation enjoyment. Click the Select tool on the Basic toolbar and move it over a table on your document. The icon changes to crosshairs and a grid. Click once and the entire table is selected.

As with other select tools, if you hover the pointer over the table, the Select Text icon displays; move the pointer over the icon to open the menu. In addition to the options available for a table selected in an untagged document, you can select a Copy with Formatting command.

Excerpted from “Adobe Acrobat 7 Tips & Tricks: The 150 Best” by Donna Baker. Copyright (C) 2005. Used with the permission of Pearson Education, Inc. and Adobe Press.


Posted on: October 9, 2006

5 Comments on Acrobat How-To: Reuse Table Information in a PDF

  1. I don’t read a whole lot of PDF based articles, so maybe you have mentioned this before. I have used a trick fro years that works great for lifting tables out of PDF’s to reuse them in Quark. If someone uses any encryption security in the PDF, the trick won’t work. It’s also fantastic for getting logos in Vector form -something I need all the time as a catalog retailer. If you’re interested, I’ll write an article (free) – just notify the powers that be on this site.

  2. Are the above instructions intended for use with Adobe Reader or Adobe Professional?

  3. Are the above instructions intended for use with Adobe Reader or Adobe Professional?

  4. You’ll need Acrobat Standard or Pro to follow along with this tutorial.

    Terri Stone
    Editor in Chief,

  5. Maybe I am new, but this function does not work. Copy as table, save as table, and whatever else I am reading, just copies my text into one long sentence.

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