Tips & Tricks

Reusing Table Information

July 27, 2004

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Tables are not generally considered exciting. They are, however, a very necessary part of business. Up to now, it's been difficult to deal with tables in PDFs, but Acrobat's new Select Table tool is a real timesaver.

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. Prior to Acrobat 6, the only way to reuse table data was to export the content from the PDF as a rich text format (RTF) file, and then reassemble and restructure the table in Microsoft Word or Excel. Now you can do it quickly and accurately using the Select Table tool.

  1. Choose the Select Table tool from the Basic toolbar or from the Selection Tools toolbar if it is open.
  2. Drag a marquee around the table you want to export.

    Table selection


    Figure 1. Select the table for exporting.

  3. Right-click the table to open the shortcut menu. Choose one of three ways to use the table content:

    Shortcut menu

    • Choose Copy Selected Table to copy it to the clipboard. Open the document you want to paste the table into, and choose Edit > Paste.
    • Choose Save Selected Table As. Name the table, and choose a format from the pull-down list. Then click Save.


      Figure 2. Select an export option from the shortcut menu.

      Acrobat Save As dialog


      Figure 3. Choose a name and format for the exported table.

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

      Exported table data in Excel


      Figure 4. An exported table is converted to an active Excel worksheet.

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

Note: Spreadsheet programs are designed using a structure called comma-separated values (CSV). When you choose Comma Separated Values from the type list in the Save As dialog, Acrobat pastes the content from a cell location in the Acrobat table to the equivalent location in the spreadsheet.

How to Handle Tables

How you work with a table in a PDF document depends on what you want to do with it.

  • If you need part of a table, drag a box around only the portion of the table you want. This method saves time when you paste the table into a receiving document.
  • If you aren't sure where you need to use the table save two copies, as both RTF and CSV. That way you have a visual table if you need it in a program such as Word, and a CSV-compliant copy if you need to use it in a spreadsheet. It only takes a few seconds to save the copies in two formats, and can save time later if you have to export in another format.

This tip is excerpted with permission from "Adobe Acrobat 6 Tips and Tricks: The 100 Best" by Donna Baker, published by Peachpit Press/Adobe Press, Copyright 2004 Peachpit Press.

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