Tips & Tricks

Reusing Table Information in a PDF using Acrobat 7

May 24, 2005


Tables are not generally considered exciting, although 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 or not the document is tagged. In this tip, you see how to work with an untagged document. Read about tagged documents in this tip's sidebar.

Using the methods you learned in Tip 82, 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 (Figure 86a). 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.

Shortcut menu

Figure 86a. Select all or a portion of the table for exporting.

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:

  • Choose Save As Table; the Save As dialog box opens. Name the table, and choose a format from the pull-down list (Figure 86b). Then click Save.

List of possible file types

Figure 86b. Choose an exporting format for saving the table.

  • Choose Open Table in Spreadsheet. Your spreadsheet application, such as Excel, opens and displays the imported table in a new worksheet (Figure 86c).

An exported table in Excel

Figure 86c. An exported table is converted to an active Excel worksheet.

  • 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.

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