How to Extract Tables from PDF in Python

Learning how to extract tables from PDF files in Python using camelot and tabula libraries and export them into several formats such as CSV, excel, Pandas dataframe and HTML.
  · 7 min read · Updated sep 2021 · PDF File Handling

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Do you want to export tables from PDF files with Python programming language? You're in the right place.

Camelot is a Python library and a command-line tool that makes it easy for anyone to extract data tables trapped inside PDF files, check their official documentation and Github repository.

Whereas Tabula-py is a simple Python wrapper of tabula-java, which can read tables in a PDF. It enables you to convert a PDF file into a CSV, TSV, JSON or even a pandas DataFrame.

In this tutorial, you will learn how you can extract tables in PDF using both camelot and tabula-py libraries in Python.

Related tutorial: How to Extract Images from PDF in Python.

First, you need to install required dependencies for camelot library to work properly, and then you can install the libraries using the command line:

pip3 install camelot-py[cv] tabula-py

Note that you need to make sure that you have Tkinter and ghostscript (which are the required dependencies for camelot) installed properly in your computer.

Extracting PDF Tables using Camelot

Now that you have installed all requirements for this tutorial, open up a new Python file and follow along:

import camelot

# PDF file to extract tables from
file = "foo.pdf"

I have a PDF file in the current directory called "foo.pdf" (get it here) which is a normal PDF page that contains one table shown in the following image:

Table in PDF to extract in Python

Just a random table, let's extract it in Python:

# extract all the tables in the PDF file
tables = camelot.read_pdf(file)

read_pdf() function extracts all tables in a PDF file, let's print number of tables extracted:

# number of tables extracted
print("Total tables extracted:", tables.n)

This outputs:

Total tables extracted: 1 

Sure enough, it contains only one table, printing this table as a Pandas DataFrame:

# print the first table as Pandas DataFrame


              0            1                2                     3                  4                  5                 6
0  Cycle \nName  KI \n(1/km)  Distance \n(mi)  Percent Fuel Savings
1                                                  Improved \nSpeed  Decreased \nAccel  Eliminate \nStops  Decreased \nIdle
2        2012_2         3.30              1.3                  5.9%               9.5%              29.2%             17.4%
3        2145_1         0.68             11.2                  2.4%               0.1%               9.5%              2.7%
4        4234_1         0.59             58.7                  8.5%               1.3%               8.5%              3.3%
5        2032_2         0.17             57.8                 21.7%               0.3%               2.7%              1.2%
6        4171_1         0.07            173.9                 58.1%               1.6%               2.1%              0.5%

That's precise, let's export the table to a CSV file:

# export individually as CSV

CSV isn't the only option, you can also use to_excel(), to_html(), to_json() and to_sqlite() methods, here is an example exporting to Excel spreadsheet:

# export individually as Excel (.xlsx extension)

Or if you want to export all tables in one go:

# or export all in a zip
tables.export("foo.csv", f="csv", compress=True)

f parameter indicates the file format, in this case, "csv". By setting compress parameter equals to True, this will create a ZIP file that contains all the tables in CSV format.

You can also export the tables to HTML format:

# export to HTML
tables.export("foo.html", f="html")

or you can export to other formats such as JSON and Excel too.

It is worth noting that Camelot only works with text-based PDFs and not scanned documents. If you can click and drag to select text in your table in a PDF viewer, then it is a text-based PDF, so this will work on papers, books, documents, and much more!

Extracting PDF Tables using Tabula-py

Open up a new Python file and import tabula:

import tabula
import os

We simply use read_pdf() method to extract tables within PDF files (again, get the example PDF here):

# read PDF file
tables = tabula.read_pdf("1710.05006.pdf", pages="all")

We set pages to "all" to extract tables in all the PDF pages, the tabula.read_pdf() method returns a list of pandas DataFrames, each DataFrame corresponds to a table. You can also pass a URL to this method and it'll automatically download the PDF before extracting tables.

The below code is an example of iterating over all extracted tables and saving them as Excel spreadsheets:

# save them in a folder
folder_name = "tables"
if not os.path.isdir(folder_name):
# iterate over extracted tables and export as excel individually
for i, table in enumerate(tables, start=1):
    table.to_excel(os.path.join(folder_name, f"table_{i}.xlsx"), index=False)

This will create tables folder and put all detected tables in Excel format into that folder, try it out.

Now, what if you want to extract all tables from a PDF file and dump them into a single CSV file? The below code does exactly that:

# convert all tables of a PDF file into a single CSV file
# supported output_formats are "csv", "json" or "tsv"
tabula.convert_into("1710.05006.pdf", "output.csv", output_format="csv", pages="all")

If you have multiple PDF files and you want to run the above on all of them, then you can use convert_into_by_batch() method:

# convert all PDFs in a folder into CSV format
# `pdfs` folder should exist in the current directory
tabula.convert_into_by_batch("pdfs", output_format="csv", pages="all")

This will look into the pdfs folder and outputs a CSV file for each PDF file in that folder.


For large files, the camelot library tends to outperform tabula-py. However, sometimes you'll encounter a NotImplementedError for some PDFs using the camelot library, you can use tabula-py as an alternative.

Note that this won't convert image characters to digital text, if you wish so, you can use OCR techniques to convert image optical characters to the actual text that can be manipulated in Python, below tutorials can help you significantly:

Below are some related PDF tutorials that may help you in your work:

For a complete list, check the category's page.

Alright, this is it for this tutorial, check camelot official documentation and tabula-py official documentation for more detailed information.

Check the full code here.

Dive Deeper with Python

Finally, many of the Python concepts aren't discussed in detail here, if you feel you want to dig more into Python, I highly suggest you get one of these amazing Coursera courses:

Learn alsoHow to Extract All PDF Links in Python.

Happy Coding ♥

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