How to Convert PDF Documents to Microsoft Excel

While Microsoft Excel 2013 does have an option to open and convert PDF spreadsheets, it's an extremely messy affair, invariably resulting in rows of gibberish. Convert the PDF to Word first. This route is just a little messy, but it's nothing compared to the train wreck you get when you try to convert a PDF directly into Excel.

Converting a PDF to Excel

Step 1: Open the PDF in Word

Right-click the PDF in File Explorer, select Open With and click Word. After Word launches, a dialog box opens asking you to confirm that you're converting the file to an editable Word document. Click OK.

Open the PDF file in Microsoft Word
Image Credit: Screenshot courtesy of Microsoft.

Step 2: Copy and Paste to Excel

Press Ctrl-A, then Ctrl-C to copy all of the data in the Word document. Open a new, blank Excel workbook and click cell A1. Press Ctrl-V to paste the data into Excel.

Highlight all of the data in Word and then copy it.
Image Credit: Screenshot courtesy of Microsoft.

Step 3: Adjust the Cell Sizes

Press Ctrl-A to select the entire worksheet so you can resize all of the columns at once. While the worksheet is all gray, drag the line between any two column letters to the right until you can see all of the data. Resize the rows if needed by dragging a line between two row numbers.

Hashtags appear when cells are too small for the data they hold.
Image Credit: Screenshot courtesy of Microsoft.

Step 4: Adjust the Formatting

When converting a PDF to Excel, it's common that the formatting renders poorly. For example, some cells may be left-aligned, while others are center-aligned. Highlight the cells that need to be changed, click the Home menu and change the alignment using the icons in the Ribbon. Make any other changes as needed, such as the font size.

Here the cell alignment is not consistent in rows B and D.
Image Credit: Screenshot courtesy of Microsoft.

Step 5: Proofread the Data

Even if the data in Excel looks okay, there may be problems you don't see until you compare the spreadsheet with the original PDF document. Drag the original PDF onto a Web browser window to open it, and then resize the windows to compare them side-by-side or up-and-down. Pay particularly close attention to any data that used formulas. In our example, all of the data came out fine, except the row of totals and averages, which were merged into a single cell. To fix data problems, you can retype the data into the cells or use Excel formulas.

The single cell A29 contains two rows of data and must be corrected.
Image Credit: Screenshot courtesy of Microsoft.

Embedding a PDF as an Object

If you don't really need to convert all of the data in a PDF into a worksheet, you can embed it as an object in that worksheet. To do this, click the Insert menu, select Text and then Object. Click the Create From File tab and then select the PDF. Whenever you click on the embedded thumbnail, the PDF opens in your default PDF viewer.

Insert the PDF as an object to have access to its data when needed.
Image Credit: Screenshot courtesy of Microsoft.