By Johan MüllerThu. 04 Jul. 20243min Read

Change PDFs to Text Python with Our Easy Guide

This guide offers an easy method to convert PDFs to text using Python, featuring practical steps with PyPDF2 and PDFMiner, and tips for effective results.
Change PDFs to Text Python with Our Easy Guide

If you're looking to convert PDF files into text using Python, you've found the perfect guide. Our straightforward instructions are designed to help you easily achieve this with minimal fuss.

Johan Müller
Blog Author - B2B SaaS Content Writer
Like any other writer, his path crossed with the SaaS industry. For over three years, he has been combining his SEO and writing skills to create informative listicles, comparisons, and tutorial posts.

How to Convert PDF Files to Text Using Python

The ability to convert PDF documents to text using Python is an invaluable feature for professionals across many fields, including data science, software development, and administrative work.

This capability is especially important because it allows for the automation of data extraction from documents that are typically non-editable, enabling a more efficient workflow and data processing.

Step 1: Install Required Libraries

  • Before you start coding, you need to install Python libraries that handle PDF files. The most commonly used library for this task is PyPDF2. Install it using pip:

Step 2: Import Libraries

  • After installation, import the necessary library in your Python script:

Step 3: Open the PDF File

  • Choose the PDF file you want to convert and open it in read-binary mode:


Step 4: Read the PDF with PyPDF2

  • Create a PDF reader object using PyPDF2 to interact with the PDF:

Step 5: Extract Text from Each Page

  • Loop through each page of the PDF file and extract text. You can store this text in a variable or write it to a text file:

Step 6: Output the Extracted Text

  • You have several options for what to do with the extracted text. Here’s how to print it to the console:

  • Alternatively, you can save the text to a file:

Step 7: Close the PDF File

  • Finally, close the PDF file to free up resources:

You've successfully converted a PDF file into text using Python. This simple guide should help you handle basic PDF to text conversions. For more advanced features like handling encrypted PDFs or preserving formatting, you might need to explore additional options in the PyPDF2 library or consider other libraries like PDFMiner or PyMuPDF.

"Python is fast enough for our site and allows us to produce maintainable features in record times, with a minimum of developers"
Guido van RossumGuido van Rossum
Creator of Python
Source: LinkedIn


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    Best Practices

    Library Choices: Depending on your needs, you can choose from several libraries:

    • PyPDF2 is popular for basic text extraction from PDFs that are not scanned images.

    • PDFMiner is suitable for more complex tasks and provides detailed control over the conversion process, including layout preservation​​.

    • OCR Libraries: For scanned documents, libraries like OCRmyPDF and Tesseract (via pytesseract) are useful as they include optical character recognition (OCR) capabilities, which can convert images of text into actual text​​.


    Handling Scanned PDFs: When dealing with scanned PDFs, OCR is necessary. OCRmyPDF is a tool that preserves the original layout and formatting while adding a searchable text layer, making it a strong choice for high-quality OCR​.

    Batch Processing: If you need to process multiple PDFs, consider using batch processing capabilities of tools like OCRmyPDF, which can handle multiple files simultaneously, saving time and effort​​.

    Encoding and Special Characters: Ensure that the encoding settings of your text extraction tool match those of the PDF to avoid issues with special characters or Unicode text​.

    "Python is an experiment in how much freedom programmers need. Too much freedom and nobody can read another's code; too little and expressiveness is endangered."
    Guido van RossumGuido van Rossum
    Creator of Python
    Source: LinkedIn


    Common Questions

    How to Preserve Layout? 

    Tools like PDFMiner allow for better layout preservation compared to others like PyPDF2, which may simplify text at the cost of losing formatting​​.

    What About Non-Text Elements?

     Extracting elements like tables and forms can be challenging. Libraries such as PDFMiner provide functionalities to handle these elements better than others​​.

    Can I Convert PDFs to Other Formats?

     Yes, libraries like PyPDF2 and PDFMiner not only convert PDFs to text but can also help in converting them to other formats like HTML or CSV, although additional programming might be required to format the output properly​​.

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