How to scan data using OCR to Excel spreadsheets.

A person scans a paper using OCR to Excel spreadsheets.

Say goodbye to manual data entry — learn how PDF to Excel OCR can make changing file formats easier.

Microsoft Excel is often the go-to spreadsheet editing software for both businesses and households — but it can sometimes be tricky to work with. For example, it can’t read spreadsheets saved as PDFs. So, if you need to work on a PDF sheet, you might be wondering what to do.

Luckily, OCR technology can help Excel understand your PDF. Let’s find out how to use OCR to turn text data into an Excel-readable format.

How OCR technology works.

OCR stands for optical character recognition. This technology can identify text and recreate it in a machine-readable form.

If that sounds complicated, think about a page scanned into a JPG image. The text is there, but you can’t select, copy, or edit it — your computer doesn’t know the image contains text.

An OCR application can scan the image, recognize the letters and symbols, and reproduce them as actual text. After you save the processed page as a machine-readable document, like a PDF or Word file, you can then copy or edit the text.

What can I scan with OCR to Excel?

There are various types of files you can easily scan to Excel using OCR, such as images, financial documents, PDF files, and more.

Different ways to scan to Excel.

Scanning files, images, or documents to Excel is easy when using an OCR application, such as Adobe Scan. You can use Adobe Scan to scan a document and convert your spreadsheets into high-quality PDFs. Here, we will discuss the two main processes for scanning files.

Scan to Excel with OCR on Mac and Windows.

After scanning a spreadsheet, you can easily use Adobe Acrobat to export it as a Microsoft Excel file. Follow these steps:

  1. Open Acrobat.
  2. Connect a scanner device to your Mac or Windows computer.
  3. Go to Tools > Create PDF > Scanner.
  4. Next, OCR the scans by going to Tools > Scan & OCR > Recognize Text.
  5. Once this is ready, go to Tools > Export PDF.
  6. Choose Spreadsheet as the output format and open in Excel.

PDF to Excel OCR options with PDF software.

OCR technology can read “flat” documents, like images or PDF files, and reconstruct them as functional spreadsheets.

If you’re working with a PDF spreadsheet, an easy way to prepare it for editing is to use an OCR-capable converter to turn it into an Excel file. Here’s how to use a PDF converter to accomplish this task:

  1. Open your browser and launch the PDF to Excel converter.
  2. Upload the PDF by dragging and dropping it into the tool.
  3. Once the converter is done, download the converted Excel file.

Sometimes you might notice that the spreadsheet formatting is a bit off after the conversion. But that’s no problem — since OCR has recognized all the text, you can quickly and easily fix any issues directly in Excel and get right back to work.

Does formatting carry over when I use OCR to scan to Excel?

Your formatting is preserved when using OCR to scan to an Excel spreadsheet.

When you scan documents using OCR software with Acrobat, your pages will be instantly formatted and transcribed in the exact format of the original file. This means that you won’t have to worry about whether the fonts match or the structure stays the same.

After I convert a scanned PDF to Excel, can I export it as a PDF?

After converting a scanned PDF to Excel, you can easily export the spreadsheet as a PDF thanks to the Convert Excel to PDF tool in Acrobat online services.

To export an Excel spreadsheet to PDF, follow these steps:

  1. Open the converter tool.
  2. Click the “Select a file” button, or drag and drop a file into the drop zone.
  3. Select the file you want to convert from XLS or XLSX to PDF format.
  4. After you upload the Excel sheet, Acrobat will automatically convert it to PDF file format.

How can I import scans of OCR to an Excel spreadsheet?

To import OCR scans to an Excel spreadsheet, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Excel spreadsheet.
  2. Select Data > Get data > From file > From PDF.
  3. You will see a navigator panel with the tables and pages in your PDF, along with a preview.
  4. Select the table and click Load. The table will then be imported into the Excel sheet.

More resources on Excel files.

Now that you’ve learned how to convert PDF to Excel using OCR software, here are more resources on Excel and PDF files: