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[DIY] Scraping Tables From A PDF

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[DIY] Scraping Tables From A PDF

Scraping a website is easy, but have you ever wondered how one can scrape PDFs? Especially tables? Here's what I learned and discovered.

Anjan Nair's photo
Anjan Nair
·Jan 14, 2023·

5 min read

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Table of contents

  • The Challenge
  • My Approach
  • The Fix
  • The Code
  • The Issue
  • The Python Fix
  • Concluding Notes

Recently I had a problem, scraping the forex card rates from a PDF published by SBI on their website and converting the same to a CSV file. This PDF is updated on the same link every day.

As quoted by the final source where I got the code from -

Explanation to Rule 26 of the Income Tax Rules, 1962 advises using telegraphic transfer rates of SBI as reference for calculating foreign income or capital gains. SBI publishes the rates daily on its website, barring Sundays and bank holidays. Unfortunately, there is no official way to access historical data.

The Challenge

Scraping a PDF normally is easy, considering that there are already many open-source projects available for the same. But here, this PDF had data present in tables as shown below -

My Approach

Before I found the complete solution to my problem readymade (scroll directly below if you want to skip this), I had made up my mind to build the entire scraper using Node.

I came across many NPM packages to help me with the same, but almost none of them had a built-in approach for parsing tables in a PDF. I struck a gold mine by finally finding an NPM package - pomgui/pdf-tables-parser.

It was the exact solution I was looking for, except, as of 10th January 2023 an update to one of its dependencies pdfjs-dist, the generic build of pdfjs caused the package to break.

The Fix

I would be lying if I said that I fixed the issue in minutes. At first, I thought it was some issue with the node_modules I downloaded and spent some time installing the dependencies I was shown was missing. Only after some time when I went through the source code of the pdf-tables-parser, did I realize the path for the build of pdfjs-dist had changed from pdfjs-dist/es5/build/pdf to pdfjs-dist/build/pdf.

A quick fix and update to that had fixed the missing dependencies errors. I put in a pull request on the GitHub repository of the package.

The Code

  1. Downloading the PDF from the website - Using the async await will ensure we can wait for the download asynchronously. The npm package download uses a function to pass in the URL and the output folder path.

     const download = require('download');
     async function fileDownload() {
       // download(link, output folder)
       await download('', 'input');
  2. Converting the acquired PDF to JSON - This was made easy after using the pdf-tables-parser package.

    The code below gets the downloaded PDF from the input folder, extracts the data, and writes it to a report.json file in the out directory.

     const { PdfDocument } = require('@pomgui/pdf-tables-parser');
     const fs = require('fs');
     async function PDFToJSON() {
       const pdf = new PdfDocument();
       // pdf.load('path/to/PDF')
       await pdf.load('input/FOREX_CARD_RATES.pdf')
         .then(() => fs.writeFileSync('out/report.json', JSON.stringify(pdf, null, 2), 'utf8'))
         .catch((err) => console.error(err));

    Here are the dependencies in the package.json for reference -

     "dependencies": {
         "@pomgui/pdf-tables-parser": "^0.1.0",
         "download": "^8.0.0",
         "path": "^0.12.7",
         "pdfjs": "^2.4.7",
         "pdfjs-dist": "^3.2.146"

    The Issue

    This code was inefficient as the JSON was not uniform. No doubt that all the contents of the PDF are scraped but it is too ugly and variable to look at.

    Here is how the JSON looked

               "tableNumber": 7,
               "numrows": 1,
               "numcols": 1,
               "data": [
                   "UNITED STATES DOLLAR   USD/INR  "
               "tableNumber": 8,
               "numrows": 2,
               "numcols": 9,
               "data": [
                   "  82.75",
                   "  81.18",
                   "  82.92",
                   "  80.5",
                   "  83.2",
                   "  80.2",
                   "  83.4",
                   "  81.12"
                   "EURO   EUR/INR  "

    The Python Fix

    This amazing GitHub repository solved my entire issue of scraping the said PDF -

    Thanks to Sahil's solution the task of scraping had been achieved, leaving me with modifying the existing code to scrape page 1 and upload it to Amazon S3 Bucket.

  3. Connecting to the S3 bucket

     import os
     import boto3
     from dotenv import load_dotenv
     s3 = boto3.client(
  4. Uploading the CSV files

     import pandas as pd
     def upload_csv():
         # This loop ensures that all the files and folders in the
         # directory "csv_files" is uploaded
         for path, subdirs, files in os.walk("csv_files"):
             for name in files:
                 hc = pd.read_csv(os.path.join(path, name))
                 csv_buf = StringIO()
                 hc.to_csv(csv_buf, header=True, index=False)
                     Key=os.path.join(path, name),
         print("Uploaded CSV to bucket")
  5. Uploading the PDF files

     # This loop ensures that all the files and folders in the
     # directory "pdf_files" is uploaded
     for path, subdirs, files in os.walk("pdf_files"):
             for name in files:
                     Body=os.path.join(path, name),
                     Key=os.path.join(path, name),
         print("Uploaded PDF to bucket")
  6. Scraping Page 1 - This is simple, since both the pages are the same all you need is to start from the second index for the table headers and start at the 3rd index for getting the values. Hence, the changes to be made to the dump_data function in the source code will be -

     header_row = lines[2]


     for line in lines[3:]:

Concluding Notes

Scraping using Python was an easier task compared with NodeJs. Maybe my approach was wrong when scraping with Node but I felt that scraping with Python felt cleaner and the work got done faster.

You can now schedule a cron job to run the main function/ file to scrape the SBI Forex website. If a change is detected, it will automatically update the CSV.

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