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How to process transactions in PDF documents

September 17, 2015

PDF documents are a great way to present information to people, but they are frequently used as a way to communicate information that software needs to act on. The PDF document format is used by many companies for sending out electronic business documents, such as sales orders or purchase orders. In these cases, how do you get information like orders from your customers’ PDF files into your own system? Do you capture the data manually, with the risk of errors and a delay in actioning the order? The solution is to have the PDF parsed in a reliable way so that the information in it can be passed on to another application.

A number of accounting and ERP systems are set up to generate documents in PDF format – this applies from QuickBooks to SAP. Organizations use PDF documents because they:

  • are not easy to change,
  • can be sent in a more compressed form than sending a scanned document,
  • are compatible across multiple platforms.

The problem occurs at the recipient end. How to get the order into a form that the receiving system can process it?

One way is to print the document and then re-capture the data manually; this obviously can lead to errors and can take time. Another approach is to use an external system that converts the PDF into a data format that the receiving system can use. This is often done via a value-added network (VAN). The problem with VANs is that they are not able to change quickly if the PDF document changes, and the costs of change can be high.

A third option is to make use of a cloud-based software-as-a-service provider that enables integration of information between systems. This integration can between systems within the organization, or between organizations.

As part of the platform, Flowgear includes a PDF Parser that allows businesses to receive PDF files, process them automatically, and then update the data into their own system. We are finding a growing number of organizations that need to electronically process documents for business transactions – this ranges from Excel files to EDI formats.

The Flowgear PDF connector converts the PDF file into an XML document. For example, this integration workflow:


converts this part of a PDF document


into this XML format


As companies increasingly make use of the Internet to handle business-to-business transactions, so the need for fast and flexible integration capability will become more important. Use of the PDF format to send business documents isn’t going to go away, but there is a quick, accurate and cost-effective way to get the contents of a PDF document into your system.

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