pdftotext: Linux / UNIX Convert a PDF File To Text Format

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Question: I’ve downloaded configuration file in a PDF format. I do not have GUI installed on remote Linux / UNIX server. How do I convert a PDF (Portable Document Format) file to a text format using command line so that I can view file over remote ssh session?

Answer: Use pdftotext utility to convert Portable Document Format (PDF) files to plain text. It reads the PDF file, and writes a text file. If text file is not specified, pdftotext converts file.pdf to file.txt. If text-file is -, the text is sent to stdout.

Install pdftotext under RedHat / RHEL / Fedora / CentOS Linux

pdftotext is installed using poppler-utils package under various Linux distributions:
# yum install poppler-utils
OR use the following under Debian / Ubuntu Linux
$ sudo apt-get install poppler-utils

pdftotext syntax

pdftotext {PDF-file} {text-file}

How do I convert a pdf to text?

Convert a pdf file called hp-manual.pdf to hp-manual.txt, enter:
$ pdftotext hp-manual.pdf hp-manual.txt
Specifies the first page 5 and last page 10 (select 5 to 10 pages) to convert, enter:
$ pdftotext -f 5 -l 10 hp-manual.pdf hp-manual.txt
Convert a pdf file protected and encrypted by owner password:
$ pdftotext -opw 'password' hp-manual.pdf hp-manual.txt
Convert a pdf file protected and encrypted by user password:
$ pdftotext -upw 'password' hp-manual.pdf hp-manual.txt
Sets the end-of-line convention to use for text output. You can set it to unix, dos or mac. For UNIX / Linux oses, enter:
$ pdftotext -eol unix hp-manual.pdf hp-manual.txt

Further readings:

  • man page pdftotext

Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. He has worked with global clients and in various industries, including IT, education, defense and space research, and the nonprofit sector. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+.

9 comment

  1. I’m very glad to have found this tip since I’ve been looking for a way to index the contents of PDF files. “pdftotext” works on text in foreign languages and character sets, too, and outputs the text as UTF-8, which is excellent.

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