Appropedia:Porting PDF files to MediaWiki

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This is still a work in process - you can help by trying these methods and adding any information about what works. Contact Chriswaterguy or Curt if you have questions.

Methods[edit source]

At present, we do not have a simple one-step PDF-to-MediaWiki translation process which retains the desired text formatting. We have many multi-step approaches which retain text formatting, all of which can be broken down into two main steps:

  1. Convert (save) the PDF to a more workable intermediate format that supports interesting formatting, and
  2. Convert the resulting file into MediaWiki format.

The various options for each of these main steps are described below.

The OpenOffice 3 approach may come closest to a straightforward solution, if we can get it to work.

Alas, we do not yet have an automated way to transfer the images (though mw:Extension:MultiUpload may make it easier). Help is welcome!

1. Save as formatted text[edit source]

Convert to a Word, RTF or HTML file.

It is preferable to use:

  1. An open source solution, which can be used by anyone and can be improved if needed.
  2. If this doesn't work, Acrobat Professional - some academics, students and business people will have access to it, and it is likely to work better than freeware or web services.

(When searching for solutions, note that word combinations like PDF export gets a lot of false hits - mainly exporting to PDF, and also very many commercial programs. So, try this search:

export OR convert pdf-to freeware -demo -free-trial images formatted OR layout)

Open source options[edit source]

There is an extension for OpenOffice 3 Beta (presumably works with OO3) that facilitates import of pdf documents Sun PDF Import Extension (Beta). If this works well, combined with OpenOffice's existing MediaWiki export functionality, this may be a one stop tool for PDF to MediaWiki conversion. Chriswaterguy is trying this out now, but having trouble with bugs preventing acceptance of the EULA. 21:24, 14 December 2008 (UTC)


  1. use or xpdf to convert to html
  2. clean up with htmltidy. It should now be ready to convert to MediaWiki.

Scanned documents:

  • Sometimes scanned documents have the actual text embedded in the document.
    • The pdftotext command extracts raw text: "pdftotext file.pdf" without the quotes.
    • Evince PDF viewer (and possibly others) allow you to select and copy.

Acrobat Professional (i.e. paid version)[edit source]

This is the best option so far. Check if your school/college/company has this program (you might have to ask for access).

  • In the non-free Adobe Acrobat there is an option to save to rich text formats - see Save a PDF file as a Word document, HTML file, or image. Fatima has used this and found it helpful. We should experiment and find the best path - saving to which format, and then using which method to translate to wiki markup.[expand]
  • The free program Acrobat Reader has an "export as text" function, but only plain text. Copying and pasting also only gives plain text.

We could also test other readers to see if any allow copying with formatting. The following only do plain text: Evince Document Viewer 2.24 for Linux.

"Freeware"[edit source]

Options that are free (as in free beer) but not open source:

  • Sorax PDF SDK DLL Edition 1.1 - "export PDF files to... XML." (image or text?)
    Okay, so I (CurtB) have poked around with the Sorax DLL, and it looks interesting. I figured this commentary makes more sense on the article page than the talk page, and yet this is almost a discussion at this point, hence my chatty tone. It turns out that the DLL is indeed free, and the license for usage is generous, essentially do what you want with it as long as you don't reverse engineer it or hack it into something else. It also comes with a "demo" application, which could be very useful. Using this demo program, one can open a PDF document and export it into XML. It exports all the text (no images, sorry) into an xml file with useful formatting information, including font name, font size, italic or bold (true or false for those last two). There is a fair bit of other info that might not be interesting (paging, for example) and would need to be stripped off. Nevertheless, it is quite conceivable that a PERL or Python-based tool could quickly be written to strip the undesired stuff away, and convert the remainder to wiki form. Maybe even some clever SED scripts could do the bulk of the work! Yay!
    It should be noted that the DLL is really intended for use by developers, and most particularly for Visual C developers, since the tool includes a "vcproj" file, which is a Visual C project file. Python developers also may be able to make use of the tool, based on the information in the included (PDF, of course) document, and with some help from this page I found. Writing an actual application that could use the DLL would be ideal, since it would allow bulk translation of PDFs, instead of the one-by-one conversion process that would be offered by the Demo application plus xml-to-wiki tool. Hmm. New thought. How well does OpenOffice convert XML to Wiki? Be right back! Nope, not much help. Okay, done for now. CurtB 00:29, 5 February 2008 (PST)
Does Sorax do the formatting for image placement? (As wikEd does when converting HTML.)
  • Free PDF to Word Doc Converter - reviews and comments[1][2] suggest that this is "nagware" (i.e. freeware hassles you, adds extra steps) and that Zamzar (online service, below) gives better results.

Free online services[edit source]

Check these (and do a search to make sure you've got the latest version):

  • docq - upload the file and it will convert online. DocQ provides online PDF editing, highlighting, and e-signing. Free account trials available.
  • Zamzar (review) - upload the file and receive an email with a link to the output file. Works well, some hassle and hiccups. Formatting may need extra work, e.g. double line-breaks need replacing with single line-breaks for best results. This is the only free solution known to work so far.
  • Adobe's online conversion service - appears broken. After a long period (e.g. 75 min) it still displays "In progress".
  • Form Swift

Commercial programs (apart from Adobe Acrobat)[edit source]

Question: are there free trial versions that do what we need? Help by trying them out. (These programs are not guaranteed - do some Googling to make sure they're safe, and make sure you've got good anti-spyware and anti-virus.)

These are not ideal, as:

  1. we can't invite everybody to help out without paying lots of money or stretching/breaking the licensing agreements,
  2. they usually take an extra step, via Word, and
  3. They're only for Windows.

But for reference (in case of desperation):

OCR[edit source]

When a PDF file (or other format) is image based rather than text-based, this may be helpful. See User talk:LeissKG for a discussion of this technique.

OCR should probably be limited to those cases when text is only available as an image, as it will inevitably introduce some errors. It seems likely to be more difficult as well.[verification needed] Nevertheless, if proven out, this could be a useful tool for creating wiki versions of out-of-print articles or texts. Care must be taken, however, that copyright permissions are handled appropriately!

Here are some resources for OCR:

2. Convert from formatted text to MediaWiki[edit source]

There are several options, notably using wikEd, or OpenOffice (version 2.3 or higher). See Appropedia:Porting formatted content to MediaWiki for full details.

Manual formatting - old method[edit source]

This is not recommended, but if you have problems with the other methods and need to try it, see Help:Porting PDF files to MediaWiki (old method, manual formatting).

Images[edit source]

Images must be saved and uploaded.

  • Until now, this has been done as described at Help:Porting PDF files to MediaWiki (old method, manual formatting) #Transfer the images. There may be easier ways now, but there are still useful info and tips there, e.g. don't try too hard to match the layout of the original... PDF's are fixed size, while the layout of the wiki article will flex based on several variables. So invest some energy in layout, but don't overdo it.
  • In PDF-to-HTML conversion the images will be output in the same folder. (However, with Zamzar, each page's images are turned into a single image taking up the whole page - the text fits around it.)
  • In PDF-to-Word conversion the images will be integrated in the document.
  • Acrobat: Images are apparently saved automatically during file export:

Question: Which of the formats include tags to indicate image location?