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Extract Text from PDF in C# (100% .NET)

, 20 May 2006
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A simple class to extract plain text from PDF documents with ITextSharp


This is a 100% .NET solution to extract text from PDF documents.


Dan Letecky posted a nice code on how to extract text from PDF documents in C# based on PDFBox. Although his solution works well it has a drawback, the size of the required additional libraries is almost 16 MB. Using iTextSharp the size of required additional libraries is only 2.3 MB.

Using the Code

In order to use this solution in your projects, you need to do the following steps:

  • Add references to itextsharp.dll and SharpZiplib.dll
  • Add the PDFParser.cs class to your project

Then you can use the newly added class in the following way:

// create an instance of the pdfparser class
PDFParser pdfParser = new PDFParser();
// extract the text
String result = pdfParser.ExtractText(pdfFile);

I also created a small console application which uses the class and shows the progress of the conversion. Please keep in mind that if you try to extract text from big PDF files, keeping all the resultant text in memory is not the best solution, in these cases you should write the extracted text to the file after parsing every page.

How Is It Working?

My code is based on the algorithm in C ExtractPDFText. Using iTextSharp's PdfReader class to extract the deflated content of every page, I use a simple function ExtractTextFromPDFBytes to extract the text contents from the deflated page.

Further Improvements

Although the code worked well for me, I didn't find in Adobe's PDF reference how to parse special characters. So if someone knows how to do this, just post it and I will update the class.


  • 20th May, 2006: Initial post


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

Web Developer
Romania Romania
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Comments and Discussions

AnswerGood tool, thanks for sharing. Pinmembermic.xu25-Sep-14 8:40 
GeneralMy vote of 2 PinmemberMember 107128088-Aug-14 1:43 
QuestionTanks a lot! PinmemberKrNeS23-Jan-14 5:41 
QuestionWorks (kind of) PinmemberMember 380812010-Dec-13 1:09 
GeneralGreat job. PinmemberPerry Orr7-Aug-13 17:20 
QuestionToo simplistic - why I voted 1 Pinmemberatlaste10-Jul-13 22:28 
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news for all the good intentions. I know the PDF standard quite well, even implemented it a couple of times, and to be honest this is *not* what you want. Extracting text from PDF is a *very hard* thing to implement, not something to take lightly. To name a few issues with this code:
- Different styles of encodings are not supported; it's not just ascii out there!
- Unicode cmaps are not implemented; you'll get jibberish, lots of it
- Different ways to encode strings are not supported
- Characters are positioned absolutely in PDF; you cannot just grab them and hope you end up with text, you need some type of OCR-like text merging
... I can go on for quite a while here ... Yes, there's a reason all implementations are megabytes in size.
If you really want to extract text from PDF, read the standard and then if you're still up to it, start coding. Then download a couple of 1000 pdf's from the internet, see all your code go to hell, fix all the issues and go on. This simplistic "solution" will just give you lots and lots of bad and unpredictable results.
AnswerRe: Too simplistic - why I voted 1 PinmemberPerry Orr7-Aug-13 17:22 
GeneralRe: Too simplistic - why I voted 1 Pinmemberatlaste2-Mar-14 21:30 
QuestionHow it work!? Pinmemberreza2168116-Apr-13 6:51 
Questionlayout Pinmembertmac1210-Mar-13 23:32 
QuestionThank you! PinmemberJoseph guidry8-Jan-13 9:15 
SuggestionPdf to text conversion in PinmemberHighCommand18-Dec-12 8:24 
BugFound bug PinmemberMunissoR24-Apr-12 1:57 
AnswerRe: Found bug Pinmemberfborelli4-Jul-12 8:33 
GeneralGreat Post, Works Great! PinmemberMember 202264516-Apr-12 5:13 
QuestionGreat post! PinmemberEric Castellon9-Apr-12 9:35 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pinmemberbrinda roy20-Feb-12 23:41 
GeneralMy vote of 1 Pinmembermjkhan78620-Jan-12 21:35 
Questionhow to export data from excel to PDF ? PinmembernimolZero28-Aug-11 6:10 
Questionnot work Pinmembercutithongtin1-Aug-11 14:45 
QuestionDosn't work. Pinmembersasirekam29-Jun-11 19:13 
GeneralAlternate Solution Pinmemberkaaskop7-May-11 3:44 
GeneralRe: Alternate Solution PinmemberWizdave052-Feb-12 9:04 
GeneralRe: Alternate Solution PinmemberMember 864124213-Feb-12 15:45 
GeneralRe: Alternate Solution PinmemberMember 909494814-Aug-12 13:45 

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