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A framework for extracting data from PDFs in iOS
Objective-C TeX
Branch: master

Kurt the PDFKitten

A framework for searching PDF documents on iOS.


iOS, up to and including the current fifth version, does not provide any public APIs for searching PDF documents, or determining where on a page a given word is drawn. Any developer aiming to provide these features in an app must use low-level Core Graphics APIs, and keep track of the stateful process of laying out the content of the page.

This project is meant to facilitate this by implementing a complete workflow, taking as input a PDF document, a keyword string, and returning a set of selections that can be drawn on top of the PDF document.


First, create a new instance of the scanner.

    CGPDFPageRef page = CGPDFDocumentGetPage(document, 1);
    Scanner *scanner = [Scanner scannerWithPage:page];

Set a keyword (case-insensitive) and scan a page.

    NSArray *selections = [scanner select:@"happiness"];

Finally, scan the page and draw the selections.

    for (Selection *selection in selections)
        // draw selection


The PDF specification is huge, allowing for different fonts, text encodings et cetera. This means strict design is a must, and thorough testing is needed. At this point, this project is not fully compatible with all font types, and especially suppert for non-latin characters will require further development.

Offering a complete solution for processing any PDF document would apparently require the inclusion of a complete library of font files. We currently do not intend to include more than the bare essentials for a proof-of-concept application.

Only latin character sets are currently supported.

License and Warranty

This software is provided under the MIT license, see License.txt.

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