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Tabula is a tool for liberating data tables trapped inside PDF files
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Tabula helps you liberate data tables trapped inside PDF files.

© 2012-2013 Manuel Aristarán. Available under MIT License. See and

Notice: July 8, 2013 --- If you are using the Amazon EC2 AMI for Tabula (released earlier this year), it will cease to function on next reboot. You should terminate all instances using this AMI. See the Using Tabula section below for instructions on using the new, desktop-oriented version of Tabula.

Why Tabula?

If you’ve ever tried to do anything with data provided to you in PDFs, you know how painful this is — you can’t easily copy-and-paste rows of data out of PDF files. Tabula allows you to extract that data in CSV format, through a simple web interface (Check out this short screencast)

Caveat: Tabula only works on text-based PDFs, not scanned documents.

Using Tabula

First, make sure you have a recent copy of Java installed. You can download Java here. Tabula requires a Java Runtime Environment compatible with Java 6 or Java 7.

  • Windows -- Download from the download site. Unzip the whole thing and open the tabula.exe file inside. A browser should automatically open to . If not, open your web browser of choice and visit that link.

    To close Tabula, just go back to the console window and press "Control-C" (as if to copy).

  • Mac OS X -- Download from the download site. Unzip and open the Tabula app inside. A browser should automatically open to . If not, open your web browser of choice and visit that link.

    To close Tabula, find the Tabula icon in your dock, right-click (or control-click) on it, and press "Quit".

  • Other platforms -- Download from the download site and unzip it to the directory of your choice. Open a terminal window, and cd to inside the tabula directory you just unzipped. Then run:

    java -Dfile.encoding=utf-8 -Xms256M -Xmx1024M -jar tabula.jar

If the program fails to run, double-check that you have Java installed and then try again.

Running Tabula from source (for developers)

  1. Download JRuby. You can install it from its website, or using tools like rvm or rbenv

  2. Download Tabula and install the Ruby dependencies. (Note: if using rvm or rbenv, ensure that JRuby is being used.

    git clone git://
    cd tabula
    gem install bundler
    gem install tabula-extractor
    bundle install

Then, start the development server:

bundle exec rackup

The site instance should now be viewable at .

You can a couple some options when executing the server in this manner:

TABULA_DATA_DIR="/tmp/tabula" \
bundle exec rackup
  • TABULA_DATA_DIR controls where uploaded data for Tabula is stored. By default, data is stored in the OS-dependent application data directory for the current user. (similar to: C:\Users\foo\AppData\Roaming\Tabula on Windows, ~/Library/Application Support/Tabula on Mac, ~/.tabula on Linux/UNIX)
  • TABULA_DEBUG prints out extra status data when PDF files are being processed. (false by default.)

Alternatively, running the server as a JAR file

Testing in this manner will be closer to testing the "packaged application" version of the app.

bundle exec rake war
java -Dfile.encoding=utf-8 -Xms256M -Xmx1024M -jar build/tabula.jar

Building a packaged application version

After performing the above steps ("Running Tabula from source"), you can compile Tabula into a standalone application:

Mac OS X

rake macosx

This will result in a portable "" archive (inside the build directory) for Mac OS X users.


You can build .exe files for the Windows target on any platform.

Download a 3.1.X (beta) copy of Launch4J.

Unzip it into the Tabula repo so that "launch4j" (with subdirectories "bin", etc.) is in the repository root.


rake windows

This will result in a portable "" archive (inside the build directory) for Mac OS X users.

If you have issues, you can try building manually. (These commands are for OS X/Linux and may need to be adjusted for Windows users.)

# (from the root directory of the repo)
rake war
cd launch4j
ant -f ../build.xml windows

A "tabula.exe" file will be generated in "build/windows". To run, the exe file needs "tabula.jar" (contained in "build") in the same directory. You can create a .zip archive by doing:

# (from the root directory of the repo)
cd build/windows
mkdir tabula
cp tabula.exe ./tabula/
cp ../tabula.jar ./tabula/
zip -r9 tabula
rm -fr tabula


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