I am trying to convert PDF files to text files using textutil. I don't if there are special types of PDFs that can and cannot be converted. The files I am trying to convert are in a searchable format, which I assume is a minimum requirement. When I convert the file, the text document is completed garbled output. Here is my code:

textutil -convert txt example.pdf

Here are some of the first lines, in case that helps to identify where I am going wrong:

4 0 obj
<< /Length 5 0 R /Filter /FlateDecode >>

I'm guessing it has to do with some encoding feature -- not my area of expertise, so any assistance would be greatly appreciated!

  • 1
    Have you tried your luck with poppler's pdftotext/html? Not every PDF can be converted that way. See if you can search for text in the PDF, if that doesn't work then you might have to resort to OCR – frostschutz Mar 31 '15 at 14:59
  • The lines that you show here is the PDF. – A.B. Mar 31 '15 at 15:45
  • @frostschutz That alternative worked perfectly. After install, I ran pdftotext example.pdf and it produced exactly what I needed. Feel free to suggest in the answer and I will accept! – Brian P Mar 31 '15 at 16:05

With reference to TEXTUTIL(1) manual page it seems pdf is not between formats managed by this utility: fmt is one of: txt, html, rtf, rtfd, doc, docx, wordml, odt, or webarchive

On Linux/Unix installing a scriptable product like XPDF/pdftotext may be a valid solution like some comment already suggested.

For those on OS X it's possible extract text from PDF by a native OS X automator action ( ..see this answer or last 4' of this tutorial) then consider that automator's workflow can be "scripted" via CLI automator command

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