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How did I create PDF from the Scans sent over By Email

·2 mins

First off, the scanned documents that I received from my email were split into many documents. Let’s square this off right away. Combine multiple pdf documents into a single document using the pdfunite command like so:

	pdfunite sample_* single.pdf

On Ubuntu the pdfunite command is part of the poppler-utils package. If you are on Ubuntu, you can install the package using the apt command.

	sudo apt-get install poppler-utils

Next up, I wanted to create a bookmarked table of contents for the pdf. Doing this manually would have taken me a long time. The idea of spending my lazy afternoon transcribing pdf documents did not, to put it mildly, excite me. My search led me to tesseract, an OCR program that does a wonderful job of extracting text from images.

As soon as you decide to use tesseract, you hit another roadblock. Tesseract works on .tiff format and most of the examples from the documentation were in tiff format. I used Imagemagick’s convert command to convert pdf to tiff. I installed imagemagick and ran the convert command only to find myself in another impasse.

I ran into this problem.

unable to create temporary file /some/path Permission denied @ error/pdf.c/ReadPDFImage/465

On further digging, I realized that the convert command used Ghostscript under the hood. A security update prevented this access. I fixed it by going through this link:

I got the document converted to tiff and from there I could extract the text using Tesseract. Lastly, I had to do manual labor to get the bookmarks and page number in correct order but extracting the text from the pdf document gave me a good lead. Lastly, I updated the bookmarks using the pdftk command.

Summary #

Here are the steps in short:

  1. If you have multiple documents, then combine them using the pdfunite command.

  2. Convert the document in .tiff format using the convert command from Imagemagick.

  3. Use the tesseract command to generate text from your tiff files.

  4. Generate the table of contents using the format support by the pdftk command. The extracted text will give you some idea.

  5. Generate the bookmarks and update the documents using the update_info subcommand from the pdftk command.

You can also try updating the index of the document now that you have the text inside it, but that’s for later.