Reformatting Tabular Data

Sometimes in my research I need to extract tabular data from a pdf paper. I can copy and paste the table into an Emacs buffer but the data is generally not formatted in a usable way. Luckily Emacs has a wealth of tools to reformat this sort of data.

Here is an animated gif illustrating some tools I use to do this (of course there are lots of other ways to do the same thing).


In the animation I use the following tools

  • C-x h to select the whole buffer.
  • C-c | to run org-table-create-or-convert-from-region to convert the region to an org table. This doesn’t get me all the way to where I want to be, but I find it helpful to see the data clearly.
  • M-S-<left> to delete some unwanted columns
  • mc/mark-next-like-this from multiple cursors to give me a cursor on each line (I bind this to M-.)
  • M-f to move forward by word
  • shrink-whitespace to remove whitespace (I bind this to M-SPACE)
  • C-c - to run org-table-insert-hline to add a nice horizontal line to my table

This restructures the data in the way I need, and I can now use org-table-export to export to other useful formats.