Scraping PDFs

A nice feature of Evernote is that it scrapes PDFs you upload in order to make them searchable. Magpie has that ability as well, if you use the magpie util

Configuration has a config file, like magpie and, and it lives in the same place as the other config files. It only has two options to configure:

  • repo: This is (presumably) the same value you specified in the magpie config.
  • default_notebook: If you run on a PDF outside of your magpie repo, the plaintext output will be written to this notebook inside the magpie repo, rather than wherever the PDF lives


Using should be fairly straightforward. After configuration, simply run /path/to/pdf1.pdf /another/path/pdf2.pdf etc.pdf. The scraper will run against each of the files passed as command line arguments. If the PDFs were inside the configured magpie repo, then the output files will be stored in the same location as the original PDF, and then name will be identical, except the filename will have a leading period. For example, if the PDF was /path/to/file.pdf then the plaintext output from the scraper would be stored in /path/to/.file.pdf. If the PDF is not already in the configured repo, then the file will still start with ”.”, and will be saved to the default_notebook from the config file.

Ugly Output

The odds are pretty good that the output of will be ugly. That’s the best I could do for now. The purpose of this functionality is primarily to allow for searching the PDFs, not necessarily to read their contents in the web application. However, once the plaintext version exists in magpie, you can edit it in the web application just like any other note, and it will not impact the PDF. This means if you want to make the note readable and clean it up, you can.