View the PDF document Extracting text from PostScript

Nevill-Manning, C. G., Reed, T., Witten, I. H. (1998) Submitted to Software Practice and Experience. Working Paper 97/10, Department of Computer Science, University of Waikato; April.

We show how to extract plain text from PostScript files. A textual scan is inadequate because PostScript interpreters can generate characters on the page that do not appear in the source file. Furthermore, word and line breaks are implicit in the graphical rendition, and must be inferred from the positioning of word fragments. We present a robust technique for extracting text and recognizing words and paragraphs. The method uses a standard PostScript interpreter but redefines several PostScript operators, and simple heuristics are employed to locate word and line breaks. The scheme has been used to create a full-text index, and plain-text versions, of 40,000 technical reports (34 Gbyte of PostScript). Other text-extraction systems are reviewed: none offer the same combination of robustness and simplicity.