Software Development

As part of the projects we work on in the DSI, we develop general purpose software and make it publically available. The code is typically available via the DSI github account

Extracting Content from PDF Documents

Numerous projects have involved extracting data from PDF documents. We needed general tools so that we could create customized extraction approaches. Some of the data are in tables, figures/plots, different columns on a page, in specific sections, or identified by particular fonts.

We adapted various tools working with PDF documents, including pdftohtml, poppler and pdfminer. We are currently working with pdftohtml and the poppler libraries. We have have an evolving enhancement of pdftohtml at ( that exports additional structural information from the PDF. This includes lines, rectangles, colors, etc. that allow us to recover information based on the structure of a page.


To facilitate the processing of the output from the enhanced pdftohtml code, we provide an R package ReadPDF that presents the PDF as a list of pages and provides high-level functions for extracting text, text by column, text by font, titles, dates, text by position, lines, etc.

Optical Character Recognition

A non-trivial number of data sources are scanned documents, i.e. images of each page, not PDF or Word documents. We developed an R package (RTesseract)[] to provide an interface to the tesseract OCR engine to enable us to extract this data. The interface provides rich access to information about the recognized text, i.e., the words, the individual characters, their locations, the confidence in the recognition of each element, line segments.


The Semantic Web and Linked-data are very important in the Web stack. We enhanced the RSPARQL package with the code at This adds support for JSON, improves the XML support, corrects and simplifies some of the queries and adds several new features.

Customized Extraction from Complex PDF Tables

Using the enhanced pdftohtml version above, we developed tools to extract data from specific pages of over 800 LCAP documents that can be applied to multiple years. This is available at

In a related but separate project, we extracted data from hundreds of pages of tables from crop yield data in both PDF and scanned documents.

Querying the Scopus API with R

We implemented an R interface to the Scopus REST API to query various aspects of the academic publication database. This allows us to See RScopusAPI.

Subsequently, the ropensci group developed the rscopus package that is also worth using.

XML to CSV Files

Converting simple XML documents to CSV files is a convenient way to convert, for example, StackOverflow data dump files. We developed code at ( to enable this.

Web Scraping Hadiths

Interfacing to HYDRUS1D Hydrodynamic Simulation Software


We adapted hydrusR by Subodh Acharya to add some functionality to both insert data from R into input files that are passed to hydrus and also to query and extract data from these input files from R. The functionality abstracts manipulating the input files and provides more general, structured primitives on which to build further tools.


The hydrus simulation software is a stand-alone application written in FORTRAN. The RHydrus package embeds the code within in a R package so it can be loaded directly into an R session. It also makes specifying the input files more flexibile. Also, it allows the R user to specify a callback function that is invoked at the end of each iteration in the simulation. The package provides a good starting point for tigher integration with R.