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Extract data from documents with Microsoft Flow

Many of us over time will have worked on projects/solutions where there is a requirement to extract data from documents. A common scenario could be processing a scanned document or processing documents sent from an external source, commonplace in 'Invoice Processing' scenarios.

This step by step guide details how to configure a Microsoft Flow to extract data from a document and add to the document as metadata.

For the purposes of this guide we'll use this simple scenario;

The finance department generates invoices using a third party application which uploads the documents to a SharePoint library for storage. To enable invoice reporting, tracking and related activities we have a requirement to extract data from each invoice and add as metadata to the document.

The SharePoint library is configured as follows:

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Lets create the Flow;

1. Create a new Flow using the 'Automated -- from blank' option

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2. Enter a name for the Flow, select the SharePoint 'When a file is created in a folder' trigger, click 'Create'

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3. Configure the 'When a file is created in a folder ' trigger action setting the 'Site Address' and 'Folder Id' fields to the location where documents will be added.

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NOTE: For this demo; documents will already be in PDF format. However, should there be a need to extract data from a Word document, PowerPoint file, CAD drawing etc. simply convert to PDF first using the Encodian 'Convert to PDF' action

4. Add the Encodian 'Extract Text Regions' action

4.b. Filename: Select the 'File name' property from the ' When a file is created in a folder' action

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4.c. File Content: Select the 'File Content' property from the ' When a file is created in a folder' action

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To progress the configuration of the 'Extract Text Regions' action we need to provide co-ordinates of the data on the source document, i.e. Zonal extraction.

So how do we get the coordinates? Easy! simply use the 'Text Region Generator' utility found in the Encodian administration portal.

4.d. Upload a sample PDF document

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4.e. Drag and move the area selector to the target area of the document

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4.f. Define a name for the region and then click 'Add to JSON'

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4.g. Repeat this process for all target regions of the document.

4.h. Copy the generated JSON data into your clipboard

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4.i. Go back to Microsoft Flow; On the 'Extract Text Regions' action, click the 'Switch to input entire array' icon

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4.j. Copy and past the JSON data obtained in step 4.h. into the 'Text Regions' field

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5. We now need to obtain a sample of the generated JSON data which will enable us to add additional actions to parse and use the returned JSON data.

5.a. Test the Flow using your preferred method, click 'Save & Test'

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5.b. For this example I selected 'I'll perform the trigger action' which I invoked by manually uploading a PDF invoice document to the SharePoint library aligned to the configuration of the trigger action (step 3)

5.c. Once the Flow has executed open the 'Extract Text Regions' action, copy the 'Simple Text Region Results'JSON returned.

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NOTE: If you have submitted a large file Flow may display the outputs differently prompting you to manually download the output. See the example below:

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Should this occur you'll need to manually download the payload, locate the 'Simple Text Region Results' variable. You'll also need to manually remove any escape characters '\' using either a text/code editor or an online service such as https://www.freeformatter.com/json-escape.html

6. Add a 'Parse JSON' action

6.a. Content: Select the 'Simple Text Region Results' property from the ' Extract Text Regions ' action

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6.b. Click 'Use sample payload to generate schema'

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6.c. Paste the 'Simple Text Region Results' obtained in step 5.c into the text-area control, click 'Done'

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7. Add a 'Get file metadata using path' action

7.a. Site Address: Set as per step 3.

7.b. File Path: Select the 'File path' property from the ' When a file is created in a folder' action.

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8. Add an 'Update File Properties' action

8.a. Site Address: Set as per step 3.

8.b. Library Name: Set as per the library name contained within the 'Folder Id' property of step 3.

8.c. Id: Select the 'ItemId' property from the 'Get file metadata using path' action

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8.d. Map data from the 'Parse JSON' action to the relevant fields

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9. Test the Flow by using data from the previous run

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10. Validate the flow run has successfully executed

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11. Validate data has been extracted and added as document metadata correctly

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While this example has focused on how to extract document data before setting SharePoint document metadata, once the data has been extracted you can literally do anything with the data using the power of Microsoft Flow!

Thanks for reading!

Meet Our Blog Authors
  • Working daily with Microsoft Cloud to deliver the needs of my company, my customers and various Microsoft communities and forums. | Office 365 | Flow | PowerShell | PowerApps | SharePoint |
  • Co-founder of https://plumsail.com, Office 365 and SharePoint expert. Passionate about design and development of easy to use, convenient and flexible products.
  • Microsoft Business Apps MVP. Owner of ThriveFast, an Office 365 consulting company.
  • 7x Microsoft Business Solutions MVP (CRM)
  • I'm keen in MS technologies, SharePoint, Office 365 and development for them
  • Daniel is a Business Productivity Consultant & Microsoft Business Solutions MVP who is very enthusiastic about all things Office 365, Microsoft Flow, PowerApps, Azure & SharePoint (Online). Since the preview, Daniel has been working with Microsoft Flow and later on with Microsoft PowerApps. That led to him being awarded an MVP Award for Business Solutions. He loves to blog, present and evangelize about improving productivity in the modern workspace with these amazing tools!
  • Michelle is an Office 365 solution architect in Twin Cities, MN. She has been delivering business collaboration solutions for years with her focus on SharePoint and Office 365. Michelle is a recent board member of the Minnesota Office 365 User Group and has been a member of the SharePoint community since 2009. She is a frequent speaker at MNSPUG and SharePoint Saturday and co-chaired the Legal SharePoint User Group for 4 years. Her most frequent projects have involved rolling out a large deployment of Office 365, SharePoint Online intranet, build of a "CHAMPS" Office 365 user adoption program and most recently, SharePoint On-Premise to Online Migration. Michelle is very excited about cloud technology as it is shifting her IT Pro focus to collaboration strategy and technical adoption.
  • I'm a Microsoft Office Servers and Services MVP with a special interest in SharePoint, Office 365, Microsoft Flow, Microsoft Teams and PowerApps. I work at Triad Group Plc ( https://triad.co.uk)
  • Passionate #Programmer #SharePoint #SPFx #Office365 #MSFlow | C-sharpCorner MVP | SharePoint StackOverflow, Github, PnP contributor