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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!

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  • Experienced Consultant with a demonstrated history of working in the information technology and services industry. Skilled in Office 365, Azure, SharePoint Online, PowerShell, Nintex, K2, SharePoint Designer workflow automation, PowerApps, Microsoft Flow, PowerShell, Active Directory, Operating Systems, Networking, and JavaScript. Strong consulting professional with a Bachelor of Engineering (B.E.) focused in Information Technology from Mumbai University.
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