IDEA Tech Tip: Using PDFs

Auditors frequently receive information via PDF files that need to be imported into IDEA for analysis. Here are some tech tips on working with PDF files from our IDEA user community.


Importing PDF files


Q: When I open up a specific PDF file in Adobe Reader, the columns align under the column titles and are nicely formatted. However, when it goes through the Report Reader in IDEA, the data in the columns appear to shift. I tried to use the floating trap approach without much success, but when I open the file in Monarch the columns stay properly aligned. Is there an easy workaround?


A: If this happens, there is an easy fix. Reprint the file using a PDF printer and change the “Default” properties to “High Quality”. – Brian Element, IDEA certified instructor and Financial Advisor at Public Works and Government Services Canada



Opening large PDF files


Q: How can I reduce the time it takes to open large PDF files?


A: Once you have opened a large PDF file and have converted it to a text file, this shortcut will reduce the time it takes to reopen these files:


  • Click on File > Option and select the Folder tab. Take note of the path for the storage of your temporary folders.
  • When you open the PDF file in Report Reader for the first time, go into Windows Explorer and locate the .txt copy of your file that was created in the Temp folder. Copy this file into your Source File folder (or wherever the original PDF file is located).


This simple two-step procedure will eliminate your wait time the next time you open the file. – Audimation Services, CaseWare IDEA distribution partner



Multiple file import from Report Reader


Q: I have 12 monthly sales reports that I would like to import into IDEA. How can I import, apply a template and merge results into one database?


A: Use my multiple file import script as it allows you to select multiple files (as long as you are using the same template). After which, do a regular append.


The other way is to create a script that does it all for you. You can find some example code here. – Brian Element, IDEA certified instructor and Financial Advisor at Public Works and Government Services Canada



Report Reader


Q: Why should I use Report Reader?


A: Report Reader is a tool within IDEA that allows the user to convert complex and tricky reports/PDF files into IDEA. It offers the following benefits:


  1. Ability to capture the import process as a template. Subsequent reports can be imported in a jiffy with the template.
  2. Facility to edit the template to give effect to small field level changes without having to redo the entire process.
  3. Attributes to link report field headers and report transactions very easily.
  4. Capability to work with multi-line variable length fields.
  5. Tools to deal with variable width fields – floating fields.


In short, the Report Reader allows you to format, define, shape, adjust and create a report of your choice with your fields. – Jairam, IDEA forum contributor


For more tips or to ask your own IDEA question, visit



About Alain Soublière:

Alain Soublière has many years of experience working with computer audit software. He worked in a senior management role as the IDEA Product Manager for many years before becoming Director of Product strategy for CaseWare Analytics and more recently the Chief Product Strategist.   

Connect:    Alain Soublière