I am trying to write either a standalone Windows Forms application or a VSTO Excel Add-in using C# or VB .net that can read a PDF file and pull data from it. The files I get are lists of traffic accident records created from a state database, and each crash record includes environmental data, accident particulars, and information about the involved parties.
In the PDF listings I receive, all of the data for a single crash is surrounded by a box, so to get the data, I envision first detecting the square surrounding the record, and then from the top left or top right coordinates of that square, most of the various data are always in the same relative locations. But the squares are not always the same size because there could be multiple parties involved, each of which gets listed at the bottom of each record. I would direct the parser to look for the next crash record when it reached the y coordinate of the bottom of the box. There could be other strategies for pulling the data, but this method seems like the easiest to code for now. The information is already searchable text, so I don't need OCR to digitize the data. I just need to put it in an Excel spreadsheet or some other type of file that can be read by Excel for my calculations. I don't need an API so long as it will integrate with Visual Studio.
This is purely to assist me in my own work and I do not intend to sell what I produce using the SDK, so royalties are not an issue. I am not a software developer by profession, but I learned C# and VB .net so I could automate repetitive or iterative calculations and perform other mundane engineering-related tasks. I don't need to create PDFs and I don't need to edit them, I just need to read the data. Since I don't intend to make any money directly from this project, I can't justify paying for an annual license or a huge one-time fee for an SDK that I will use only for parsing these PDF files. I don't expect to get it for free, and am willing to pay for it, if its cost is reasonable for my limited use.
My ballpark budget is under $250. It's worth that much to me to not have to parse accident histories by hand. I will entertain higher costs, but not much higher.