Section nuances

Note: If you're familiar with Sensible, this detailed topic is for you. If you're new to Sensible, see sections.

The following images show the differing behaviors of sections and vertical sections:


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Sensible finds the sections as follows:

  1. Finds the range, or y-extent, for a section in the group using Match and Stop lines. Sections’ ranges never overlap, and ranges can span pages. In detail:
    • If there's no Stop parameter, the current section's range stops above the next anchor's Match + Y Offset parameters.
    • If there's an optional Stop parameter, the current section stops either:
      • above the next anchor's Match + Y Offset parameter, or
      • below the next Stop line + Stop Y Offset parameter.
      • Use an optional stop to prevent the last section in the group from extending to the end of the document.
    • If there's a required Stop, the next section stops below the next Stop line + Stop Y Offset parameter, and Sensible ignores any intervening anchor matches.
  2. (repeats) Continues finding ranges for the group of sections, searching down the page and across page breaks, until the section group ends with the End parameter, or Sensible reaches the end of the document.
  3. Extracts fields from each section in the group. Sensible expects but doesn't require that the data is in a repeated structure for each section.

Vertical sections

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  1. (one time) Finds the section group's range in which to recognize columns using Match and Stop lines. A range can span pages.

  2. (repeats) Recognizes columns inside the range, based on whitespace gutters and searching left-to-right. If non-columnar text is present in the range, it can affect column recognition as follows:

    • If there's a Stop parameter, Sensible adds the non-column text to each column. Each column then has a nonlinear, irregular shape. For example, this allows each column to use a table title that spans multiple columns as an anchor.

    • If there's no Stop parameter, any non-columnar text in the range breaks column recognition. Exclude the text from the range using the offset parameters or the Lines Filter parameter.

  3. Extracts fields from each column in the group. Sensible expects but doesn't require that the data is in a repeated structure for each column.

Tip: To extract repeated vertical section groups, nest them in a parent section group. For an example, see Advanced: nested columns example.

Column Selection

By default, Sensible creates a section from each column it detects in the section group range. You can configure Sensible to handle columns in the following ways:

  • "Selected" columns: Sensible creates a section for each column specified in the Column Selection parameter.

  • "Kept" columns: If you configure the Column Selection parameter, Sensible adds the lines in any unspecified columns to each section.

  • "Ignored" columns: Sensible ignores any columns specified in the Ignored Columns parameter, including excluding them from the "kept" columns.

For example, if you select the "Apple" and "Banana" columns by configuring "columnSelection": [[1,-2]] for the table in the following image, then:

  1. Sensible detects four columns. Sensible targets two columns to create sections from: the Apple column and the Banana column.

  2. For the Apple column, Sensible creates a section that is a table slice containing:

    • A "selected" column: the Apple column

    • "kept" columns: the Nutrition and Notes columns. The lines in these columns are then available as anchoring or output data in this section.
      For example, you can extract the cell containing 95 in the Apple column with:

         "id": "fruit_calories",
         /* anchor on data in the first column, a "kept" column */
         "anchor": "calories",
         "method": {
           /* returns 95 for the first section and 105 for the second section */  
           "id": "row",
           "tiebreaker": "first"
  1. The Banana section contains the Banana, Nutrition, and Notes columns. For example, you can find the cell containing 105 in the Bananas column using the same fruit_calories field as in the preceding step. In other words, you don't have to configure "tiebreaker": "second".

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As steps 2 and 3 in the previous image illustrate, the varying gap sizes between columns in each section mean that you can't use coordinate-based methods such as the Region method for fields in these sections.

For more information about this example, see Labeled rows and labeled columns table example

Multiple anchors in section

See the following options for handling a section that contains multiple matches for the range's Match parameter.

Ignore multiple anchors

If you want to ignore multiple anchor matches inside the section, use the Require Stop parameter. You don't need to configure this parameter for matches that are on the same horizontal line as the anchor's Match parameter.

Match on all text

For horizontal sections, you can create a section starting at each newline if you match on all text for the Match parameter. Take the following steps:

  • Define a section group with specific text matches for the Start and End parameters of the section group.

  • Specify the anchor's Match parameter using the regular expression .+, which matches any characters.

In this case, Sensible creates sections by splitting text into "rows" at each newline. For more information about the behavior shown in the following image, see the Zip sections example.

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For vertical sections, specifying the regular expression ".+" for the Match parameter can be useful for repeating vertical sections that lack good anchor match candidates. In these situations, you must also nest the section group in a parent section group. For more information, see Table grid example.