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Python for PDF Generation

The Portable Document Format (PDF) lets you create documents that look exactly the same on every platform. Sometimes a PDF document needs to be generated dynamically, however, and that can be quite a challenge. Fortunately, there are libraries that can help. This article examines one of those for Python.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:
  1. Python for PDF Generation
  2. Putting Virtual Ink to Virtual Paper
  3. Text Formatting Techniques
  4. Using Graphics
By: Peyton McCullough
Rating: starstarstarstarstar / 64
March 14, 2006

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The aim of the Portable Document Format is noble. Every page should look exactly the same on any platform, regardless of user settings. If a user were to view a certain web page on my computer and then switch the resolution, the change could be quite significant. Likewise, if a user viewed a web page or some other sort of document on Windows and then switched to Linux, things might also look very different. This is fine for a lot of things, but when pages need to be formatted in a precise way, as in books or user manuals, it becomes a problem. It is, however, a problem that can easily be solved by creating PDF documents for things like these.

PDF documents are fairly easy to create today. All someone has to do is click a button or a menu option in his favorite word processing application, or he can simply print a page to a PDF file. However, there are certain situations where this cannot be done, such as when a PDF document needs to be generated dynamically. This is where programming comes in. There are a number of libraries designed to work with a number of languages to generate PDF documents. This article will examine the ReportLab Toolkit for Python.

Obtaining the ReportLab Toolkit

The ReportLab Toolkit may be obtained from the ReportLab website:

http://www.reportlab.org/downloads.html

Extract the archive and then run the install script:

$ python setup.py install

If you plan on working with images, you'll also need the Python Imaging Library (PIL):

http://www.pythonware.com/products/pil

If you're on Windows, just download and run the binary installer. Otherwise, download the source, extract it and run the installation script:

$ python setup.py install

Again, you'll need  the proper permissions.



 
 
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