I'm creating large volumes of PDF form documents, by using one single PDF template including form fields and then, for each resulting document, creating a small FDF file with data content and finally running the tool "pdftk" to populate the template with content.
This works very well, when the template is "static" (all field sizes are determined in advance) and when all data is more or less text-only.
The PDF template can, of course, be very complex in layout, initially created as "print to pdf" from any application (like MSWord) and then "prepared" by putting form fields into it with Adobe Pro
However, now I would like to insert more complex data into the document, like graphs and images. Also, it might be interesting to add "free-flowing text" where the field length is not known in advance and the document layout should change to accomodate the text.
Thus, I'm looking at creating my template in HTML instead, and then run a HTML-to-PDF converter to create the resulting PDF document. Thus, no longer using any PDF "template file" at all, and no FDF files either.
I now write this, partly to ask if anyone has got any experience with these tools, and partly to report on my findings.
I will be testing a number of tools, and try to find one that is secure and efficient.
The system this will run in "production environment" (Windows 2008) and it is absolutely necessary that there is no hazzle with large/strange frameworks (like php, for instance) or complex third-part-dependencies.
Or, God forbid, any dependency on client software to be installed on the server, like MSOffice or browsers, etc. Not even speaking about adware :-)
Of course, it is quite OK if the tools cost money :-)
I'm planning to create html files from my application, and then run the tool stand-alone (command-line), creating the resulting PDF document.
It is, however, perfectly OK (and maybe a nice feature) to run the tool as a library as well, and create my own "standalone converter program" to perform the actual conversion. That way, it might be possible to handle limitations in the tool and solve any oddities that may be triggered by strange html input (just looking at MSWord HTML output, for instance, it's obvious that not all renderers can cope with the markup)
My initial list of tools is the following, below.
If anyone has got any recommendation or ideas, or warnings, any such input would be greatly appreciated.
If any of these tools are known to be "no good" (in your experience) for this use, it would be great to hear about it - and then not needing to test it...
Any tools that strike you as "really good" or "not working like this"?