Xpdf - Command Line Utilities for PDF Files

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Experience Level: Beginner
Joe Winograd
50+ years in computers
EE FELLOW 2017 — first ever recipient of Fellow award
MVE 2015,2016,2018
This first video Micro Tutorial in my Xpdf series introduces and describes Xpdf, a library containing nine command line utilities that perform various functions on PDF files. This video shows where the library is located and how to download it, discusses its licensing provisions, and provides a brief description of each of the nine modules.

Since all the utilities offer a command line interface, they are suitable for use in batch files, programs, and scripts — any place where a command line call can be made. For example, I have written many programs in the AutoHotkey scripting language that call the various Xpdf utilities via the AutoHotkey RunWait command.

This first video sets the stage for subsequent Micro Tutorials in the Xpdf series. You'll see that this video says it is "Part 1 of 3" (the second says, "Part 2 of 3"; the third, "Part 3 of 3"). However, after publishing the first three tutorials, I decided to do one for each of the other tools, as well as one for the Xpdf configuration file (xpdfrc), which is common to all nine utilities. Here are links to the other 10 five-minute video Micro Tutorials at Experts Exchange:

Xpdf - PDFimages - Command Line Utility to Extract Images from PDF Files
Xpdf - PDFtoText - Command Line Utility to Convert PDF Files to Plain Text Files
Xpdf - PDFinfo - Command Line Utility to Retrieve Page Count and Other Information from PDF Files
Xpdf - PDFdetach - Command Line Utility to Detach Attachments from PDF Files
Xpdf - PDFtoPNG - Command Line Utility to Convert a Multi-page PDF File into Separate PNG Files
Xpdf - PDFfonts - Command Line Utility to List Fonts Used in a PDF File
Xpdf - PDFtoHTML - Command Line Utility to Convert a PDF File to HTML
Xpdf - PDFtoPPM - Command Line Utility to Convert a PDF File to PPM, PGM, PBM
Xpdf - PDFtoPS - Command Line Utility to Convert a PDF File to PS (PostScript)
xpdfrc - Configuration File for All Xpdf Utilities

Note that the developer of the Xpdf utilities moved the Xpdf website from Foo Labs to XpdfReader. However, the Foo Labs link redirects to the XpdfReader, so either is fine.

I hope you find my Xpdf series to be helpful. If you do, I'll appreciate your endorsement of any or all of them by clicking the thumbs-up icon below the video steps on each one. Thank you for watching!

Video Steps

1. Download and install the software.

Visit the Xpdf website at:


Click the Download link and then click the pre-compiled Windows binary ZIP archive to download the Xpdf utilities for Windows.
precompiled binaries

2. Read the licensing agreements.

Go to the folder where you unzipped the downloaded ZIP file.

Read the licensing agreements, which are in plain text files called COPYING (which is GNU GPL V2) and COPYING3 (which is GNU GPL V3) in the root of the unzipped archive.

3. If you need commercial licensing, visit the parent company's website.

For commercial licensing, visit the Glyph & Cog website:

glyph & cog

4. Locate the folder with the documentation.

Go to the folder where you unzipped the downloaded ZIP file and find the subfolder called <doc>.
documentation folder

5. Read all of the documentation.

Go into the <doc> folder and read the documentation. All of the files are plain text files that may be opened with any text editor, such as Notepad, or any software that can open a text file, such as Word or WordPad.

6. Locate the executables for the utilities.

Go to the folder where you unzipped the downloaded ZIP file and find the subfolders called <bin32> and <bin64>. These contain the EXE files for all nine of the utilities. In nearly all cases, the 32-bit modules will work fine, even on 64-bit Windows. The only times that you may need to use the 64-bit binaries are with PDFtoPPM or PDFtoPS, and only in those cases where the tool needs to allocate very large blocks of memory.

7. Join me for the next videos in the series

That's it for the introduction to the Xpdf utilities. Please join me for the other videos in this Xpdf series. If you find this video to be helpful, please click the thumbs-up icon below. Thank you for watching!
LVL 37


by:Andrew Leniart
Great video Joe! Excellent tool I had no idea existed.
LVL 76

Author Comment

by:Joe Winograd
Thanks, Andrew, I appreciate the compliment...and the endorsement! Regards, Joe
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