Xpdf - PDFtoPPM - Command Line Utility to Convert a PDF File to PPM, PGM, PBM

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Joe Winograd, Fellow&MVE
50+ years in computer industry. Everything from development to sales. CIO. Document imaging. EE MVE 2015, EE MVE 2016, EE FELLOW 2017.
In this ninth video of my Xpdf series, I discuss and demonstrate the PDFtoPPM tool, which converts a PDF file to color portable pixmap (PPM) format, grayscale portable graymap (PGM) format, or monochrome (black & white) portable bitmap (PBM) format. It creates a separate image file for each page of the PDF file. It does this via a command line interface, making it suitable for use in programs, scripts, batch files — any place where a command line call can be made.

Video Steps

1. Download the software

You may have already downloaded the Xpdf tools while watching one of my earlier videos in the series, but there has since been an upgrade from Version 3 to Version 4 and there is a new download site:


Visit that site and download the pre-compiled Windows binary ZIP archive, then unzip it.


2. Locate the documentation folder for the Xpdf utilities

Go to the folder where you unzipped the downloaded ZIP file and find the doc folder.


3. Read the documentation for the PDFtoPPM tool

Go into the doc folder and find the plain text file called pdftoppm.txt.

Open it with any text editor, such as Notepad, and read it. This is the documentation for the PDFtoPPM tool.


4. Set up a test folder

Create a test folder.

Copy pdftoppm.exe from the unzipped bin32 folder into your test folder.

Copy a sample PDF file into your test folder, preferably one with numerous pages.


5. Set up a command prompt for testing

Open a command prompt window.

Navigate to your test folder.

Issue a DIR command in the command prompt to be sure that only two files are in it - the PDFtoPPM executable and the sample PDF file.


6. Run the PDFtoPPM utility to create color images

Issue the following command in the command prompt:

pdftoppm TestFileName.pdf color

If you receive the following error messages, ignore them:
Config Error: No display font for 'Symbol'
Config Error: No display font for 'ZapfDingbats'


7. Run the PDFtoPPM utility to create grayscale and monochrome images

Issue the following commands in the command prompt:

pdftoppm -gray TestFileName.pdf gray
pdftoppm -mono TestFileName.pdf mono


8. Open the created images

Open the PPM, PGM, and PBM files to make sure that they were created correctly.

That's it! If you find this video to be helpful, please click the thumbs-up icon above. Thank you for watching!

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