Home / Articles / Tools of the Trade, Part 1: Creating PDF documents with iText

Tools of the Trade, Part 1: Creating PDF documents with iText

  • Date: Nov 4, 2005.

Article Description

Have you ever wanted to create your own PDF documents without having to first shell out money for PDF-creation software? Good news: You can create those documents with nothing more than Java and iText. This freely available Java library provides the classes for easily constructing PDF documents and adding various kinds of content (such as paragraphs, lists, tables, and images) to those documents. This article by Jeff Friesen, the first in a three-part series that explores useful open-source tools, introduces you to iText and shows you how to create many interesting PDF documents without having to first spend money on PDF-creation software.

iText Intro

iText, created by Bruno Lowagie and Paulo Soares, is an open-source Java library for creating PDF, HTML, RTF, and XML documents. Although you can use iText without paying a fee, this library is licensed to protect the software, its developers, and its users. Learn more about licenses on iText's Download & Compile page.

For working with this article's code, I recommend that you download itext-1.3.jar instead of first downloading and then compiling the iText source code. After clicking the itext-1.3.jar link, you are taken to the SourceForge site, from which you can select an appropriate mirror to download the Jar file. You should also click the itext-docs-1.3.tar.gz link to download iText's library documentation.

After downloading iText's Jar and documentation files, establish a directory structure to organize these files and help you manage your iText projects. I chose the following directory structure on my C: drive:

c:\itext\docs
c:\itext\projects
c:\itext\itext-1.3.jar

The iText directory serves as my home directory for docs (the library's documentation directory—extract itext-docs-1.3.tar.gz's directories and files into this directory), projects (various iText projects directory), and the iText Jar file.

Having established a directory structure, only one other task needs to be accomplished: Set the CLASSPATH. That environment variable must include iText's Jar file and the current directory. For Windows 98 SE, the command to set CLASSPATH is set classpath=%classpath%;c:\itext\itext-1.3.jar;. If you are using a different version of Windows or a non-Windows operating system, study your OS documentation to find out how to set this environment variable.

Now that we have established our directory structure and set the CLASSPATH environment variable, we can explore a Java application that uses iText to create a simple PDF document. Take a look at Listing 1.

Listing 1 Descent.java

// Descent.java

import java.io.*;

import com.lowagie.text.*;
import com.lowagie.text.pdf.*;

class Descent
{
  static String para =

  "Lightning flashed across the sky. Thunder rumbled in the distance. " +
  "The wind began to moan, as if in pain. The good people of the village " +
  "huddled together in the common room. Fear glistened in their eyes and " +
  "their hearts pounded with terror. Evil was descending into their " +
  "valley, and there was nothing they could do to save their lives ...";

  public static void main (String [] args) throws Exception
  {
   Document doc = new Document ();
   PdfWriter.getInstance (doc, new FileOutputStream ("descent.pdf"));
   doc.open ();

   Paragraph p = new Paragraph (para);
   p.setAlignment (Element.ALIGN_JUSTIFIED);
   doc.add (p);

   doc.close ();
  }
}

Listing 1 creates a PDF document consisting of a single paragraph (that we will pretend was taken from a larger horror story called Descent). The source code reveals five steps that iText applications perform to create PDF documents:

  1. Create an instance of the Document class: Document doc = new Document (); accomplishes that task. The Document class describes a document's page size (Letter, Legal, A4, and so on), margins, and other important attributes. It is also a container for a document's chapters, sections, images, paragraphs, and other content.
  2. Create a document writer that writes the equivalent syntax for a document's content to a specific OutputStream (this article always uses PdfWriter to output PDF syntax; other document writers output HTML, RTF, and XML syntax): PdfWriter.getInstance (doc, new FileOutputStream ("descent.pdf")); creates a PDF document writer that writes PDF syntax to file descent.pdf via a FileOutputStream.
  3. Open the document; doc.open (); is all that is required.
  4. Add content to the document. There are many ways to do this. Paragraph p = new Paragraph (para); p.setAlignment (Element.ALIGN_JUSTIFIED); doc.add (p); creates a Paragraph that houses a paragraph of text, tells the PDF document writer to ensure that the Paragraph's text is justified on both sides, and adds the Paragraph to the previously created Document. As content is added, the PDF document writer works behind the scenes to send the equivalent PDF syntax to the file.
  5. Close the document; doc.close (); accomplishes this task. Closing the document is important because it flushes and closes the OutputStream instance to which the document writer is writing syntax.

Now that we have examined the structure of our first iText application, we are almost ready to compile the application's source code. First, however, we must create a Descent directory underneath the projects directory, copy Listing 1 into a Descent.java file, and store that file in Descent.

After accomplishing the previous tasks, compile Descent.java (javac Descent.java). Assuming that you have properly set the CLASSPATH environment variable, you should find a Descent.class file in the Descent directory.

We can now create our first PDF document. Invoke java Descent to run the application. You should observe a descent.pdf file in the Descent directory. View that document by launching your copy of Adobe Reader (or some other suitable PDF document viewer) and opening descent.pdf. You should see something similar to Figure 1.

Figure 1

Figure 1 Your first iText-created PDF document.

Congratulations. You have just created your first PDF document, and it did not cost you anything. The following section builds upon the knowledge you have just acquired by taking you on a tour of important iText classes.

3. Class Tour | Next Section Previous Section

Adobe Press Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Adobe Press and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview

Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Adobe Press products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email ask@peachpit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security

Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children

This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing

Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out

Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.adobepress.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020