GUIDE: Using xtopdf to create PDF from text and DBF files (including creating simple PDF e-books)


I'm giving below, steps to install and use my xtopdf PDF
creation/conversion toolkit.

This post is for end-users. xtopdf is both a set of end-user tools and
a library for use by developers, to create PDF from various input
I'll post another message here about how developers can use it in
various ways, sometime later.

The steps are for the Windows platform. Will do another post for Linux.

1. Get Python v2.4.3 here:
Size is not more than 10 MB. Install it - its an MSI, so just

(Any Python version >= 2.2 will work for xtopdf).

2. Get Reportlab open source version 1.21 here:

Size is not more than 3 MB.

(Don't use ReportLab 2.0 although it is available. I've not yet tested
xtopdf with it. ReportLab 1.21 is the latest stable version in the
version 1 series.)

Install it following the instructions in the README file.
It should be straightforward. The main points to take care of are:

2.1 First, before installing ReportLab, run Python once (you may have
to add the dir. where Python got installed, say C:\Python24, to your
PATH variable first). Once that dir. is added to your PATH (preferably
via Control Panel), open a DOS prompt.
At this prompt, type:


This should start the Python interpreter. You will get a one or two
line message with the Python version, and then the Python interpreter

2.2. At this prompt, type the following two lines:

import sys
print sys.path

This should display a list of all the dirs. that are in the Python PATH
- an internal Python variable that gets set automatically, upon startup
of the interpreter, to a set of default dirs. This variable is
analogous to the DOS PATH variable. In this list of dirs., look for
"C:\Python24\lib\site-packages" as one of the dirs. It should be there
by default.

If it is there, then exit the Python interpreter by typing Ctrl-Z and

3. Now install Reportlab:

Unzip the ReportLab_1_21.tgz file with WinZip, into some folder, say
This will create a folder called either:
a) reportlab_1.21 with a folder called reportlab under it
b) just a folder called reportlab.

If a), then move the reportlab folder (which is under reportlab_1.21)
to under C:\Python24\Lib\site-packages .
If b), then move the reportlab folder to under

The above steps should make ReportLab work.

An alternative way is to just unzip the reportlab  .tgz file into some
folder, say, C:\RL, and then create a file called, say, reportlab.pth,
which contains just one line - the path to this folder where the
extracted contents get stored.e.g. C:\RL\reportlab . Please check that
step out (in the ReportLab .tgz file's  README file for the exact

4. After the above steps, to check that Reportlab works, go to a DOS
prompt again, run python again as before, and then at the Python
prompt, enter either or both of the following commands (on separate

import reportlab

from reportlab import pdfgen

If either or both of these above commands work (and if there is no
error message), it means that Reportlab is properly installed.

5. Now you can install xtopdf.

Get xtopdf here: http://sourceforge.net/projects/xtopdf (click on the
green rectangle which says "Download Conversion of other formats to
After downloading the file, unzip it into a folder, say c:\temp. This
will create a folder called xtopdf-1.0 under C:\temp.
Go to that folder.

There are many Python programs here with extension .py.

To run, e.g., WritePDF.py, do this:

python WritePDF.py some_file.txt

This will run it and the output will be a file called some_file.pdf.
Try opening it in Adobe Reader.

Similarly try running some more programs:

python DBFReader.py test1.dbf (or test2.dbf or test3.dbf or test4.dbf -
all of which are in the package)

This should read the DBF file and display its metadata (file header and
field headers) and data records to standard output - the screen.

python DBFToPDF.py test1.dbf  test1.pdf

This should do the same as the above (DBFReader.py), except that
instead of the output going to the screen, it will go to a file called

And so on, try out a few others. Most of all of the programs can be run
as "python prog_name.py". Some require one or
more command-line arguments (all of them require at least one
command-line argument, at least an input file).
Some of them give usage messages if you run them without any
command-line arguments, but this is not necessarily the case for
all of them, nor are the messages always user-friendly enough - I'm
working on fixing that in the next release. (Developers who have at
a working knowledge of Python should be easily able to figure out the
usage, though, just by reading the start of the main() function for
each program -
the part where the code checks the command-line arguments.)

But you should be able to run at least a few of them like this.

Be sure to try running this one also:

python PDFBook.py book1.pdf book1.txt

This one reads a list of chapter file names (where each chapter is one
..txt file) and corresponding chapter titles, from the 2nd
argument book1.txt, and creates a PDF e-book out of all the chapters
combined, using the chapter title as the heading for each page.
This is a very quick and simple way of creating simple PDF e-books from
a set of chapters, one chapter per text file.

Post a message here if you encounter any problems.

Vasudev Ram
Software training and consulting
Custom utility development

vasudevram (220)
7/22/2006 4:41:49 PM
comp.lang.python 77058 articles. 6 followers. Post Follow

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