Insights on Software Development and Architecture

ErionPC's weblog on software development

A SOA approach to dynamic DOCX-PDF report generation – Part 2

Introduction

Having already achieved automatized MsOffice-independent Docx report generation in a client-server architecture following the approach explained in my previous article “A SOA approach to dynamic DOCX-PDF report generation – part 1”, now we’ll look into automatically printing those docx files into PDF from managed code and transmitting the PDF bytes through HTTP.

The PDF conversion is based on a free BullZip PDF product, which offers a free, full-featured, programmable and very well documented PDF printer that can print any file to PDF, including Docx files.

Needless to say that PDF is probably the most used document exchange format between different platforms, therefore the need to have PDF reports of some kind of data is common to most data-centric applications.

1. Installing the PDF Printer

The first thing to do is to download and install BullZipPdf. It will create a PDF printer in the system and it will include the help file in the installation directory. Read through the help file to learn how to use the Bullzip.PdfWriter namespace.

2. Adding the PDF Conversion to an Existing Visual Studio Solution

First of all, we need to import the package into the solution. As sweet as it can be, we can find the package in the GAC, so just go on Add Reference -> .NET and find BullZip Pdf Writer. This will add the Bullzip.PDFWriter assembly to the solution, which exposes its classes and methods under the Bullzip.PDFWriter namespace. The next thing to do is configuring the PDF printer. This can be achieved through a .ini file, but I’m not going to enter into this, you can read a lot about it in the Bullzip documentation. The printer settings are managed by a class called PdfSettings, whilst the PDF creation methods are in a class called PdfUtils. Everything is ready now, we can already start converting to PDF!

3. Converting to PDF

Here’s what the test application does:

  1. It includes some docx templates with sample data in a templates directory
  2. Generates customized docx reports based on the docx templates and some XML-serialized Business-Logic data whose structure corresponds to the custom XML parts in the docx templates
  3. Saves the docx reports into a temporary directory
  4. Prints the docx reports into PDF
  5. Sends the PDF bytes through HTTP
  6. Destroys the docx and PDF files

This PrintToPdf method loads the printer settings from an “.ini” file, it “reads” a docx file from a temporary directory, creates the PDF file and then destroys the original docx and PDF.

using System;
using System.IO;
using System.Linq;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Diagnostics;
using System.ComponentModel;
using System.Configuration;
using System.ServiceModel;
using Bullzip.PdfWriter;

namespace DocxGenerator.SL.WCF
{
    public class PdfMaker
    {
        internal static byte[] PrintToPdf(string appFolder, string tempDocxFileName)
        {
            try
            {
                string tempFolder = appFolder + @"\temp";
                string tempDocxFilePath = tempFolder + @"\" + tempDocxFileName;

                PdfSettings pdfSettings = new PdfSettings();
                pdfSettings.PrinterName = ConfigurationManager.AppSettings["PdfPrinter"];

                string settingsFile = pdfSettings.GetSettingsFilePath(PdfSettingsFileType.Settings);
                pdfSettings.LoadSettings(appFolder + @"\App_Data\printerSettings.ini");
                pdfSettings.SetValue("Output", tempFolder + @"\<docname>.pdf");
                pdfSettings.WriteSettings(settingsFile);

                PdfUtil.PrintFile(tempDocxFilePath, pdfSettings.PrinterName);
                string tempPdfFilePath = tempFolder + @"\Microsoft Word - " + tempDocxFileName + ".pdf";

                bool fileCreated = false;
                while (!fileCreated)
                {
                    fileCreated = PdfUtil.WaitForFile(tempPdfFilePath, 1000);
                }

                byte[] pdfBytes = File.ReadAllBytes(tempPdfFilePath);

                File.Delete(tempDocxFilePath);
                File.Delete(tempPdfFilePath);

                return pdfBytes;
            }
            catch (Exception ex)
            {
                throw new FaultException("WCF ERROR!\r\n" + ex.Message);
            }
        }
    }

Points of Interest

The scope of this article is limited to a mere illustration of what can be achieved through this architecture. With a little bit of head-scratching, you can extend this and make it into a PDF conversion server (did anyone think of a free version Adobe Distiller ???), a scheduled batch printer, an archiving system, etc.
If integrated in the SOA report generation solution mentioned above this permits you to get rid of the docx files and use PDF as the document exchange format.

Have fun!

History

The previous (must-read to understand the SOA integration concepts) article that brought to this: “A SOA approach to dynamic DOCX-PDF report generation – part 1”

Click here to view this article on CodeProject.

Click here to download the test application’s source code.

Advertisements

9 responses to “A SOA approach to dynamic DOCX-PDF report generation – Part 2

  1. Mandar 7 September 2011 at 21:0

    in your topic docs to pdf conversion, i am trying to convert html to pdf
    everthing works fine except when “PdfUtil.PrintFile” line gets executed, print dialogue box gets opened. is there any way to make this window invisible.

    thanks in advace

    • erionpc 7 September 2011 at 23:0

      The answer can be found in the printer’s configuration file (.ini). My example doesn’t show the print dialogue box and it’s not interactive – it just opens the docx document and prints it without the need of human interaction. Can you be a bit more specific regarding your issue?

  2. mandar kulkarni 8 September 2011 at 14:0

    thanks for your reply. The code works fine for .doc, .xls and .txt file. I have .htm or .html file. I would like to convert the .htm or .html file to pdf. using the above code.The .htm or .html file is getting opened in browser. but the opened file is neither getting closed not getting converted into PDF.
    Please help.

    Thanks in advance.

  3. erionpc 8 September 2011 at 14:0

    Can you give a code sample? What browser are you using? What happens if you put breakpoints and debug it? Does it throw any exceptions?

    • mandar kulkarni 8 September 2011 at 17:0

      Entire code is copeid as it is given by you. just instead of doc file i am giving .html file as input file. i have tried this on both ie 6 and ie8. html file gets opened in ie browser. it goes into infinite loop @ following instance.
      while (!fileCreated)
      {
      fileCreated = PdfUtil.WaitForFile(tempPdfFilePath, 1000);
      }

  4. Mandar Kulkarni 9 September 2011 at 3:0

    I am using exactly the same code as given by you. Just the difference is instead of using .doc, i am using . html file. i have tried this on both ie 6 and ie 8 browsers. If I try to debug, code goes into infinite loop at following point:
    while (!fileCreated)
    {
    fileCreated = PdfUtil.WaitForFile(tempPdfFilePath, 1000);
    }
    it doesn’t throw any exception. but everything works fine for .doc, .xls and .txt files

    • erionpc 9 September 2011 at 15:0

      You got me curious :). I tested it myself and I confirm what you say. The funny thing is unless IE is set as system default browser, a Win32Exception: “No application is associated with the specified file for this operation” is thrown by the application (I’m developing in VS2008 in Win7 64b). If IE is set as default browser then the print dialogue gets opened, despite being disabled from the settings file. If you just press OK on it the print job is started and it works. It’s annoying that you need to intervene manually. There’s got to be a solution for this, but I haven’t got time to look for it, sorry. Try searching on “http://www.biopdf.com/guide/index.php”.

      Good luck.

  5. Mandar Kulkarni 15 September 2011 at 11:0

    I tried searching on the link given by you. but no luck. all the settings given are to suppress the dialogue box with respect to bullzip. and not the print dialogue box. still i am looking for the solution. Please let me know if you find you from your busy schedule.

    thanks in advance

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: