Top 5 : Best open source PDF generation libraries for PHP

Top 5 : Best open source PDF generation libraries for PHP

The automatic creation of PDF files is one of the most important points of a project (commercial or not). As probably, the generated PDF's are not for you or team but for your demanding clients, you need to provide a solution that meets all expectations and requirements.

In some cases, not because of exaggerated customer requirements but the library you use to generate PDF's, you'll find yourself limited and most likely in problems to provide a solution for the client.

In this article, we are going to show 5 of the most imponent PDF generation libraries that will help you to achieve those complex and extense PDF's.

This top is based in different points as how easy are they to implement, use cases, library users, functions and development status.

5. FPDF

Examples

FPDF is a PHP class which allows to generate PDF files with pure PHP, that is to say without using the PDFlib library. F from FPDF stands for Free: you may use it for any kind of usage and modify it to suit your needs.

FPDF has other advantages: high level functions, between its main features are:

  • Choice of measure unit, page format and margins.
  • Page header and footer management.
  • Automatic page break.
  • Automatic line break and text justification.
  • Image support (JPEG, PNG and GIF).
  • Colors.
  • Links.
  • TrueType, Type1 and encoding support.
  • Page compression.

FPDF requires no extension (except Zlib to enable compression and GD for GIF support). The latest version requires at least PHP 5.1.

The following snippet show a basic PDF generated with FPDF :

<?php
require('fpdf/fpdf.php');

$pdf = new FPDF();
$pdf->AddPage();
$pdf->SetFont('Arial','B',16);
$pdf->Cell(40,10,'Hello World!');
$pdf->Output();
?>

4. mPDF

mPDF is a PHP class which generates PDF files from UTF-8 encoded HTML. It is based on FPDF and HTML2FPDF , with a number of enhancements. mPDF was written by Ian Back and is released under the GNU GPL v2 licence.

Before start using it, we encorage you to read the documentation located at https://mpdf.github.io/.

The following snippet show a basic PDF after a composer installation with mPDF :

<?php
require_once __DIR__ . '/vendor/autoload.php';

$mpdf = new mPDF();

// Write some HTML code:

$mpdf->WriteHTML('<h1>Hello World</h1><br><p>My first PDF with mPDF</p>');

// Output a PDF file directly to the browser
$mpdf->Output();
?>

3. DOMPDF

Github

Dompdf is (mostly) a CSS 2.1 compliant HTML layout and rendering engine written in PHP. It is a style-driven renderer: it will download and read external stylesheets, inline style tags, and the style attributes of individual HTML elements. It also supports most presentational HTML attributes.

Features

  • Handles most CSS 2.1 and a few CSS3 properties, including @import, @media & @page rules
  • Supports most presentational HTML 4.0 attributes
  • Supports external stylesheets, either local or through http/ftp (via fopen-wrappers)
  • Supports complex tables, including row & column spans, separate & collapsed border models, individual cell styling
  • Image support (gif, png (8, 24 and 32 bit with alpha channel), bmp & jpeg)
  • No dependencies on external PDF libraries, thanks to the R&OS PDF class
  • Inline PHP support
  • Basic SVG support

Requirements

  • PHP version 5.3.0 or higher
  • DOM extension
  • GD extension
  • MBString extension
  • php-font-lib
  • php-svg-lib

Recommendations

  • OPcache (OPcache, XCache, APC, etc.): improves performance
  • IMagick or GMagick extension: improves image processing performance

The following snippet shows how to generate a simple PDF and generate a direct download using Dompdf :

<?php
require_once 'dompdf/autoload.inc.php';
// reference the Dompdf namespace
use Dompdf\Dompdf;

// instantiate and use the dompdf class
$dompdf = new Dompdf();
$dompdf->loadHtml('<h1>DOMPDF Demo</h1><br><p>Hello World !</p>');

// (Optional) Setup the paper size and orientation
$dompdf->setPaper('A4', 'portrait');

// Render the HTML as PDF
$dompdf->render();

// Output the generated PDF to Browser
$dompdf->stream();

2. Snappy (wkhtmltopdf)

Github Snappy Library | Github wkhtmltopdf

Snappy is a PHP5 library allowing thumbnail, snapshot or PDF generation from a url or a html page. It uses the excellent webkit-based wkhtmltopdf and wkhtmltoimage available on OSX, linux, windows. You will have to download wkhtmltopdf 0.12.x in order to use Snappy.

wkhtmltopdf and wkhtmltoimage are open source (LGPLv3) command line tools to render HTML into PDF and various image formats using the Qt WebKit rendering engine. These run entirely "headless" and do not require a display or display service.

You can even download a wkhtmltopdf distribution as a composer dependency and reference the Binary dinamically in your project.

The following snippet show a basic PDF from HTML using wkhtmltopdf in Windows with the Github homepage:

<?php

require __DIR__ . '/vendor/autoload.php';

use Knp\Snappy\Pdf;

// For example, in windows use the wkhtmltopdf executable file
$snappy = new Pdf('wkhtmltopdf.exe');

// Download the streamed PDF
header('Content-Type: application/pdf');
header('Content-Disposition: attachment; filename="file.pdf"');
echo $snappy->getOutput('http://www.github.com');

1. TCPDF

Github | Homepage

TCPDF is a PHP library for generating PDF documents on-the-fly easily and with a couple of lines. It support customization and a lot of key features when you work with the creation of PDF files.

This library supports Unicode fonts and it is actively maintained by Nicola Asuni in the Github repository.

It has a extense collection of examples and ready-to-test snippets on its official homepage. TCPDF has as main features :

  • No external libraries are required for the basic functions.
  • all standard page formats, custom page formats, custom margins and units of measure.
  • UTF-8 Unicode and Right-To-Left languages.
  • TrueTypeUnicode, OpenTypeUnicode v1, TrueType, OpenType v1, Type1 and CID-0 fonts.
  • font subsetting.
  • methods to publish some XHTML + CSS code, Javascript and Forms.
  • images, graphic (geometric figures) and transformation methods.
  • supports JPEG, PNG and SVG images natively, all images supported by GD (GD, GD2, GD2PART, GIF, JPEG, PNG, BMP, XBM, XPM) and all images supported via ImagMagick (http://www.imagemagick.org/script/formats.php)
  • 1D and 2D barcodes: CODE 39, ANSI MH10.8M-1983, USD-3, 3 of 9, CODE 93, USS-93, Standard 2 of 5, Interleaved 2 of 5, CODE 128 A/B/C, 2 and 5 Digits UPC-Based Extension, EAN 8, EAN 13, UPC-A, UPC-E, MSI, POSTNET, PLANET, RMS4CC (Royal Mail 4-state Customer Code), CBC (Customer Bar Code), KIX (Klant index - Customer index), Intelligent Mail Barcode, Onecode, USPS-B-3200, CODABAR, CODE 11, PHARMACODE, PHARMACODE TWO-TRACKS, Datamatrix, QR-Code, PDF417.
  • JPEG and PNG ICC profiles, Grayscale, RGB, CMYK, Spot Colors and Transparencies.
  • automatic page header and footer management.
  • document encryption up to 256 bit and digital signature certifications.
  • transactions to UNDO commands.
  • PDF annotations, including links, text and file attachments.
  • text rendering modes (fill, stroke and clipping).
  • multiple columns mode.
  • no-write page regions.
  • bookmarks, named destinations and table of content.
  • text hyphenation.
  • text stretching and spacing (tracking).
  • automatic page break, line break and text alignments including justification.
  • automatic page numbering and page groups.
  • move and delete pages.
  • Page compression (requires php-zlib extension).
  • XOBject Templates.
  • Layers and object visibility.
  • PDF/A-1b support.

The following example how to render HTML as PDF with TCPDF :

<?php 
// Include the main TCPDF library (search for installation path).
require_once('tcpdf_include.php');

// create new PDF document
$pdf = new TCPDF(PDF_PAGE_ORIENTATION, PDF_UNIT, PDF_PAGE_FORMAT, true, 'UTF-8', false);

// set document information
$pdf->SetCreator(PDF_CREATOR);
$pdf->SetAuthor('Our Code World');
$pdf->SetTitle('Example Write Html');

// set default header data
$pdf->SetHeaderData(PDF_HEADER_LOGO, PDF_HEADER_LOGO_WIDTH, PDF_HEADER_TITLE.' 006', PDF_HEADER_STRING);

// set header and footer fonts
$pdf->setHeaderFont(Array(PDF_FONT_NAME_MAIN, '', PDF_FONT_SIZE_MAIN));
$pdf->setFooterFont(Array(PDF_FONT_NAME_DATA, '', PDF_FONT_SIZE_DATA));

// set default monospaced font
$pdf->SetDefaultMonospacedFont(PDF_FONT_MONOSPACED);

// set margins
$pdf->SetMargins(PDF_MARGIN_LEFT, PDF_MARGIN_TOP, PDF_MARGIN_RIGHT);
$pdf->SetHeaderMargin(PDF_MARGIN_HEADER);
$pdf->SetFooterMargin(PDF_MARGIN_FOOTER);

// set auto page breaks
$pdf->SetAutoPageBreak(TRUE, PDF_MARGIN_BOTTOM);

// set image scale factor
$pdf->setImageScale(PDF_IMAGE_SCALE_RATIO);

// add a page
$pdf->AddPage();

$html = '<h4>PDF Example</h4><br><p>Welcome to the Jungle</p>';
 
$pdf->writeHTML($html, true, false, true, false, '');
// add a page
$pdf->AddPage();

$html = '<h1>Hey</h1>';
// output the HTML content
$pdf->writeHTML($html, true, false, true, false, '');

// reset pointer to the last page
$pdf->lastPage();
//Close and output PDF document
$pdf->Output('example_006.pdf', 'I');

TCPDF in the first place, why?. Theoretically, the first place should be of wkhtmltopdf as it uses webkit to render your HTML and probably will be more helpful to render things as canvas, SVG etc. However, you need to know that not every developer is able to include binaries (application or executables) on its projects or enjoy the privileges of do whatever he wants with the server, that's when TCPDF becomes the first option for the most developers.

TCPDF is on the first place of this top as it is the most easy to use PHP library to create PDF's and however, the most complete and extense as it doesn't require executable files as everything works with Plain PHP. It covers the basic requirements of all project that requires the PDF generation feature.

If you know another awesome PHP library to generate PDF, please share it with the community in the comment box down below, have fun !

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