Splitting And Combining Odd/Even Pages With Pdftk

I'm working on a fun printable project at the moment, but part way through I realised I would need to process odd and even pages of the document separately. So separately, that I split the doc into two separate ones, with odd pages in one and event pages in another - and then had to recombine them. Here's the commands that I used, with an excellent tool called pdftk. Continue reading

Hiding Sections With Rst2pdf

I've been using rst2pdf for slides for a year or so, but recently I've been converted to using it for everything from documents to emailed reports to handouts. Along the way there were a couple of cases where I wanted to create two similar documents, but one needed to omit some details. A great example is my ZCE questions pack, which when updated to PHP 5.5 I converted to restructuredText. By showing/hiding different sections of the document when I generate the PDF, I can maintain the questions and their answers side-by-side, then create the documents containing questions and answers separately. You could do the same with adding a notes field to slides that are hidden when presenting, but available for handouts. Continue reading

Printing Many PDFs Per Page

Much of my work revolves around documents or slides, and I use PDF format for pretty much everything I do. In the last year or so I've developed a love affair with rst2pdf which means I'm doing more PDF now than ever.

This weekend I was working on a project which needed a programatically-generated PDF file to be many-slides-per-page - and for this I adopted a tool I haven't used before: pdfjam (installed straight from apt on Ubuntu).

In fact it was pretty easy to get going with it: to print my existing PDFs at 4-per-page, I used this command:

pdfjam --landscape --nup 2x2 --a4paper -q slides.pdf -o handout.pdf

The slides themselves were already landscape so I specified the target document should also be landscape. The --nup 2x2 is the magic that prints many slides per page, and it seems like it can do various nice tricks with handouts. Running through the other arguments that I used: --a4paper for the paper size, -q to stop it from chattering (which it does by default, even when everything worked), slides.pdf was my input file and -o handout.pdf the target file to put the new layout into.

Until now I've mostly worked with pdftk for everything, but I couldn't find a way to do this using it. Pdfjam is now a welcome addition to my PDF toolchain, so I thought I'd share.

Printing PDF Bookmarks List

I work with PDF a lot, and it bothers me that I can see an outline view when I open the document, but I don't seem to be able to grab just that view. My presentations are mostly PDF and the titles and section headings show up nicely. Today I figured out how to get an outline view, so I'm putting that information here while I remember how to do it!

I used a tool called pdftk which is excellent, I've used it before for doing various other PDF-related things. To grab metadata such as bookmarks, use the dump-data command, like this:

pdftk myfile.pdf dump_data | grep BookmarkTitle > outline.txt

The above line takes all the bookmarks from the PDF (this was a slide deck created using powerdot and LaTeX, the section and slide titles nest appropriately), and outputs a bunch of information about the document and the various PDFs. The grep command just gets the lines containing "BookmarkTitle", then the whole thing gets written to a file. I cleaned that up and now I have the outline of my course, so I can add timings, notes for the exercises and so on.

Lesson Learned: Look in the Pull Request Queue

If you follow me on twitter you might have seen some overexcitement when I managed to edit and compile a vala application recently. I use a great deal of open source tools, but many of them don't seem open to me, because I don't have the skills to modify the code. Regardless of that, it's still vitally important that it is open (this is a whole other post and I'll avoid that tangent right now). Continue reading

Combining PDF Files With Pdftk

I'm currently delivering all my talks with PDF format slides, using Jakob's PDF Presenter Console, which is awesome but lacks a "goto slide" button and is a little slow to click forward. It doesn't matter for a short talk but I had 200+ slides for my ZCE preparation tutorial at the Dutch PHP Conference and I was concerned about losing my place! Therefore I split my slides up into several decks, but still need to publish them as a whole.

For years I've used PDF Shuffler for this sort of thing but I wondered if there was an easy way of doing this from the command line this time, since I literally wanted to glue together a bunch of files one after another. Predictably, there is and it's called pdftk - the PDF Toolkit. Continue reading

Printable PDF Handouts from OpenOffice Impress

Last week I was preparing a training course for a client, and I wanted to print the slides nicely for the attendees to refer to and make notes on etc. The slides were done, I'd talked to my friendly printers (Mailboxes etc in Leeds) and all I needed to do was generate the handouts. Which was fine until I googled for help with doing that from OpenOffice, only to find that although it has this awesome "Export to PDF" functionality for documents, slides, etc, it wasn't going to do it for handouts.

I'm an ubuntu user, and it turns out that there's a clever package called cups-pdf which installs a pretend printer, and anything you could print, you can turn into a PDF. Brilliant. I installed it with aptitude and instantly I had a printer named "PDF" which printed to a /home/lorna/PDF directory.

Did I mention I love ubuntu?

I also wanted to add a cover page to my document, before I sent the whole thing to the printers in a PDF file for them to print and bind. For this I simply created an OpenOffice document and used the usual export to PDF. By the magic of twitter, I got some great advice from EmmaJane and installed the package PDFShuffler which enabled me to combine the two documents and save the result as a PDF.

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By the magic of open source, I have beautiful handouts :) Printing in Linux really has come a long way, I can't thank the developers and maintainers of all those libraries enough - all I did was install two packages!