Technical Support

If you have a question that's not answered in this FAQ, whether you've already purchased or not, please email

Generally speaking if you're not on the latest release of our software our first suggestion will be to try upgrading. We release often and bugs are constantly being fixed, so you may be seeing an issue that has already been resolved. Upgrading is free and is always allowed by your license.

If you're seeing an exception, please include the stack trace in your email. If the problem is specific to a particular PDF, please include that PDF if you can.

Graph Library

PDF Library

Report Generator

How do I use my license Jar file?

Simply add the license Jar file to your CLASSPATH. If you're using the product inside a Web Appication, add the license file to the WEB-INF/lib folder and restart your web-app. If you're still seeing the DEMO stamp, double check you haven't got any other of our license Jars in the classpath, and if you're upgrading from an old-style License key, make sure any calls to setLicenseKey are removed from your code.

What is the difference between the normal and extended edition?

The extended edition of both the PDF Library and the Report Generator offer three additional features:
  • The ability to load and edit an existing PDF document as a template
  • The ability to digitally sign a document
  • Access to the interactive Form or "AcroForm" in the document

Can I convert HTML pages to PDF with the Report Generator?

Not directly. HTML comes in lots of different flavours, whereas the Report Generator uses its own XML (similar to XHTML, but with a few extensions and exceptions specific to PDF). You cannot parse arbitary HTML with the Report Generator - it will require some transformation, e.g. the top level tag is <pdf> not <html>.

The "" example in the download package shows one way to convert these tags, and the userguide has a useful section on "Migrating from HTML". The Report Generator conforms to the CSS2 specification, so if your HTML documents use CSS2 style sheets to separate content from presentation, the transformation will be simpler. The Tidy package, which converts HTML to XHTML, may help your conversion.

Can I convert Microsoft Office documents to PDF?

No. Microsoft Office documents are saved in a proprietary format which we cannot parse.

My XML fails when parsing non-ASCII characters

This is an encoding issue. By default XML is encoded in UTF-8, so if you're creating your XML with a text editor be sure to save the XML using the UTF-8 encoding. If you're returning XML from a JSP you need to set the encoding explicitly, as JSP's encode their content as ISO-8859-1 by default. If you're using the Report Generator, see the "Internationalization" section of the userguide for more info, but if you want a quick fix ensure the first two lines of your JSP look something like this:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<%@ page language="java" contentType="text/xml; charset=UTF-8"%>

How can I generate PDFs from ASP pages?

Java and ASP are not the most natural of bedfellows but thanks to the platform independency of XML you can integrate the Report Generator with your Microsoft Web Application.

The basic elements of an application that uses ASP to generate PDF documents are as follows.

  1. The ASP Server - Generates XML for the Report Generator.
  2. The Java Application Server - Runs the BFO Report Generator parsing the ASP produced XML and generating the PDF.

To set up a test harness probably the best Java Application Server you can get for free is Tomcat. This will run on a Windows box and comes with good documentation to get you started. Setting up the Report Generator to run in Tomcat is a simple task, and there are complete instructions upon how to do this at the start of our userguide. Once the Report Generator is installed you will need to set up a PDFProxyServlet - one example called "" can be found in your Report Generator download. If you are new to Servlets you may require some help with a few definitions, but your Server documentation should have information on how to get them up an running.

So how does it work? In your application all requests for PDF Documents should be made via the Proxy Servlet running on your Java Application Server. Your servlet will need to return the URL of the ASP page returning the XML, which the Proxy Servlet will convert to a PDF to return to the client.

For more information our userguide has a complete explanation of the PDFProxyServlet method.

Why does my table not continue onto the next page?

With the Report Generator there are specific rules for where a page break can occur. Page 17 of the userguide has some useful information regarding this, but the most basic rule to bear in mind is that only the following tags will split if they are spread across multiple pages.

  • <TABLE>
  • <UL>
  • <P>
  • <PRE>
  • <OL>
  • <H1>..<H4>

Automatic pagination will not occur inside a <td> tag. A <table> nested inside a <td> will be cut off at the bottom if it spreads across multiple pages.

Do you support "Web Ready" or "Linearized" PDFs?

Linearization is Adobe's method of constructing a PDF so that it appears to load faster in a Web browser. This is achieved by showing the first few pages of the document whilst the rest of the document is loaded in the background. The PDF Library and Report Generator can both read and write Linearized PDFs.

Why do I receive a "(0xd): Skipping unknown character" warning message?

The message you receive is telling you that the Unicode character 0x0d (hex) cannot be found in the font you have selected to draw it with. In this case, 0x0d is a "line feed" character, which is invisible and can safely be ignored.

Why is the document a different size when I print it?

The PDF Library and Report Generator will create pages and draw elements to the size you specify, but we can't control how the reader will print them. When printing a PDF, to ensure they are printed at the correct size check that the "Shrink oversized pages to paper size" or "Stretch undersized pages to paper size" checkboxes are unchecked in Acrobat's Print dialogue.

Can we extract text or images from an existing PDF?

Yes, since release 2.6.2 of the PDF library this is possible. See the example in the PDF library package to see how.

Can we generate PDF files with Chinese, Japanese and Korean characters?

Yes, the PDF Library and Report Generator support Chinese, Japanese and Korean characters. The best place to start is in the examples that come with the download, e.g. "example/samples/HelloWorld-chinese.xml", and in the userguide where there is a section devoted to Internationalization.

For more details on CJK font support please refer to the StandardCJKFont class in the API docs. When using these standard CJK fonts the required fonts need to be installed on the client machine - the Asian font packs for Acrobat can be found here.

Is the PDF Library "Thread Safe"?

The PDF Library is thread safe in as much as you can have two separate threads manipulating two separate documents and they will not interfere with each other. If you have two separate threads manipulating the same document you are likely to run into problems.

Why doesn't my <jsp:include ..> work?

There may be a couple of reasons for this. If you are trying to include a .PDF file, this will not work because a PDF is binary content, but we expect a JSP included in this way to produce text content (i.e. XML that the Report Generator can understand). You can include another PDF file in your document, but this is done in the Report Generator by using the "background-pdf" attribute in the body tag.

If you are using the PDFFilter method, the content type of an HTTP response must be text/xml for it to be parsed. We have noted in some servers (e.g. early versions of Tomcat 4.x) that an inner JSP may erroneously override the Content-Type set in the outer JSP - causing it to be skipped by the PDFFilter. If in doubt, ensure both the outer and the included JSP set the content type to text/xml.

Will the Report Generator work with custom tags or tag-libs?

Yes, as long as those tags are transformed into tags the Report Generator can parse. In the case of tag libraries, these tags will be resolved in the JSP compilation stage, well before the Report Generator takes over.

Will the Report Generator work with the Jakarta Struts framework?

Yes - we have had no reports to the contrary. See the question above.

I can't use the characters &, < or > in my XML

These characters are used to mark elements in XML documents, and cannot be used unquoted as they are in HTML. If you need to use these characters either wrap the text in a CDATA block, or use the entities &amp; for "&", &lt; for "<" and &gt; for ">".

How do I set headers and footers for specific pages?

The Report Generator userguide has a section devoted to headers and footers. In version 1.1.x of the Report Generator the options for setting headers are:

  • Setting them for specific pages using the page selector in the style sheet.
  • Setting them in the <body> tag and <pbr> tags, in which case the header and footer will be changed from that point forward.
  • Setting them for odd and even pages using the CSS2 right and left selectors for the body tag in the style sheet (see the "examples/dynamic/bigtable.jsp" example in the download package).

At the moment we do not have a facility for explicitly assigning a footer or header to the last page in a document when the number of pages is unknown.

How do I force a page to begin on an odd or even page?

You can set this is in the <pbr> tag - eg. <pbr page-break-before="odd"> which means only do a page break if the next page is odd. You can also do <pbr page-break-before="even">, which means only do a page break if the next page is even.

I'm having trouble with the "fi" ligature in words like "Office"

The font you are using may have a zero width for the ligature 'fi'. You have a few options:

  1. See if you can download a later version of the font you are using.
  2. Insert a zero width non-joiner, U+200C. between the f and the i in any occurence of "fi"
  3. Use the "suppress-ligatures" in the <p> tag (see the Report Generator tag guide).

Is it possible to put a line-break in the labels of a graph?

In the Report Generator using the &#10; will work for carriage returns in labels.

For the Graph Library you can put a '\n' in the label text if you're using JSP code to create the label dynamically:

<bfg:label distance="40"><%= value1 + "\n" + value2 ></bfg:label>

or just hit Enter and put the line break into the XML explicitly:

<bfg:label distance="20">On

Will it work with HTTPS?

Yes, PDFs and graphs can be requested and returned via HTTPS. When using the Report Generator to create PDFs, you may find a CertificateException is thrown. This occurrs whenever a Java process tries to open an SSL connection as a client, and means that the certificate presented by the webserver isn't trusted by the client (your Java process). This even happens when the client and server processes are the same Application Server. Although it's not specific to the Report Generator, you'll often see it when you reference images or stylesheets in your XML with relative URLs. There are three ways around it, in decreasing order of preference.

  • Change the base URL of the Report Generator using the META tag in the document head. Using this you can set the base URL of the report, eg. <meta name="base" value="file:C:/webapp/report.jsp"/>. This has the effect of making a relative URL like <img src="images/myimage.jpg">resolve to the URL file:C:/webapp/images/myimage.jpg - i.e. the image is loaded from the filesystem, not through the webserver, and no certificate exception occurs. It's a bit faster too, but obviously will only work for resources that are files.
  • Add the certificate of your webserver to the "cacerts" file supplied with your installation of Java - this is the list of certificates that are considered trusted by Java. This is done using the keytool application.
  • Turn off certificate validation altogether - we're assuming that as you're already using SSL you know the risks this entails. Calling the init method of this class will do the trick (note this code is completely unsupported - use at your own risk).
    public class EasyConnect implements X509TrustManager, HostnameVerifier {
        public final static void init() throws Exception {
            EasyConnect e = new EasyConnect();
            SSLContext sc = SSLContext.getInstance("SSL");
            sc.init(null, new TrustManager[] { e }, null);
        public void checkClientTrusted(X509Certificate[] chain, String auth) { }
        public void checkServerTrusted(X509Certificate[] chain, String auth) { }
        public X509Certificate[] getAcceptedIssuers() { return null; }
        public boolean verify(String urlHostname, SSLSession session) { return true; }

How can I optimise the Report Generator to make response time as fast as possible?

We've optimised the Report Generator as best we can and we are always exploring ideas to speed things up even more - so the best place to start is to make sure you have the latest and greatest version. Having said that, here are some ideas.

XML Tag density - More tags means more to parse and hence more time. If you can reduce the number of tags in your document with some concise and clever markup this will always help. Use a good style sheet rather than attributes or inline styles. It is best to avoid relying on nested tables and spacer GIFs for controlling layout, instead using "colspan", "rowspan", "margin" and "padding" attributes to achieve the same effect. Using smaller tables with "table-layout=fixed" will save the Report Genrator from reading the whole table to determine the width of the column.

External Resources - A document that uses external resources such as fonts, images or other PDFs will always take longer to create than one without. External resources are cached within the document, but are not cached across multiple documents or requests.

Application design - Another good place to look is to ask some questions about your application use cases. Do all documents need to be created from scratch? Are 30 users viewing more or less the same document with slight changes? Could I use a cached template? Could I write the document once, store it on disk or database and serve it up?

Does the PDF Library support a newspaper or column type layout?

Not directly, but it can be done. Using the LayoutBox class you could first create a LayoutBox the width of one column. Fill this with your text, pictures etc., and then call the LayoutBox.split() method to split the LayoutBox into column-length chunks. Then just draw each chunk side by side on the page. A simple example illustrating this is included with the download package as "".

When I copy or add pages from an existing document to a new document, form fields are not copied, why?

In version 2.0, if you want to copy a form field annotation from one document to another you need to move the FormElement associated with it separately. Have a look at section 2 in the PDF userguide, which has all the information you need, or take a look at the example included with the download package.

"WARNING (PG1): Annotation 1/152 on page 1 is part of another PDF's form - removing", what does this mean?

See Appendix A in the PDF userguide for a list of warning messages. Also refer to the question above.

After setting the origin of a page, when I add a form field does it not appear where I expect?

Annotations (such as Form Fields) use absolute co-ordinates for positioning on the page, starting at (0,0) in the bottom left corner. They are not affected by calls to the setUnits method.

We want to work with really big PDF documents - will it cope?

The PDF specification allows for documents of up to 10GB. How close you will get to that depends on quite a few factors and what you're doing:

  • When reading large exising PDF documents, make sure you use the PDFReader(File) constructor rather than the PDFReader(InputStream). If a File is used, the entire PDF does not have to be loaded into memory.
  • If you're modifying pages, remember to call PDFPage.flush after your changes. This will close the writer for the page, and free some resources.
  • If you're creating or modifying a PDF, consider using a Cache. This class will allow large streams that are newly created (or modified) to be stored on disk rather than in memory. It's most effective when you're working with large binary objects like images.
  • Make sure you're freeing up resources you create. If you open an InputStream or OutputStream, close it - our API will not do that for you.
  • If you're using the Report Generator, try and limit the number of tags by making use of the padding/margin attributes instead of nesting tables.
  • Finally, and most usefully, you can increase the heap size in Java. If you haven't already done so and are seing OutOfMemoryErrors, this is the first thing to try. For example, to give Java 256MB of heap to work in: java -Xmx256M YourClass.

Also be sure to keep up to date with revisions - we release often, and making our products both smaller and faster is high on our priority list.

I am getting an OutOfMemoryError when working with PDFs

This is one of the most common questions we get. First, this does not mean there is a memory leak - it simply means that there is not enough memory available. See our previous FAQ entry for details on how to reduce the memory pressure.

How can I prevent a PDF from being saved to disk?

A PDF is simply a file, so there's really no way to do this. Even if there were some option that could be set in the document to signal Acrobat (and there isn't), the user could simply right click on the link and select "Save As", or extract the document from the cache. You can make it a little harder for them by having it returned from an HTML POST perhaps, but there is no 100% effective way to do this (and this applies to any type of file returned from a webserver, not just PDFs).

How can I can create a PDF from a JSP using the PDF library?

It is not recommended to create PDFs from JSPs. JSP's are intended to return text only, not binary content like PDFs or images (for which you should use a Servlet). In more detail, a JSP page only has access to the PrintWriter, not the ServletOutputStream, so your response will be dependent on the encoding of the page. In addition, any newlines or spaces in your JSP will be inserted into your PDF, which as it's a binary file is not a good idea. We're not saying it can't be done if you know what you're doing and you're careful, but whether it will work will depend on the browser, your application server and the environment it's running in - so we don't support it.

How can I stop the letters in my table from being stretched out?

By default the text in tables is justified. In order to prevent this you need to set align="left". Remember that each <td> element has a <p> implicitly placed around the data, so the best way to achieve this is to use a style sheet and add:

td p { align:left }

which will cause all the table data elements to align to the left.

Can I work with documents containing Acrobat Reader Extensions?

Not easily. Adobe have created the Reader Extensions so that they can only be used with their Document Server product, presumably in order to avoid losing sales of Acrobat to a combination of Acrobat Reader and third party products like our own. We have more detail in this blog article.

How do I find out the location of an element created in the Report Generator?

This is a common question by those wanting to add something to a PDF created by the Report Generator that can't be defined in the XML, such as a custom annotation or maybe a type of page numbering that can't be supported directly by the XML syntax. The ideas is that after the XML is converted to a PDF but before it's written to the OutputStream, the PDF can be altered using the PDF library API. The trick is finding out the location of the element you're using as a marker in the document.

To do this you can add an annotation to the tag and then search for it once the PDF is generated. First, add an href to the element you want to find:

<h1 href="pdf:dummy">Heading</h1>

Then edit the code that converts the XML to the PDF so that after the PDF is created by before it's written out, find that annotation (and delete it when you're done). The new code to insert is indicated below.

PDF pdf = parser.parse(inputsource);
List pages = pdf.getPages();
 for (int i=0;i<pages.size();i++) {
 PDFPage page = (PDFPage)pages.get(i);
 List annots = page.getAnnotations();
 for (int j=0;j<annots.size();j++) {
     PDFAnnotation annot = (PDFAnnotation)annots.get(j);
     if (annot.getAction().getType().equals("Named:dummy")) {
         float[] rect = annot.getRectangle();
         // Now you have "rect" and "page" set to the location of the tag
         // in your document - do whatever you need to with them.

This technique of modifying the PDF after it's created but before it's written can be used to do other things too - append other documents, reorder pages and so on. For those using the PDFFilter, the source code is supplied in the docs directory. Remember to put the modified version in a different package.

There's more detail in this blog article.

Extracting text from a PDF is giving incorrect or missing results

Extracting text from a PDF can fail for a number of reasons, mostly due to the way they're constructed internally. A PDF has no concept of a sentence or a word, only letters. Typically these are grouped together internally to form words which we can search for, but this isn't always the case - we've seen documents where all the capital letters in a line were printed in one go followed by the lower case letters, or documents where letters were arranged from right-to-left, the cursor moving backwards between each one. Some older documents use images to make up the letters, or fonts with no useful encoding so it's impossible to know which letter is which. The one thing all these variations have in common is it's almost impossible to extract useful text from them (and this will apply to any PDF tool, including Acrobat and our library).

99% of the time this won't be an issue, but it's for this reason when we're asked if it's possible to extract text from a PDF we say usually, rather than an outright yes.

(Also be aware that our trial version replaces all lowercase e's with lowercase a's. This is deliberate, not a fault, and isn't the case when you have a valid license key).

What sort of compression is used when converting PDF to TIFF?

This depends on the colormodel used. If you're using a 1-bit colormodel like PDFParser.BLACKANDWHITE then CCITT Group 4 compression is used, otherwise LZW compression is used. These are the two best options available in baseline TIFF - although Flate compression is defined in an extension to the TIFF specification, its support is limited and LZW is, despite its patent problems in the past, still a very effective compression algorithm.

The raster format also depends on the ColorModel used - if it's an IndexColorModel then the image will be stored as an indexed image with 8pp. Most color images are not indexed however, and will be stored at 24bpp for RGB or 32bpp for CMYK images.

When embedding a v2 Graph into my PDF, the text is "fuzzy" when printed

You're embedding the graph as a bitmap, and the resolution is too low. Recent versions of the Report Generator will allow version 2 graphs to be embedded as a first-class vector object, which makes for much better results and smaller files too. See this blog article for more detail.