Written on November 5th, 2009 at 4:04 pmby Arun Vishnu



Portable Document Format (PDF) is a file format created by Adobe Systems in 1993 for document exchange. PDF is used for representing two-dimensional documents in a manner independent of the application software, hardware, and operating system.

PDF is a commonly accepted document format and so we might need to create PDF documents dynamically. We can create PDF documents with PHP. Lots of PDF generation PHP libraries are available. TCPDF and EZPDF are the two good opensource libraries which allow us to create PDF documents dynamically.


EZPDF is a fast and easy to use library developed by R&OS Ltd.

1.1) Creating a PDF document using EZPDF

We need 2 php files “class.ezpdf”, “class.pdf” and a font(in .afm) format. You can get these files from http://www.ros.co.nz/pdf/

1.2) Steps

1) Download the files from http://www.ros.co.nz/pdf/ and extract to our web application’s directory.

2) Include “class.ezpdf.php” in to our page.

3) Create an object of Cezpdf by $pdf =& new Cezpdf();

4) Set the required font.

5) Print our content of the document using the eZpdf functions.

6) Output/Save the PDF file.

Sample program

$pdf->ezText('Hello!..This is a sameple PDF file',50);

We can format/design the document using the Ezpdf class’s methods. You can set margin, font, font size, colour, position etc using functions. We add images,links, draw shapes like line, curve, polygon etc to the document and we can set the border style also. Another good feature of this class is the support for creating tables, we can set the orientation, width, colour, row gap, column gap etc. We can encrypt the document and write to the disk if we want.

Ezpdf is a very simple to use PHP library for creating PDF files dynamically. Since it is opensource, you can extend the baseclass to change/add methods.

1.3) Features

  • Lightweight
  • Easy and simple
  • Fast
  • Opensource
  • Automatic page break
  • Support for adding/setting tables, images, links, shapes, fize, colour etc.

1.4) Limitations

  • Doesnot supports UTF-8 Unicode and Right-To-Left languages.
  • No methods to publish (x)HTML code

2) TcPDF

TCPDF is a popular Free and open source software PHP class for generating PDF documents. TCPDF is currently the only PHP-based library that includes complete support for UTF-8 Unicode and Right-To-Left languages

TCPDF supports all ISO page formats and custom page formats, custom margins and units of measure, UTF-8 Unicode, RTL languages, HTML, barcodes, TrueTypeUnicode, TrueType, OpenType, Type1, and CID-0 fonts, images, graphic functions, clipping, bookmarks, JavaScript, forms, page compression, digital signatures, and encryption.

2.1) Steps for creating a PDF files using TCPDF

  1. Include the configaration file and the class file to the page.
  2. Set the font, margin etc
  3. Print the content to the pdf file
  4. Output the pdf file.

Sample program

	// set default monospaced font
	//set margins
	$pdf->SetMargins(15, 15, 15);
	//set auto page breaks
	$pdf->SetAutoPageBreak(TRUE, PDF_MARGIN_BOTTOM);
	//set some language-dependent strings
	// set font
	$pdf->SetFont('times', 'BI', 16);
	// add a page
	$htmlcontent .='Hello!..This is a sameple PDF file';
	$pdf->writeHTML($htmlcontent, true, 0, true, 0);
	$pdf->Output('myPdfExample.pdf', 'I');

2.2) Features

  • supports all ISO page formats;
  • supports UTF-8 Unicode and Right-To-Left languages;
  • supports TrueTypeUnicode, OpenTypeUnicode, TrueType, OpenType, Type1 and CID-0 fonts;
  • supports document encryption;
  • includes methods to publish (x)HTML code;
  • includes graphic (geometric) and transformation methods;
  • includes Javascript and forms support;
  • includes a method to print various barcode formats: 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 Extention, 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;
  • includes methods to set Bookmarks and print a Table of Content;
  • includes a method to move pages;
  • includes methods for automatic page header and footer management;
  • supports automatic page break;
  • supports automatic page numbering and page groups;
  • supports JPEG and PNG images natively, all images supported by GD
  • supports stroke and clipping mode for text;
  • supports clipping masks;
  • supports Grayscale, RGB, CMYK, Spot Colors and Transparencies;
  • supports several annotations, including links, text and file attachments;
  • supports transactions to UNDO commands;
  • supports digital signatures

Tips & Tricks

I used following 2 tricks in my project, hope it will help you.

  1. In EZPDF you can set the colour of the text, shapes, lines etc., the colour needs to be specified in RGB triplet, each in the range 0 to 1. Most of the tools(eg:- Colour picker, Adobe Photoshop) shows the colour in the range of 0-255 or in Hexadecimal format. If you want the colour values in the range of 0-1, divide the colour values by 255. For example Blue is rgb(0, 155, 255). You can convert it in to 0-1 range by dividing each values by 255. So the blue is rgb(0, 0.61, 1) in 0-1 range.
  1. Specifying background colur for the document: When you add a new page, draw a rectangle in the size of that document and write all the content above that rectangle, so it will be like background colour for that page.


Both EZPDF and TCPDF are easy and powerful libraries, TCPDF has more features than EZPDF and it is still maintained by the developers where as EZPDF last updated on 17 June 2006. I used both EZPDF and TCPDF; for creating simple documents, I suggest EZPDF and if you want many features like UTF-8 / RTL support, HTML support etc. go for TCPDF.

You can find more details from the following sites.


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3 Responses to “Creating PDF documents using PHP”

  1. thom

    3 years ago

    thank you for the information. I used fpdf before I find out ezpdf. But Fpdf is lack on inserting images, in my experience. And now i will try ezpdf :)

  2. Carlos

    3 years ago

    hi, i have a trouble changing the color of the text, i can’t find where put the code in rgb to set the color of the text, can you show where and how set the color of one line of text?

    i will be so greatfull with you if you can help me!.

  3. Mohan

    3 years ago

    Hi, its working good. All of the required features are implemented.
    But one more request is how to read html file and print that file in pdf.
    i.e. i have given values in html file and how can i give input as .html file

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