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Topic: Merging w/ PDF
Conf: (P-PDF) Developers, Msg: 123181
From: THerring
Date: 12/2/2004 09:16 AM

I'm currently working on a project where I need to merge data from a database with marketing documents. The sort of thing that one would normally do with an MS Word mail merge. The final document generated needs to be in PDF format.

In our situation, there are a few issues that prevent us from using Word to do our merge. First, after much testing, we have been unable to locate a Word -> PDF conversion utility/component/server that does not munge the document. We have yet to test a single conversion where the end product closely matches the original template.

Second, we don't want to restrict our customers by requiring them to provide Word templates for the data to be merged with. We want to allow them to provide documents in any format that can be converted to PDF (we will then touch up the PDF documents to correct the conversion errors.)

So far, no big problems. Here's the rub: We're having difficulty identifying a component that can actually do a PDF merge. There are some products we've found that come close, but there are issues that seem to be common to all of the components we've found.

We can't use PDF forms because we need to be able to insert data into a free-flowing paragraph at times. This, so far as we've been able to determine, is impossible with PDF Forms.

The next plan was to just use text objects with marked-up keywords, then use a PDF editing component to dynamically search/replace the markup. (For instance, "Come down to <<CompanyName>> and buy our stuff!!!" would become "Come down to Frank's Fashions and buy our stuff!!!") The problem with this plan is that we can't find a PDF editing package that lets us examine or edit the text of an existing text object in a PDF file. Not only can we not just do a search/replace, we can't even locate all of the text object properties so that we can delete and recreate it with the new, merged text.

I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that there isn't going to be a simple way to do what we want to do, but I decided to check with the PDF experts first and see if anyone else knows of any viable solutions that will get me the end results I need. Either that, or a definitive "You can't get there from here." response.



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