Creating PDF files from large tiki document structures - a solution

posts: 69

The purpose of this post is to share PDF techniques that have worked on my site, and solicit advice from others who may have better results with the same problem.

The website has a moderately large collection of documentation that we describe to users as Books, Chapters, Sections and Subsections. We use both {TOC} and {MAKETOC} to present the material to the user in navigable outline form on-line. We produce (manually) downloadable PDF files monthly to solve user problems with off-line access or slow connections, and have enabled Multi-Print to allow the users to create their own PDF files. The current full manual is 722 PDF pages.

Recently, we went looking for a better PDF creation program that would approximate the on-line users' experience - both in terms of look & feel and navigability. We tested several PDF creation tools: stand-alone PDF print drivers, Adobe's Acrobat Distiller, Microsoft Word 2010, and Open Office Writer. None of them creates an exact image of the website HTML docs in PDF files, but Word came closest with the added benefit of the left-hand outline and click-able external URLs.

As mentioned, the results are not perfect. Despite the improvements, PDF users notice some anomalies.

1. The Explorer-like outline does not always match the Table of Contents outline, due to vague differences in how HTML headings (H1,H2,H3...) are handled in the conversion process. I'm working on this, and it's still better than nothing - but it ain't perfect.

2. EXTERNAL links in the PDF will take you to external websites. Some INTERNAL links in the documentation, such as the Tables of Contents at the beginning of a chapter or a link within running text, will take you to that material on that website. However, similar-looking internal links (usually referred to as anchors) within the text will not take you anywhere - not to the website and not to another location in the PDF. We do not expect to solve this problem, but hope that the Explorer-like outline provides an acceptable alternative for internal navigation.

3. PDF Formatting of most text is accurate (or at least similar) in the Word PDF (paragraphs, bullets, the TOC…) but the most glaring exception is that Tips, Comments, Warning Boxes are not displayed properly.

To reiterate: not perfect, but acceptable. Requires no editing changes from Tiki to Word to PDF.

  • View these results on the live website at www.n1mm.com
  • Download the resultant PDFs under >File >Documentation Downloads
  • Read instructions for Word PDF creation under >Website >Website Users Guide

Hope that this information is of value to someone else trying to solve the same issue.


IMPORTANT! There is a bug in the tikilib.php code for handling structues that contain TOC and MAKETOC statements. I have posted a fix for that elsewhere on the forum.

posts: 69
oops = Sorry about mis-spelling PDF...