Create Documents with Aspose.Pdf for .NET
When it's time to create a document, PDF is often the format that your users prefer. Aspose.Pdf provides the coding support that lets you build PDF documents on the fly.
About a month ago, in a ToolTracker blog post entitled "Tool Markets You Don't Even Know About", I mentioned PDF document creation as a tool market that you may not have heard of. In that market, Aspose is one of the leaders with a suite of tools for creating PDF documents.
The Aspose.Pdf document-creation tool is more than just a PDF printer driver. Aspose.Pdf allows you to build a PDF document on the fly, inserting text, tables, graphs and more as you need them.
And, unlike creating a document in Microsoft Word using automation, Aspose.Pdf does it using a set of native Microsoft .NET Framework tools -- you don't even need to have Adobe Acrobat installed on the computer.
Creating simple documents is easy with Aspose.Pdf. More importantly, from a database developer's point of view, the software lets you create data-driven templates. You define an XML template using Extensible Stylesheet Language Formatting Objects (XSL-FO) and bind it to the Aspose.Pdf document to specify the structure of your document. While you can't load a complete document from your data as you would load a grid control, slotting data into your document is easy. The Aspose.Pdf FillTable method lets you transfer data from .NET DataTables to a document table in a single statement.
I found the Aspose.Pdf object model clean and easy to understand. However, as with any document-creation system, creating complex documents can be challenging, especially if you're worried about aesthetics.
I have two criticisms, one major and one minor. First, the major complaint: Creating XSL-FO templates is key to generating data-driven reports with Aspose.Pdf. Unfortunately, Aspose.Pdf doesn't include a tool to support creating those templates -- your best strategy is to start with one of the templates included in the many sample applications provided with Aspose.Pdf and modify it. You can download the schema for XSL-FO from Aspose and use that within Visual Studio to ensure that the templates you create are valid.
Which leads to my minor criticism: While Aspose provides a full range of sample applications, they're all Visual Studio 2003/2005 projects. When I converted the sample applications to Visual Studio 2010, I had to re-reference the Aspose library and reset the application's .NET version before they would run. That took me five minutes that Aspose could have spent on its end. Still, Aspose.Pdf is a capable and easy-to-use PDF creation tool with some intriguing data-centric talents.
Price: $599 for developer Enterprise license with Standard Support
Quick Facts: Native .NET objects for creating and displaying PDF documents with Adobe Acrobat in both Web and desktop environments
Pros: Powerful data-driven tools for creating simple and complex documents on the fly
Cons: No support tools (other than a schema) for creating document templates
Peter Vogel is a system architect and principal in PH&V Information Services. PH&V provides full-stack consulting from UX design through object modeling to database design. Peter tweets about his VSM columns with the hashtag #vogelarticles. His blog posts on user experience design can be found at http://blog.learningtree.com/tag/ui/.