Intro
 

ABCpdf fully supports HTML and CSS.

You can render individual pages of HTML using the AddImageUrl method.

You can page HTML over multiple PDF pages using the AddImageUrl method in combination with the AddImageToChain method.

ABCpdf allows you to treat HTML like any other media so you can even page your HTML across multiple columns of multiple pages of your PDF.

 

   

Method
 

HTML was designed to specify the meaning of document content and leave the precise rendering and layout up to the browser. PDF was designed to specify the appearance of a document and ignore the meaning of the document content. HTML and PDF are fundamentally different.

HTML is being changed to allow greater control over the appearance of a document and PDF is being changed to allow the meaning of a document to be better represented. However, the fact that the two specifications are based on diametrically opposed concepts does mean that it can be difficult to convert between the two.

ABCpdf can use the MSHTML engine (used in Microsoft Internet Explorer) or the Gecko engine (used in Mozilla Firefox) to parse and preprocess the HTML for insertion into your PDF. This provides an extremely accurate rendition of the HTML. Due to the differences in behavior and capabilities of the underlying rendering engine, you should expect differences in the rendered output when switching HTML engine. Please refer to Engine, ForMSHtml, and ForGecko for further elaborations on the engines' distinct characteristics.

 

   

Cache
 

ABCpdf holds a cache of recently requested URLs and it's only after five minutes or so that these pages expire from the cache.

This results in a considerable degree of optimization for many common operations. However, if you wish to bypass the cache, you can do so by setting the DisableCache parameter to true when you call AddImageUrl or AddImageHtml.

Occasionally, you may find that your page is being cached elsewhere. There are all kinds of places this can happen. For example, Windows sometimes caches individual page resources. Proxy servers may cache entire pages.

The standard reason that content gets cached is that pages are sending HTTP header information which indicates that it is acceptable to cache this content. If you are using the Internet Explorer HTML engine, sometimes it will insist to cache certain Web pages. In that case, your first step should be to use a tool like IEWatch to view the content expiration headers. Indeed, you may find that simply adjusting the content expiration settings found in the IIS Management Console will resolve the issue.

If you want to be totally sure that your URLs are rendered afresh each time, you need to vary the URL. For example:

http://www.microsoft.com/?dummy=1
http://www.microsoft.com/?dummy=2
http://www.microsoft.com/?dummy=3

These will all render the same page (www.microsoft.com) but because the URL is varying, you can be sure that they will be rendered afresh each time.

 

   

Speed
 
 

Obvious things will impact the speed of HTML conversion. So if you want to optimize the process look at retrieval times for your http requests, the size of your HTML and any related resources, the complexity of HTML, the speed of your computer. Tweaking these can make a big difference.

However there are also some small and simple things you may be able to do without getting into the complexity of system wide optimization.

The MSHTML rendering engine is, by default, set up for accuracy and quality. In order to ensure that the output is always good we have to enable every setting that might ever affect the output quality. This is the case even for situations in which you are not using those features.

So if your HTML does not contain features which require these settings then you can disable them. Doing so can result in significant speed improvements.

The setting which typically makes the biggest difference is HostWebBrowser but DoMarkup is also worth looking at. The actual speed increases depend very much on the input HTML, but in our tests, disabling these features for simple HTML, increased the speed of processing by about 30% for HostWebBrowser and another 10% for DoMarkup property.

Another property which needs examination is the UseScript one. By default this is set to false but many people enable it in their ABCpdf code. As long as your JavaScript is good and sensible then there is no problem. However JavaScript is often coded poorly and as such it may have an unpredictable effect on speed. Consider disabling this feature if you do not actively need it.

Setting the BrowserWidth to a predefined value means that ABCpdf does not have to compute one. This carn result in an increase of speed or perhaps 10% or so.

 

   

Caveats
 
 

You can render any page you can supply a URL for.

When you render a page the page has to be reloaded by ABCpdf. This is because you - as a client - are looking at the page from your current machine. ABCpdf lives on the server and so it exists in a different session.

So, you cannot generally rely on cookies, session state or form submission in your page. The page must be reliant only on the URL you supply.

If you have to rely on session state, you could use cookie-less sessions (which will give you a URL for your session) or you could save the session information under a specific unique ID then pass the ID via the URL and pick up the information via your server-side code.

Problems which appear to be related to SSL or HTTPS connections are often authentication issues simply solved by providing a user name and password. See the LogonName property for details.

 

   

Size
 
 

Screen resolution is typically 96 DPI. So, when you view an HTML page on your monitor, Windows will display it at 96 DPI.

The disparity between the screen resolution and the PDF 72 DPI resolution means that HTML appears larger in print documents than it does on screen.

You will need to apply a scale of 72/96 (0.75) to compensate for this if you want both to appear the same size.

For example, if you are rendering a web page supplying a value of 800 for the Width parameter, you will need to set the width of your Rect to 600 if you want both to appear the same size.

 

   

DPI
 
 

PDF documents are predominantly vector based. As such, they do not really have a DPI because they are resolution independent. The only portions of PDFs which are raster based are images.

Most elements of HTML - text, lines - are vector based. So, they are resolution independent.

The resolution at which images in your web pages are rendered is complicated. Suppose you have a 300 square image referenced by an image tag. If the width of your Doc.Rect is the same as the width you pass to AddImageUrl, this will be rendered at 72 DPI. However, by changing the ratios between these two values, the image will be scaled and hence the resolution will be changed.

And... if your 300 square is in an img tag with a width and height of 150, the default resolution will be doubled.

 

   

Breaks
 
 

ABCpdf uses a sophisticated set of heuristics to determine where to break pages. For greater control over page breaking, you can use the page-break-before, page-break-after and page-break-inside CSS styles.

You must ensure that the element to which you apply your page breaking style is visible. For example:

<div style="page-break-before:always">&nbsp;</div>

... will break but ...

<div style="page-break-before:always"></div>

... will not.

Useful Tip. Debugging page break styles.

Sometimes, your page breaks don't work in they way you think they should. Because these kinds of tags are invisible, it's very difficult for you to know whether you've applied them correctly or not. One simple solution is to debug your HTML using a visible style.

For example, when you apply your "page-break-inside: avoid" style, apply a right border style at the same time. That way, you can see exactly where your elements are. If the borders don't appear in the right places, then you know there's something wrong with your HTML.

The page break styles in the Gecko engine are not always applied as intuitively as they are in MSHTML. The root of this is the CSS specification that which says that break styles must be applicable to block-level elements within the "normal flow of the root element". It allows for these styles to be applied to other elements but does not mandate it.

The upshot of this, within the Gecko engine, is that page break styles cannot be applied within tables, to elements such as table rows. If you are unsure about whether something is likely to work just try Print Preview from within Firefox 21.0 as a simple sanity check.

 

   

Snapshot
 
 

You may wish to take a snapshot of the current URL.

In many circumstances, you should be able to derive a URL for the current page using the value of the SERVER_NAME, URL and QUERY_STRING Server Variables. You should be able to derive a URL for the previous page using the HTTP_REFERER (sic) Server Variable.

Alternatively, you can obtain the HTML of the current page using the HttpResponse.Filter property or by overriding the Render method of the page. You can then present this HTML to ABCpdf using AddImageHtml. If your HTML references resources using relative references, you may wish to insert a <BASE> tag into the HTML before presentation to ABCpdf.

When you perform this kind of operation, be careful not to recursively call ABCpdf. If you do this, you will get into a hall-of-mirrors type situation and the software will not be able to return you a sensible image.