PDF-KungFoo with Ghostscript… by Kurt Pfeifle [PDF/iPad/Kindle]
PDF-KungFoo with Ghostscript & Co.
PDF-KungFoo with Ghostscript & Co.
PDF-KungFoo with Ghostscript & Co.

This book is 23% complete

Last updated on 2014-04-13

About the Book


This book, once finished, will contain a few rare gems. It will contain some great tricks and other stuff which you'll not find anywhere else on the Big Net, nor in any books you can buy from Amazon.

However, it is "work in progress". It summarizes some of the practical solutions I applied to real-world problems encountered by my clients. Early buyers and readers will be able to follow its progressing development -- and they will be entitled to updates until the final completed version without paying any extra money.

Most of the book's chapters deal with Ghostscript commands. But sometimes I also refer to other helper utilities, which I employ when Ghostscript isn't the right tool for the job.

Each chapter is intended to be of immediate practical value, and each one can stand on its own, giving the reader a basic or more advanced "recipe" that can be applied and adapted to his own situation, while at the same time giving additional background information and highlighting technical concepts in context.

While this book is still work in progress, readers are encouraged to submit their own suggestions and questions about topics to be included into the final version.

My experience in the prepress world and in the printing industry spans over 2 decades. To date, I've used Ghostscript and other Free Software tools for more than 15 years. Most of the 'problems' and practical tasks I describe here have been posed to me...

  • ...either from paying customers, whom I helped through consulting, troubleshooting, training or software development activities,
  • ...or from emails I received (sometimes from people I have not heard of before or after) asking me some particular question about a problem,
  • ...or via some public internet forum, newsgroup or platform where people ask IT- or programming related questions, most prominently on StackOverflow.com.

Luckily I kept a record of the most interesting and of the most commonly asked things.

This document is a condensed summary from my archives. And sometimes I didn't write paragraphs completely from scratch, but copied them straight from my old mails. So, if you come across some sentence in the "Question" or the "Answer" section of the coming chapters which sounds familiar to you: maybe it's because you sent me the question before, or because you received the same answer from me years ago. Over time, I may decide to edit, polish and straighten many of the original, still "raw" pieces in this book. However, this may also depend on readers' general feedback.

Be warned though: this document is not necessarily a comprehensive, systematic tutorial! Some of the snippets explained in different chapters may be duplicates and therefor could be seen as redundant. However, should you end up reading and working through all chapters of the booklet, you'll remember these parts better and you may have gained a rather complete picture of Ghostscript's capabilities :-)

While I didn't do a precise count: I'm pretty sure that a newbie Ghostscript user will easily find 100 different pieces of practical Ghostscript usage snippets here, even if the book currently does not (yet) contain 100 distinct chapters. Experienced users will also be able to find one or the other 'gem of wisdom'.

All in all I hope you'll find my 'PDF-KungFoo -- 100 Tips + Tricks for Ghostscript & Co.' useful. I intend to expand and update this document over time. Readers will be entitled to free updates. So I hope, in a year or two, you will have a document which could rather be named '100 Chapters with 1000 Tipps + Tricks for Ghostscript & Co.'

-- Kurt Pfeifle

Preliminary Plan for Table of Content (to be expanded)

Contents Metadata Changelog Introduction 100 Tipps and Tricks
  • 1 Where can I download the tools shown in this book?
  • 2 How can I convert PCL to PDF?
  • 3 How can I convert XPS to PDF?
  • 4 Why doesn't Acrobat Distiller embed all fonts fully?
  • 5 How can I extract fonts from PDFs as valid font files?
  • 6 How can I embed fonts when generating PDFs?
  • 7 How can I embed a missing font into an existing PDF?
  • 8 How can I convert a font to an outline in an existing PDF?
  • 9 Can I replace a font inside a PDF?
Scanned Pages and PDF
  • 10 How can I make invisible fonts visible?
  • 11 How can I spellcheck a scanned PDF?
  • 12 How can I convert a color PDF into grayscale?
  • 13 How can I convert a CMYK-based PDF into an RGB-based one?
  • 14 How can I check for colored pages inside a PDF?
  • 15 How can I check for all-white pages inside a PDF?
Using “pdfmarks”
  • 16 How can I use 'pdfmark' to insert bookmarks into PDF?
  • 17 How can I use 'pdfmark' to change PDF metadata?
Text extraction
  • 18 How to extract text from PDF?
  • 19 How do I unit test a Python function that draws PDF graphics?
  • 20 How do I determine the number of PDF pages?
  • 21 How do I crop PDF pages?
  • 22 How do I scale PDF pages?
  • 23 How can I rotate PDF pages?
  • 24 How can I open PDF “raw”?
  • 25 How can I remove white margins from PDF pages?
Some Topics in Depth
  • 26 How can I determine which pages of a PDF use color?
  • 27 What are PostScript dictionaries, and how can they be accessed (in ghostscript)?
  • 28 How can I use Ghostscript to query the default settings used by an output device (such as ‘pdfwrite’ or ‘tiffg4’) ?
  • 29 What is the difference between PostScript and PDF?
Appendix Acknowledgements

About the Author

Kurt Pfeifle
Kurt Pfeifle

Kurt has been coined "The Walking PDF Debugger" by several of his regular clients. They are right. Many of his problem solving skills in the last 10 years involved troubleshooting PDF processing systems in the Printing and Prepress Industry.

Kurt is a professional with more than 20 years of experience. After working for nearly 3 decades with the same employer (who in the process had 4 different names due to company mergers) he decided to freelance.

When working with customers, he prefers to use Free and Open Source Software whereever it works best. He is a commandline addict. As operating systems he prefers unix-oid types like Linux, Mac OS X and Solaris, but he is just as familiar with Windows and its cmd.exe too. These preferences were not pre-determined from the start: up until 1998 he used Windows 95 exclusively. His first tentative adventures with Linux started in that very year. In 1999, still very much a newbie with Open Source, he became one the first users and beta testers of a new printing subsystem called CUPS (Common Unix Printing System). In the following years, CUPS very fast became the pre-dominant printing interface in the Linux and Unix world and has meanwhile been adopted and even acquired by Apple for Mac OS X.

Kurt's "career" as an author of technical documentation started when he helped users with technical questions about printing in different internet forums and contributed written documentation to various FOSS projects, such as Samba, Linuxprinting.org and KDE.

Kurt is available for contract work:

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