PDF-KungFoo with Ghostscript & Co.
With Membership
Suggested price

PDF-KungFoo with Ghostscript & Co.

100 Tips and Tricks for Clever PDF Creation and Handling

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:

Table of Contents

    • Changelog (major changes only)
  • I Preliminaries
    • 1 Introduction
    • 2 Hints for Linux, Windows, Mac OS X and Unix Users
    • 3 Downloading the tools
  • II 100 Tipps and Tricks
    • 4 How can I convert PCL to PDF?
    • 5 How can I to convert XPS to PDF?
    • 6 How can I unit test a Python function that draws PDF graphics?
    • 7 How can I compare 2 PDFs on the commandline?
    • 8 How can I remove white margins from PDF pages?
    • 9 Using Ghostscript to get page size
  • III Fonts
    • 10 Why doesn’t Acrobat Distiller embed all fonts fully – even when explicitly setup to do so?
    • 11 How do I make Ghostscript show all fonts it can find on my local system?
    • 12 How can I extract embedded fonts from a PDF as valid font files?
    • 13 How can I convert fonts to outlines in an existing PDF?
    • 14 How can I get Ghostscript to use embedded fonts in PDF?
    • 15 How do I embed fonts when generating PDFs? (CONTENT STILL MISSING)
    • 16 How can I embed a missing font into an existing PDF? (CONTENT STILL MISSING)
    • 17 Can I replace a font inside a PDF? (CONTENT STILL MISSING)
    • 18 How can I use invisible fonts in a PDF?
  • IV Scanned Pages and PDF
    • 19 How can I make the invisible OCR information on a scanned PDF page visible?
    • 20 How can I spellcheck a scanned PDF? (CONTENT STILL MISSING)
  • V Colors
    • 21 How can I convert a color PDF into grayscale?
    • 22 How can I convert a CMYK-based PDF into an RGB-based one? (CONTENT STILL MISSING)
    • 23 How can I check for colored pages inside a PDF? (CONTENT STILL MISSING)
    • 24 How can I check for all-white pages inside a PDF? (CONTENT STILL MISSING)
  • VI Using pdfmarks
    • 25 How can I understand what this funny ‘pdfmark’ stuff is about?
    • 26 How can I use pdfmark to insert bookmarks into PDF? (CONTENT STILL MISSING)
    • 27 How can I use pdfmark with Ghostscript to change PDF metadata?
    • 28 How can I use Ghostscript to add an annotation to a PDF?
  • VII Text extraction
    • 29 How can I extract text from PDF? (CONTENT STILL MISSING)
  • VIII Miscellaneous
    • 30 How can I re-order pages in a PDF
    • 31 How to recognize PDF format?
    • 32 How can I let Ghostscript determine the number of PDF pages?
    • 33 How can I crop PDF pages? (CONTENT STILL MISSING)
    • 34 How can I scale PDF pages? (CONTENT STILL MISSING)
    • 35 How can I rotate PDF pages? (CONTENT STILL MISSING)
    • 36 How can I open PDF “raw”? (CONTENT STILL MISSING)
    • 37 How can I use Ghostscript as a calculator inside the shell?
    • 38 Do you also use non-FOSS tools for your PDF-related work? If so, which?
    • 39 Why do you call Apple’s Preview.app ‘evil, malicious and ambidextrous to unsuspecting users’?
  • IX Some Topics in Depth
    • 40 Can I query the default settings Ghostscript uses for an output device (such as ‘pdfwrite’ or ‘tiffg4’)?
  • Appendix
    • About the Author
    • Acknowledgements

Causes Supported

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Defending your civil liberties in a digital world.

Based in San Francisco, EFF is a donor-supported membership organization working to protect fundamental rights regardless of technology.

From the Internet to the iPod, technologies are transforming our society and empowering us as speakers, citizens, creators, and consumers. When our freedoms in the networked world come under attack, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is the first line of defense. EFF broke new ground when it was founded in 1990—well before the Internet was on most people's radar—and continues to confront cutting-edge issues defending free speech, privacy, innovation, and consumer rights today. From the beginning, EFF has championed the public interest in every critical battle affecting digital rights.

Other books by this author

The Leanpub 60 Day 100% Happiness Guarantee

Within 60 days of purchase you can get a 100% refund on any Leanpub purchase, in two clicks.

Now, this is technically risky for us, since you'll have the book or course files either way. But we're so confident in our products and services, and in our authors and readers, that we're happy to offer a full money back guarantee for everything we sell.

You can only find out how good something is by trying it, and because of our 100% money back guarantee there's literally no risk to do so!

So, there's no reason not to click the Add to Cart button, is there?

See full terms...

80% Royalties. Earn $16 on a $20 book.

We pay 80% royalties. That's not a typo: you earn $16 on a $20 sale. If we sell 5000 non-refunded copies of your book or course for $20, you'll earn $80,000.

(Yes, some authors have already earned much more than that on Leanpub.)

In fact, authors have earnedover $13 millionwriting, publishing and selling on Leanpub.

Learn more about writing on Leanpub

Free Updates. DRM Free.

If you buy a Leanpub book, you get free updates for as long as the author updates the book! Many authors use Leanpub to publish their books in-progress, while they are writing them. All readers get free updates, regardless of when they bought the book or how much they paid (including free).

Most Leanpub books are available in PDF (for computers) and EPUB (for phones, tablets and Kindle). The formats that a book includes are shown at the top right corner of this page.

Finally, Leanpub books don't have any DRM copy-protection nonsense, so you can easily read them on any supported device.

Learn more about Leanpub's ebook formats and where to read them

Write and Publish on Leanpub

You can use Leanpub to easily write, publish and sell in-progress and completed ebooks and online courses!

Leanpub is a powerful platform for serious authors, combining a simple, elegant writing and publishing workflow with a store focused on selling in-progress ebooks.

Leanpub is a magical typewriter for authors: just write in plain text, and to publish your ebook, just click a button. (Or, if you are producing your ebook your own way, you can even upload your own PDF and/or EPUB files and then publish with one click!) It really is that easy.

Learn more about writing on Leanpub