ruby wrapper for the pdftk command line utility for working with editable pdf files
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This gem is intended to be a wrapper for the PDFTK command line utility for working with pdfs, mainly editable pdfs.

Currently this gem is intended to make the following much easier with pdftk:

1. Perform all operations provided by PDFTK (burst, cat, ....).
2. Making pdf forms reading & filling easy.
3. Get all the form fields details (type, readonly, ...) in a structured way to use them within other frameworks (such as Rails).
4. More to come through specifics adapters...

Official Repository :

Library references :

Issue tracker :


You must have PDFTK binary installed :

Or directly :

Then install the gem (note this is just in prep - the gem has not be released yet, soon I promise!)

gem install active_pdftk

or with Bundler :

gem 'active_pdftk'

or in a old rails 2.3.x app

config.gem 'active_pdftk'


PDFTK provide all kind of operations (See below for a full list). Depending of your needs you will use different Adapters.

For form handling use +ActivePdftk::Form+ :

bic ='bic.pdf')
bic.set('first_field', 'SomeString') #=> 'SomeString' #=> StringIO'/path/to/filled.pdf') #=> '/path/to/filled.pdf'

it is quite straightforward !

For read/write metadata on a pdf file use +ActivePdftk::Metadata+ (coming soon).

for other needs you will use +ActivePdftk::Wrapper+ to access all operations of PDFTK.

if you want to digg deeper check +ActivePdftk::Call+ which build the command line from an options hash.


This is the class you will interact with for all operations. The class will discover your 'pdftk' library (works on all *nix systems), but you can optionally give a path to the binary :

@pdftk =
@pdftk.path # => 'etc/bin/pdftk'


@pdftk = => '/usr/local/bin/pdftk')
@pdftk.path # => '/usr/local/bin/pdftk'

Then all operations are available :[{:pdf => 'a.pdf', :pass => 'foo'}, {:pdf => 'b.pdf', :start => 1, :end => 'end', :orientation => 'N', :pages => 'even'}])
@pdftk.dump_data_fields('~/Desktop/a.pdf', :output => '~/Desktop/data_fields.txt')

Other operations are :

cat (partially supported)
shuffle (partially supported)
burst (fully supported)
generate_fdf (fully supported) (this operation doesn't always provide readable FDF, we support this feature by our means)
fill_form (fully supported)
background (fully supported)
multibackground (fully supported)
stamp (fully supported)
multistamp (fully supported)
dump_data (fully supported)
dump_data_utf8 (fully supported)
dump_data_fields (fully supported)
dump_data_fields_utf8 (fully supported)
update_info (fully supported)
update_info_utf8 (fully supported)
attach_files (partially supported)
unpack_files (fully supported)

The Domain Specific Language

All operations & options are available through a hash corresponding to a DSL. A full explanation of this DSL could be read in +ActivePdftk::Call+ reference.

#TODO write a more explicit, but concise paragraph.

Note on Patches/Pull Requests

  • Fork the project.

  • Make your feature addition or bug fix.

  • Add tests for it. This is important so I don't break it in a future version unintentionally.

  • Commit, do not mess with rakefile, version, or history. (if you want to have your own version, that is fine but bump version in a commit by itself I can ignore when I pull)

  • Send me a pull request. Bonus points for topic branches.


Copyright © 2011 Tom Cocca. See LICENSE for details.


Marco ( ) - Thanks for contributing so much to the re-write of this gem and for adding most of the support for other methods in the Call class.


Props to this gem go out to jkraemer (Jens Krämer) for creating and devfu (Dev Fu!) for creating

This gem was originally based on the work of those two projects and greatly expands upon their functionality.