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Can I create and edit PDFs without using a third-party PDF library?

Matthew 19:24 "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."
By V. Subhash

Well, it is not that difficult but our advice is "Why bother?"

I see questions like these often on programming forums. It should be possible, right? Create PDF by hand... Edit PDF using only C# and no third-party library...

Sure, it is possible that you could create PDF by hand using nothing more than a text editor. One of our competitors, JPedal, has a series of articles on just that topic. It is a good introduction to understanding PDF but nobody reading those articles is going churn out PDF invoices using NotePad++ at any point in time.

Why do you need a PDF library?

Today, PDF is a de facto standard. It is an extremely popular document, workflow, collaboration and archival format. PDF is able to provide enormous value for its users because the format is the coming-together of several advanced technologies that have been perfected over several decades of research and development. PDF began in the early 90s. It was based on work done in PostScript, which took life in the early 80s. Then, there are numerous imaging, compression, encoding, and decoding technologies, which all have their own varied genealogies. On its own, the PDF format has been through several versions. Even today, it is a growing and evolving format.

This also means that generating new PDFs or processing existing PDF documents is not an easy task. PDF is a binary format. It is not compressed XML like Word or Excel is now. (Not that that makes DOCX or XLSX an easy format to create. They are easier than PDF.)

And, even though a form of PDF was accepted as an open ISO standard a few years ago, its specification has been open for a long time before that. As a result, there are countless number of applications and software libraries generate PDFs. Not all of these PDFs are being generated as per the spec. They have errors in them, and Adobe in order make the format as a truly universal format has added a lot of error-correction to its free Adobe Reader software. This meant that even though a PDF has errors, Adobe Reader will correct the error behind the scenes and display them without a wrinkle. In a self-reinforcing circle, makers of PDF generators perpetuate the problem by checking only to see if Adobe Reader opens their PDFs without issue. They do not check if their PDFs are up to spec.

Now, if you went studied the 1000-plus-page PDF specification and assimilated all that knowledge, you would still not be able to read just any PDF. The PDF spec is public but the error correction is not. It is a continuous learning process for us PDF library vendors when it comes to handling PDFs with errors.

It will be extremely difficult for a single developer or even a team of developers to write PDF-processing routines over a short period. Gnostice developer tools are now one-stop solutions for PDF - PDFtoolkit VCL, PDFOne. NET and PDFOne (for Java). They are versatile and easy-to-use APIs and controls cover the entire gamut of PDF use-cases. They hide the complexity of the underlying format and enables software developers to add complex PDF-related capabilities in just a few lines. But, it took us several years of work to get here and we adding more error-correction. So, leave the hard work to us. PDF is just a small part of your requirements. There is no need to get mired in PDF-processing issues when your resources are better deployed in developing the business logic of the bigger product. This is why you need a PDF library, free or commercial. Go for one. Don't waste your time.


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