How do you create a PDF from XML in Java?

At the moment, I'm creating an XML file in Java and displaying it in a JSP page by transforming it with XSL/XSLT. Now I need to take that XML file and display the same information in a PDF. Is there a way I can do this by using some kind of XSL file?

I've seen the iText Java-PDF library, but I can't find any way to use it with XML and a stylesheet.

Any assistance would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance!

Asked by: Audrey835 | Posted: 23-01-2022

Answer 1

A - Explanation

You should use Apache FOP framework to generate pdf output. Simply you provide data in xml format and render the page with an xsl-fo file and specify the parameters like margin, page layout in this xsl-fo file.

I'll provide a simple demo, I use maven build tool to gather the needed jar files. Please notify that at the end of the page, there is an svg graphics embedded in pdf. I also want to demonstrate that you can embed svg graphics inside pdf.

B - Sample XML input data

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<?xml-stylesheet type="application/xml"?>
        <data-type id="019">User Bill Data</data-type>
        <process-date>Thursday December 9 2016 00:04:29</process-date>
        <full-name>John Doe</full-name>
        <full-name>Michael Doe</full-name>
        <full-name>Jane Brown</full-name>

C - The XSL-FO Template

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<xsl:stylesheet xmlns:xsl="" xmlns:fo="" version="1.0">
    <xsl:output encoding="UTF-8" indent="yes" method="xml" standalone="no" omit-xml-declaration="no"/>
    <xsl:template match="users-data">
        <fo:root language="EN">
                <fo:simple-page-master master-name="A4-portrail" page-height="297mm" page-width="210mm" margin-top="5mm" margin-bottom="5mm" margin-left="5mm" margin-right="5mm">
                    <fo:region-body margin-top="25mm" margin-bottom="20mm"/>
                    <fo:region-before region-name="xsl-region-before" extent="25mm" display-align="before" precedence="true"/>
            <fo:page-sequence master-reference="A4-portrail">
                <fo:static-content flow-name="xsl-region-before">
                    <fo:table table-layout="fixed" width="100%" font-size="10pt" border-color="black" border-width="0.4mm" border-style="solid">
                        <fo:table-column column-width="proportional-column-width(20)"/>
                        <fo:table-column column-width="proportional-column-width(45)"/>
                        <fo:table-column column-width="proportional-column-width(20)"/>
                                <fo:table-cell text-align="left" display-align="center" padding-left="2mm">
                                        Bill Id:<xsl:value-of select="header-section/data-type/@id"/>
                                        , Date: <xsl:value-of select="header-section/process-date"/>
                                <fo:table-cell text-align="center" display-align="center">
                                    <fo:block font-size="150%">
                                        <fo:basic-link external-destination="">XXX COMPANY</fo:basic-link>
                                    <fo:block space-before="3mm"/>
                                <fo:table-cell text-align="right" display-align="center" padding-right="2mm">
                                        <xsl:value-of select="data-type"/>
                                    <fo:block display-align="before" space-before="6mm">Page <fo:page-number/> of <fo:page-number-citation ref-id="end-of-document"/>
                <fo:flow flow-name="xsl-region-body" border-collapse="collapse" reference-orientation="0">
                    <fo:block>MONTHLY BILL REPORT</fo:block>
                    <fo:table table-layout="fixed" width="100%" font-size="10pt" border-color="black" border-width="0.35mm" border-style="solid" text-align="center" display-align="center" space-after="5mm">
                        <fo:table-column column-width="proportional-column-width(20)"/>
                        <fo:table-column column-width="proportional-column-width(30)"/>
                        <fo:table-column column-width="proportional-column-width(25)"/>
                        <fo:table-column column-width="proportional-column-width(50)"/>
                        <fo:table-body font-size="95%">
                            <fo:table-row height="8mm">
                                    <fo:block>Full Name</fo:block>
                                    <fo:block>Postal Code</fo:block>
                                    <fo:block>National ID</fo:block>
                            <xsl:for-each select="user-bill-data">
                                            <xsl:value-of select="full-name"/>
                                            <xsl:value-of select="postal-code"/>
                                            <xsl:value-of select="national-id"/>
                                            <xsl:value-of select="price"/>
                    <fo:block id="end-of-document">
                            <svg width="200mm" height="150mm" version="1.1" xmlns="">
                                <path d="M153 334
C153 334 151 334 151 334
C151 339 153 344 156 344
C164 344 171 339 171 334
C171 322 164 314 156 314
C142 314 131 322 131 334
C131 350 142 364 156 364
C175 364 191 350 191 334
C191 311 175 294 156 294
C131 294 111 311 111 334
C111 361 131 384 156 384
C186 384 211 361 211 334
C211 300 186 274 156 274" style="fill:yellow;stroke:red;stroke-width:2"/>

D - Project Directory Structure

enter image description here

E - Pom file

<project xmlns="" xmlns:xsi=""


        <!-- -->

        <finalName>Apache Fop Demo</finalName>


F - Demo Code:

package com.levent.fopdemo;


import javax.xml.transform.Result;
import javax.xml.transform.Transformer;
import javax.xml.transform.TransformerException;
import javax.xml.transform.TransformerFactory;
import javax.xml.transform.sax.SAXResult;

import org.apache.fop.apps.FOPException;
import org.apache.fop.apps.FOUserAgent;
import org.apache.fop.apps.Fop;
import org.apache.fop.apps.FopFactory;
import org.apache.fop.apps.MimeConstants;

public class PdfGenerationDemo 
    public static final String RESOURCES_DIR;
    public static final String OUTPUT_DIR;

    static {
        RESOURCES_DIR = "src//main//resources//";
        OUTPUT_DIR = "src//main//resources//output//";

    public static void main( String[] args )
        try {
        } catch (FOPException | IOException | TransformerException e) {

    public static void convertToPDF() throws IOException, FOPException, TransformerException {
        // the XSL FO file
        File xsltFile = new File(RESOURCES_DIR + "//template.xsl");
        // the XML file which provides the input
        StreamSource xmlSource = new StreamSource(new File(RESOURCES_DIR + "//data.xml"));
        // create an instance of fop factory
        FopFactory fopFactory = FopFactory.newInstance(new File(".").toURI());
        // a user agent is needed for transformation
        FOUserAgent foUserAgent = fopFactory.newFOUserAgent();
        // Setup output
        OutputStream out;
        out = new + "//output.pdf");

        try {
            // Construct fop with desired output format
            Fop fop = fopFactory.newFop(MimeConstants.MIME_PDF, foUserAgent, out);

            // Setup XSLT
            TransformerFactory factory = TransformerFactory.newInstance();
            Transformer transformer = factory.newTransformer(new StreamSource(xsltFile));

            // Resulting SAX events (the generated FO) must be piped through to
            // FOP
            Result res = new SAXResult(fop.getDefaultHandler());

            // Start XSLT transformation and FOP processing
            // That's where the XML is first transformed to XSL-FO and then
            // PDF is created
            transformer.transform(xmlSource, res);
        } finally {

G - Sample Output: output.pdf

enter image description here

Answered by: John413 | Posted: 24-02-2022

Answer 2

You can use XSL Formatting objects. Here are some good articles on how to do it:

Answered by: Darcy923 | Posted: 24-02-2022

Answer 3

You can also check the Apache FOP Project here

Answered by: Charlie917 | Posted: 24-02-2022

Answer 4

BIRT has a GUI for Eclipse that lets you define the PDF from XML, DB, CSV, etc etc.

Answered by: Eric668 | Posted: 24-02-2022

Answer 5

You might want to look at the XSL-FO libraries that are out there that can do PDF creation as a transformation. I'll try to find a link.

Answered by: Agata737 | Posted: 24-02-2022

Answer 6

Try the xhtmlrenderer project. See the article "Generating PDFs for Fun and Profit with Flying Saucer and iText".

Answered by: Daisy841 | Posted: 24-02-2022

Answer 7

You can apply XSL-Fo to your XML and transform it with Java transformer:

File xmlfile = new File(baseDir, xml);
File xsltfile = new File(baseDir, xsl);
File pdffile = new File(outDir, "ResultXMLPDF.pdf");

FopFactory fopFactory = FopFactory.newInstance();
FOUserAgent foUserAgent = fopFactory.newFOUserAgent();

OutputStream out = new;
out = new;

    Fop fop = fopFactory.newFop(MimeConstants.MIME_PDF, foUserAgent, out);
    // Setup XSLT
    TransformerFactory factory = TransformerFactory.newInstance();
    Transformer transformer = factory.newTransformer(new StreamSource(xsltfile));

    transformer.setParameter("versionParam", "1.0");

    Source src = new StreamSource(xmlfile);

    Result res = new SAXResult(fop.getDefaultHandler());

    transformer.transform(src, res);

} finally {


Answered by: Lucas965 | Posted: 24-02-2022

Answer 8

Use JasperReports. You can either pull the data from Database or XML. You can export to many formats : pdf, excel, html, etc...

Answered by: Adelaide811 | Posted: 24-02-2022

Answer 9

Coming in late, you can create a static PDF with Adobe's designer with editable fields, then create a matching XDP XML document.

Answered by: Rafael589 | Posted: 24-02-2022

Answer 10

There are two ways to do this.

  • Firstly, you can create a normal PDF which when read back will not give you the hierarchy of the original XML file. This is explained very elaborately in 'Section 9.4.2 Parsing XML' of the 'iText in Action : Edition 2'.

  • Secondly, you can create a tagged PDF which contains both the hierarchy of the XML as well as the data. This enables you to read back the PDF file and create an XML file from this(which exactly matches the original XML file). This concept is also dealt with in detail in '15.2.3 Adding structure' of the 'iText in Action : Edition 2'.

Based on your requirements, you can use either of the approaches mentioned above.

Answered by: Patrick99 | Posted: 24-02-2022

Answer 11

XML, CSS, XHTML, etc. consist in an "alive ecosystem" of open standards, while XSL-FO is an isolated standard.

... Historically XSL-FO and XSLT was created as twins brothers, but only XSLT remains an "alive standard", XSL-FO concentrates a lot of DNA in proprietary (Adobe) standards... now is obsolete.

Strictly speaking, XSL-FO is part of an "abandoned way" that will not evolve, it ignores CSS, the "new way" to express layout in the "alive ecosystem".

It is not a Java problem

See this answer about the use of CSS-page with XML or XHTML.

Answered by: Adelaide240 | Posted: 24-02-2022

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