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Diagrams, Too

PDFs display more than just text, and PDFlib has capabilities to match. One of the demonstration programs included in the standard download is a hundred-line program which constructs an analog clock face (see Figure 2).

Figure 2Figure 2 Demonstration analog clock face included as a sample program with PDFlib.

And there's more: Not only can you apply all the power of C and C++ to writing PDFs, but PDFlib and rival libraries also can read existing PDF documents. That does not mean that a general-purpose PDF-to-text transformer is at hand; PDF contents encode display directions that complicate and sometimes even preclude textual recovery. At the very least, though, the "reading" part of a PDF library can report on high-level document information such as page count, author, and so on.

Next time you see someone in an office asking a computer for a report and then typing the information back into a computer to prepare a PDF version of the same data, recognize there's an opportunity for you to streamline the process. You can use the C or C++ language, in which you're already expert, to automate the workflow and generate PDF without human intervention.

This sort of automation can be especially welcome in Web applications. Most *.pdf documents available through the Web are passive copies of work originally done "by hand". It doesn't have to be so, though; programs such as the ones this article illustrates can customize each delivered page, in real time, while retaining all PDF's desirable uniformity in display.

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