Introduction to PrintCSS and CSS Paged Media
This tutorial shows how to generate PDF documents from XML/HTML using the "CSS Paged Media" approach, whereby the complete styling and layout information is kept in cascading stylesheets (CSS). It will also show the results produced by different tools with identical data, providing an impression of functionality and output quality.
What is CSS Paged Media
In brief: CSS Paged Media (a W3C standard) is a way of generating PDF documents using XML/HTML as input and CSS for styling. It can be thought of as an extension of CSS for print purposes. As such, it is obvious that CSS Paged Media must deal with print-related considerations such as pagination, page formats, page regions and other print-specific details.
Usecases for CSS Paged Media
- Text-oriented publications (books, newspapers, documentation, etc.).
- Layout-oriented publications (flyers, brochures, web-to-print applications)
- Technical documentation
Status of this tutorial
This tutorial is work-in-progress and is based on the "CSS Paged Media" workshop given for the first time at the XML London 2015 conference. The tutorial is subdivided into the various aspects of CSS Paged Media, with most parts containing a sample index.html with appropriate example data for the purpose of a particular lesson and a styles.css file containing the specific print styles. The styles are kept as simple as possible in order to demonstrate functionality. Sophisticated layout options have been omitted for the sake of simplicity.
- V 3.1 - 2020/08/01
There are various CSS Paged Media converters on the market. However, we will focus on tools that are widely used and that provide reasonable quality for professional use. Another (personal) requirement is that tools should work cross-platform, on multiple operating systems (Mac OSX, Linux, Windows). The tests do not include tools that only work on a single operating system or platform.
This tutorial covers and compares the following four tools:
- PDFreactor 10.1.10722.15
- PrinceXML 13.5
- Antennahouse 7.0 R1
- Weasyprint 51 (included for the first time. The results are not checked for compliance...without valuation)
- Typeset.sh 0.8.1
- PageJS (CLI) 0.1.0
This tutorial does not cover installation issues. For this, please refer to the vendor documentation. All tools are available for free for the purpose of evaluation. Depending on the converter, the resulting PDF documents may contain a watermark or a vendor-specific message or icon.
Using this tutorial
You can download all of the complete tutorials with examples from
or check out the repository using git:
git clone firstname.lastname@example.org:zopyx/print-css-rocks.git
The core examples work with all four tools, weasyprint, pdfreactor, prince and run.sh (Antennahouse). Ensure that the related binary/binaries are configured in the $PATH of your shell environment.
> pdfreactor index.html index.pdf
> prince index.html index.pdf
Antennahouse CSS Formatter
> run.sh -d index.html -o index.pdf
> weasyprint index.html index.pdf
Each of the lesson-... directories contains a Makefile that can be used in the same way across all lessons for generating a PDF with one of the featured converters:
> make pdfreactor # generates `pdfreactor.pdf` > make prince # generates `prince.pdf` > make antennahouse # generates `antennahouse.pdf` > make weasyprint # generates `weasyprint.pdf`