Digital Invoicing

How to Create & Format PDF Reports and PDF Invoices Programmatically

August 17, 2021
Author
Inkit Team

PDF reporting and invoice generation take place in many applications. You can find PDF documents in financial apps, healthcare platforms, utility billing tools, and other solutions.

Yet, despite the variety of PDF libraries and ways to implement PDF rendering, reporting services are tricky. Adobe Acrobat PDF is a complex format with extensive capabilities. If you decide to build PDF reporting from scratch, get ready to work hard. Your engineering team will have to study hundreds of pages of PDF specifications and spend months coding.

But if you already have an application and need to power it with PDF reporting, there is a shortcut. By generating documents in HTML and then programmatically converting them to PDF you can automate PDF invoices. Invoice templates (i.e., Python or PHP invoice templates, depending on the programming language you need) are another option to note. They allow creating professional invoices from textual content without manual PDF generation.

To explain how to create PDF bills, invoices, and reports, we prepared this overview. Read on for the highlights of programmatic PDF reporting using HTML to PDF rendering and invoice templates.

Integrated Programmatic PDF Reporting vs. Free Open-Source Solutions

Businesses that want to outsource invoicing and reporting services to a third-party vendor prefer open-source invoicing systems. Web-based services like Invoice Ninja or open-source invoice templates cover the majority of basic invoicing needs. But what if you need to make PDF reporting a part of your internal and customer solutions? In this case, open-source invoice templates fall flat. They require too much manual effort and are not suitable for multi-functional platforms with invoicing. Using open-source invoice templates, you won’t be able to automate PDF reporting in an application, web platform, or website. Hence, automation becomes the only right option.

Let’s talk about the key differences between programmatic PDF reporting and open-source invoice templates below.

Open-Source Solutions

Programmatic PDF Reporting and Invoicing

Programmatic PDF reporting means that software automatically creates PDF documents based on custom settings and triggers. These are recurring invoices, bills, reports, and other kinds of documents requested by end-users. Unlike open-source invoice templates, programmatic reporting doesn’t require you to fill out any custom fields manually. The rendering services automatically retrieve source information and create a PDF file. Simply put, programmatic PDF generation happens as an integral part of your existing software.

Who needs it: Any tech company that designs software with PDF rendering capabilities needs programmatic PDF reporting. It enables software developers to add automated PDF generation to the product. Businesses that have their custom products and need PDF reports may also need to add PDF reporting on the top of their solutions.

Open-Source Invoice Templates and Services

Free invoicing templates and solutions offer minimum or no automation. They are suitable for small business owners who cannot afford to build or integrate PDF reporting programmatically. Such organizations are forced to create invoices and send PDF documents manually, wasting their time. This way, open-source invoice templates may be an option in two situations. You either use PDF reporting occasionally or need to generate PDF documents only for a short time. If you expect prolonged PDF reporting usage, you should do it programmatically.

Who needs it: Small businesses that test different reporting options and are not sure whether they need automated PDF rendering. Open-source invoice templates and services can also help if you have batches of reports in HTML or other formats and need to turn them into PDF. But keep in mind that manual HTML to PDF rendering often entails formatting mistakes.

Discover When a Paid HTML to PDF Converter is Better Than Open-Source

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How to Create PDF Reporting and Invoices Programmatically

Programmatic PDF reporting is not limited to a single solution. You can take different approaches to automatically create PDF files depending on your needs.

Here, we will review the top two ways to get PDFs programmatically: Python/PHP invoices templates from text files and HTML to PDF conversion. These are the most popular ways to automate PDF reporting.

PDF Reporting

Python/PHP Invoice Templates from Text Files

If your existing software is based on Python or PHP, you can generate PDF from text and text files. To do this, you need FPDF, a library that enables PDF rendering with Python or PHP code. FPDF is easy to use and doesn’t require installation, compilation, or other libraries. It allows you to choose page format and margins, manage headers and footers, automatically break lines, justify text, and customize other parameters. After installing and configuring the FPDF module, your software will automatically create custom Python or PHP invoice templates from the text.

HTML to PDF Conversion

If you're looking for a more universal solution than Python invoice templates, consider HTML to PDF reporting. Since any web application generates HTML, HTML to PDF rendering is suitable for a broader range of applications. You can programmatically generate invoices on your e-commerce portal, send PDF bills, etc.

When it comes to HTML, there is no need to build a custom HTML to PDF render. HTML to PDF reporting and invoicing software is available as an API. An API is an interface you can layer into your existing software to enrich it with the functionality of a third-party tool. It takes less than a day to configure and instantly provides you with automated PDF reporting.

To integrate an HTML to PDF reporting API, you will need to complete the following steps.

  1. Create an account and get your API key.
  2. Select the necessary programmatic language.
  3. Copy the code and paste it into the environment of your existing product.
  4. Customize the PDF rendering settings if necessary.
  1. Run the snippet to get a PDF report.

When you finish the integration, the API will do PDF reporting automatically based on real-time triggers. For example, once the customer completes the payment, they will be able to view the invoice on your website.

Read How to Convert HTML into PDF with the Right End-Formatting

Inkit Render is one of the HTML to PDF reporting APIs you can integrate. It supports user roles and other features that are not available in alternative API products. Learn more about how it works below.

Inkit Render for Programmatic HTML to PDF Conversion

Render provided in Inkit’s reach enablement platform (REP) is an API for HTML to PDF rendering. You can integrate it with your existing software to programmatically generate PDF reports, invoices, bills, and other documents from HTML.

Render works well with all web solutions creating source content in HTML, from web platforms to apps and websites. Therefore, it is widely used to automate PDF reporting.

Render is a real catch for software engineering teams, thanks to PDF rendering customization and quick integration. Moreover, it enables admins to assign user roles, which helps manage software development and increase security. Only entitled users can access PDF reporting, modify files, and make other changes.

Want to see how Inkit Render works? Contact us to get the demo or view the documentation now.

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The easiest way to automatically generate and manage paperless documents at scale.
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