In 2011, Ariya H. published PhantomJs, a headless browser. With it, you could browse the web from a console, writing code commands to navigate and automate your internet browsing. You could take screenshots or download files, or find important data online.

You didn’t need a browser like Chrome, Firefox, or Microsoft Edge. All you needed was a bit of programming knowledge to get started.

For many developers, PhantomJs was a way to generate PDF documents from HTML code. Of course, it wasn’t perfect, but you could input your H1s, your H2s, and your paragraphs and make documents using some handiwork and effort.

Many NPM packages built on top of PhantomJs made document generation easier. And without a doubt, people relied on them. For example, to generate invoices, to stitch together pages from different documents or websites, or to create reports— people made all kinds of business documents.

Then in March 2018, PhantomJs died.

The contributing authors disbanded the project, as sometimes happens with open-source projects. People didn’t work on improving the code. There were no new patches, no updates, and no fixes. And it showed.

The creators of those NPM document generation packages started posting warnings on their product pages. Here is one of such warnings:

“The PhantomJs development is on hold and as is this project. There are, and will be, security issues rising! I recommend to evaluate other methods for html to pdf conversion.”

And if you run a security risk and vulnerabilities analysis of that same NPM package, you’ll see that there are 10high-threat, 7 medium-threat, and 1 low-threat security issues. And that’s from the “last release.” The older versions are even worse.

For enterprises or businesses looking to do document generation, this is a problem. You can’t just build your critical business processes on top of legacy, no longer supported code. Your whole IT infrastructure might come crashing down if you depend on unsupported software like that.

But if you have a hard time generating lots of documents, and if styling, standardizing paperwork, or getting pixel-perfect PDFs is a headache, what alternative do you have? How can businesses and enterprises with strict compliance policies and often challenging requirements succeed at large-scale document generation and do it securely?

Well, a few open-source projects exist and offer HTML to pdf document generation. But they pose security threats and other problems.

Weasyprint and Wkhtmltopdf, two open-source document generation projects, struggle with providing quality and meeting enterprise needs

As several developers said on an online forum, these solutions can’t handle large volumes. They can’t get page styling right, and often produce documents that “look nothing like” they’re supposed to.

These open-source libraries struggle with page formatting and layout, tables (like for invoice line items), fill forms out wrong, stretch out pages, mess with font size and create hard-to-read texts, or place words in incorrect fields.

So first, you toil for hours to get the library to work for you and generate the documents you want according to your specifications. That in itself is hard work. But that’s only the beginning.

You have to do the building, scaffolding, hosting, deployment, continuous maintenance, and even extension of your document generation services.

That takes time, staffing, research& development, and overhead and pulls away resources better put elsewhere.

Moreover, you must make your solution compatible with all your product lines. Or custom-tailor them to get each line running. The work gets complex fast.

Additionally, suppose you’re concerned about storage, document security, information confidentiality, and document retention like many enterprises are. Then you must build out those functionalities also.

So what can you do?

You could try out an open-source library like many other businesses did. But like we’ve heard from many folks, the offered functionalities by deprecated solutions like PhantomJs, or “active” ones like WeasyPrint, or Wkhtmltopdf are incomplete, often unsupported, and most importantly: They’re slow.

Again, what can you do?

You could build an entire document generation platform to meet your needs.

But that is complex. And it takes a massive time and money investment.

Instead, Inkit has built a document generation platform you can use right now.

Disclaimer: We at Inkit wrote, edited, and published this article. And because we help enterprises tackle complex document generation with our solutions, we can’t avoid bias. However, we scrutinize our writing and try to remain as neutral and straightforward with our posts as possible. That way, you can benefit from an honest comparison between Inkit and other tools like PhantomJs or other open-source libraries and decide what tools best fit you. Our mission is to help you find the best solution to your document generation needs, whether with a competitor, an open-source project, or us.

We’ve heard from talks with our customers that purchasing from a trusted vendor who specializes in document generation for enterprises is a more cost-efficient decision.

Many folks tried open-source libraries in the past but ultimately opted out because of inefficiency issues. They wished they could have spared themselves from the time-sink and wasted investment.

For example, one open-source library (Wkhtmltopdf)generates documents in batches. There is a queue. That means document generation does not happen instantly or asynchronously. You will have to wait for the documents to finish generating and come out of the queue first — one at a time. Not parallel to another.

You can’t scale your production with batched document generation. Weasyprint and Wkhtmltopdf, the “alternatives” to PhantomJs, do it this way.

This poses a problem. What if you need a document right now, and ten or a hundred unfinished documents are in the queue?

You would have to wait for a long time!

We heard from one company that they had to wait seven days to generate one document! Can you believe it?

Unfortunately, this practice is widespread for open-source libraries and older, less robust, legacy document-generation providers.

We at Inkit realized that open-source libraries aren’t good enough for enterprises, so we built a document generation platform that works differently. With it, you can generate as many documents as you like. At the same time. Parallel, asynchronous, and simultaneous.

We automatically scale our services with you. They get faster with use. Think of it like an engine that warms up and becomes faster and more efficient as it does more rotations.

Another benefit. When you connect your back-end systems to Inkit and its document generation platform, you reduce the workload for your engineers. They won’t have to spend hundreds of hours building a platform themselves. And then hundreds of hours on maintenance.

Your development team will thank you for providing them with a document generation solution that is complete, supported, and maintained. We take great pride in delivering a well-oiled document generation engine that works durably and reliably.

Besides, less development for you also means more time to put into your core business.  

When you choose a vendor specializing in one complex problem like document generation, they can do the backbreaking work for you. You won’t have to worry about maintenance, building, hosting, or anything else. Instead, you will enjoy the benefits of simply generating good documents. Plus, you’ll benefit from the new features, optimizations, and other updates we release on a two-week cycle.

Why worry about the costs of building a scalable service, including upkeep, and CI/CD, when you can utilize an already-built document generation platform?

Instead, automate paperwork and generate documents by making templates from your already existing .docx and .pdf files on Inkit’s Document Generation Platform and start automating.

Another benefit, did you know you can standardize most documents? 97% to 98% of documents don’t require a signature and that makes them perfect candidates for automation.

Just open the Inkit template editor, upload a document you want to standardize, and create merge fields for data points like customer name, address, invoice line items, or anything you like.

Then, all your engineers have to do is send a “ping” to our systems, and the document is generated. Of course, you can completely automate this process.

And yes. You can use your existing.docx files because we support M.S. Word templates! Please ask us about it. We’ll show you how easy it is.

One company told us that it took only20 minutes to set up a working template with custom variables and all.

Naturally, any automation requires the most reliable services. So we’re happy to tell you that our platform has a 99.9998% uptime. That’s for over 3+ years!

So if you ever speak with our engineers, ask, and they’ll show you the charts. We’re really proud of how reliable we are.

Moreover, you can store documents created by Inkit’s document generation platform in our secure storage if you like. You can even generate documents that expire automatically after a period or number of views.

Many enterprises find this critical because regulated industries often require you to delete customer documents after seven years.

With Inkit’s platform, when you generate a document, you can specify a time and date for it to expire. That way, deletion happens automatically. Never has document retention been this easy.

Or if you would like a document to self-destroy after one or however many views (for example, as you would with a confidential briefing), you can do that also.

If you wonder about Inkit’s security, know we are SOC 2 Type II, ISO 27001, HIPAA, EU/US Privacy Shield, GDPR, and CCPA compliant.

This means you are compliant throughout all U.S. states: from California to New York. But when operating in or with Europe too.

Another security benefit to using Inkit for storage is that you can control which departments, teams, and even individuals have the authorization to view what documents.

That is a brief overview of why enterprises choose Inkit; because Inkit simplifies the complex problem of large-scale document generation. We dare say we’re the first ones to do so.

Choose Inkit if you want robust document generation, automation, security, and a trusted vendor you can use for the long term.

Choose Inkit if you want a centralized solution that meets your enterprise-level document generation needs.

Choose Inkit if you see the value of having a trusted vendor who specializes in serving enterprises like yours.

Choose Inkit if you want an API-first way of doing document generation.

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