PDF generation

The platform provides some tools for generating downloadable PDF versions of website pages.

wkhtmltopdf is being used to generate the PDF, it is a command-line utility using WebKit to render the HTML into PDF format.

You will also need to ensure you have the cwp/cwp-pdfexport module installed to enable this functionality.

How it works

A special $PdfLink variable is provided to the templates, which if applied as the value of an href value to an anchor in the template, will provide users with a way to download the PDF version of the current page.

This variable is commented out by default in the Starter and Wātea themes. You can re-enable it by uncommenting these lines in PageUtilities.ss.

When the user requests a PDF of the page, the page is exported as HTML by Silverstripe CMS and then passed along to wkhtmltopdf which generates a PDF of the HTML. The PDF is then stored in assets/_generated_pdfs and subsequent requests for that PDF are served directly from the assets.

Whenever a CMS user publishes or unpublishes a page, the cached PDF file stored for that page in assets/_generated_pdfs is deleted. This means that the user is either forced to download a newly generated PDF or if a page is removed from the site via unpublishing, the cached PDF file is no longer available to download.

The PDF is treated as a print view of the page, so any CSS that applies to the "print" media is applied, just like what a user would see when print previewing a page in their browser. This can be removed so the PDF shows as a normal page by removing the --print-media-type parameter to wkhtmltopdf.


Draft content can't be exported to PDF, because generated PDF files are publicly accessible by anyone viewing the website, there are no permission checks when accessing files directly in the browser.


The Silverstripe Cloud in-nation infrastructure test and production servers you'll be deploying your site to already have wkhtmltopdf installed. These instructions are only necessary if you want to develop or use the PDF export functionality in your local development environment. Skip to Enabling PDF export ... below if you simply want to enable the PDF export functionality.

The instructions below assume you're on a Debian or Ubuntu Linux environment. There is a Mac OS X download, and there may be a Windows binary for wkhtmltopdf but they have not been tested.

  • Download wkhtmltopdf for your system type. The platform currently uses version 0.12.5.

  • Install it into /usr/local/bin so that it can be accessed on the path.

  • Test it works:

    wkhtmltopdf -V
  • Update your .env file to point your site to the binary:

  • Install extra Microsoft fonts, such as Arial:

    apt-get install ttf-mscorefonts-installer ttf-liberation

If you're on Debian "squeeze" you might need to add contrib to the squeeze sources in /etc/apt/sources.list if the above command can't find ttf-mscorefonts-installer.

Note the licensing information provided by Microsoft. This means those fonts such as Arial can be embedded in the PDF document, provided they are for "Print and preview" only.

Enabling PDF export functionality

If your project is using the CMS CCL Recipe, export to PDF functionality is disabled by default. You need to add a line of code to enable it.

In your mysite/_config/config.yml file, add the following:

 pdf_export: 1

Note the yml files don't accept tabs, only spaces. You'll also have to call flush=1 to have the new YML configuration take effect.

Now you can use $PdfLink in your templates which gives you a link to generate the page as a PDF. Note that a default "Export PDF" link is provided near the "Print" link at the bottom of the default template.

If you would like to generate the PDF using a specific domain, you can set this in mysite/_config/config.yml. Please see the following example for how to do this, you can not add a protocol or any trailing slashes, for example, http://google.com/ will not work but google.com will.

  pdf_export: 1
  pdf_base_url: 'example.com'

Overriding the template for PDFs

BasePageController has an action called downloadpdf() applied via the PdfExportControllerExtension class, which is called when you need to generate or send an existing generated PDF to the browser. $PdfLink is the template variable that uses this to send the PDF to the user's browser.

By default, the PDF is rendered by the standard Silverstripe CMS template system and templates are chosen in the same way the user would see them in their browser. That means if you have a specific page type and template, then that template will be rendered using the same template when exporting the page to PDF.

You can override the template specifically for the PDF by creating a new template in your theme and suffix it with _pdf in the file name. For example, to override the generic Page template and add something that only shows in the exported PDF, you would create a file called Page_pdf.ss in your theme's template/Layout folder.

To customise the footer of the PDF, you can modify the Page_pdffooter.ss template in your theme.

Customising parameters to wkhtmltopdf

Sometimes you'll need to override the default parameters to wkhtmltopdf to customise the PDF export, such as changing the way the table of contents will display.

BasePageController has a method applied to it by PdfExportControllerExtension called generatePDF(), which is responsible for exporting the currently viewed page into an HTML file, then passing it along to the wkhtmltopdf binary for conversion into a PDF file.

You can overload generatePDF() into your PageController class (in PageController.php) by copying the method across and changing the code to suit. The newly overloaded method will be used instead of the one provided out of the box in BasePage.php

More detailed documentation is available describing the different parameters you can use with wkhtmltopdf.

Clean up tasks

If you require the generated PDFs to be cleaned up regularly, you can use the CleanupGeneratedPdfDailyTask scheduled task (requires the crontask module), which will run by default at midnight every night.

The task is disabled by default, so you will need to enable it with YAML configuration. You can also change the schedule that the task will run on (default is every night at midnight):

# Example: run the task at 4am every Sunday morning {#example-run-the-task-at-4am-every-sunday-morning-2}
  enabled: true
  schedule: '0 4 * * 7'

This task can be run from the browser on demand by accessing dev/tasks/CleanupGeneratedPdfBuildTask. One example of where this is useful might be directly after deploying new templates to the site, so the cached PDF files can be regenerated with the new templates.

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