The Apache XML FOP Project utilizes XML based stylesheets written to the XSL-FO schema as the input to render as output any of a variety of document types, but most commonly PDF. ColdFusion MX can easily be used to generate dymamic content in a pre-defined XSL-FO stylesheet, where the stylesheet is then transformed by a FOP servlet to produce they customized PDF as output to the client. From the Apache website, FOP is described as:

FOP (Formatting Objects Processor) is the world's first print formatter driven by XSL formatting objects (XSL-FO) and the world's first output independent formatter. It is a Java application that reads a formatting object (FO) tree and renders the resulting pages to a specified output. Output Formats currently supported include PDF, PCL, PS, SVG, XML (area tree representation), Print, AWT, MIF and TXT. The primary output target is PDF.

Here's what I did to generate my own dynamic PDFs with ColdFusion MX:

  • Download FOP
  • Build the FOP web application in as described in {FOP_HOME}examplesservletREADME [ More ]
  • Note: ant.jar was supposed to be with the other jars required for the build according to build.bat, but it was missing from %LIBDIR% where LIBDIR evaluates to ../../lib or {FOP_HOME}/lib . I grabbed an ant.jar from another project and plugged it in there, then the build worked.
  • Extract the {FOP_HOME}examplesservletuildfop.war to the same directory
  • Copy the FopServlet.class from {FOP_HOME}examplesservletuildfopWEB-INFclasses to {CFMX_HOME}wwwrootWEB-INFclasses
  • Copy all the jar files from {FOP_HOME}examplesservletuildfopWEB-INFlib to {CFMX_HOME}wwwrootWEB-INFlib
  • Add a Fop Servlet definition and mapping to ColdFusion's deployment descriptor, {CFMX_HOME}wwwrootWEB-INFweb.xml.

  • In web.xml, after the very last servlet definition, the one for RDS, add the FopServlet definition:


    In web.xml, after the very last servlet mapping, the one for CFCServlet/*.jws, add the Fop servlet mapping:


    • Restart ColdFusion MX.
    • Create a location for your FOP test files
    • Build a test that dynamically generates XSL-FO with dynamic contents [ EXAMPLE FILES ]

    [cffile action="WRITE"

    Forward location of the .fo file to the FOP Servlet

    currentDir = expandPath('.');

    PDF output is automatically rendered in the browser

    Example PDF output from one of my tests can be viewed here [ PDF ]. I hope to have a demonstration here on very soon so that you can fill out a form to generate a PDF to display your results on the fly.

    The XSL-FO syntax is not terribly difficult to learn. It's basically just a hierarchical set of containers to hold content and provide visual layout and style. I used a working example that was provided with FOP as a starting point. Then I just deconstructed it to a simpler form, devoid of content, and finally mixed in the appropriate CFML to dynamically generate the XSL-FO file.

    Good Luck!

    [ Example CFM Source ] [ Example PDF Result ]