Back to: Blog Author: Piotr Pawłowski Published on: November 23, 2023

Generating PDF Invoices: A Comparative Guide for Java, Ruby, and Python

Introduction. Mastering PDF Invoice Generation in Java, Ruby, and Python

The creation of PDF invoices is a critical function for modern businesses. This comprehensive guide delves into the tools and techniques available in Java, Ruby, and Python for generating PDF invoices, comparing their features, benefits, and limitations, and emphasizing the importance of security in the process.

Part 1: Java Libraries for PDF Invoice Generation


iText is a powerful library that offers extensive features for PDF creation and manipulation. It is ideal for creating complex documents but requires a commercial license for use in proprietary software.

  • Pros: Comprehensive features, high performance.
  • Cons: Commercial license required for the latest versions, steeper learning curve.

Apache PDFBox

Apache PDFBox is an open-source tool, excellent for creating simple PDFs but may require additional coding for more complex documents.

  • Pros: Open-source, suitable for basic needs.
  • Cons: Limited features for advanced tasks.

Part 2: Ruby Libraries for PDF Invoice Generation


Prawn is a pure Ruby library known for its ease of use and flexibility, perfect for creating straightforward, custom-styled PDF documents.

  • Pros: Easy to use, great for custom styling.
  • Cons: Limited advanced features.


PDF::Writer is an older Ruby library suitable for basic needs but lacks the capabilities for more intricate tasks.

  • Pros: Simple and straightforward.
  • Cons: Outdated, limited in functionality.

Part 3: Python Libraries for PDF Invoice Generation


ReportLab is known for its power and flexibility, especially in creating complex, data-driven documents.

  • Pros: Versatile, good for complex documents.
  • Cons: Can be overwhelming for beginners.


FPDF is a lightweight Python library that’s straightforward to use, ideal for simpler documents.

  • Pros: User-friendly, suitable for basic tasks.
  • Cons: Less suitable for complex documents.

Securing PDF Documents

Securing PDF invoices is essential for protecting sensitive information. This involves:

  • Password Protection: Restricting access to the document.
  • Encryption: Encrypting the content of the PDF.
  • Watermarking: Discouraging unauthorized copying or alteration.
  • Digital Signatures: Authenticating the origin and ensuring integrity.

Each programming language offers different methods and tools to implement these security measures in PDF documents.

Advanced Features and Customization

Advanced features such as embedded fonts, graphics, and interactive elements can enhance the functionality and appearance of PDF invoices. Customization is key to branding and presenting information in a clear and concise manner.

Performance and Scalability

When generating a large number of invoices, performance and scalability become crucial factors. Java libraries generally offer the best performance but at a complexity cost, while Ruby and Python libraries provide a balance between ease of use and efficiency.

Integration and Automation

Integration with existing systems and the automation of invoice generation are vital for streamlining business processes. Each language and library offers different levels of support and compatibility for integration with various databases, ERP systems, and web services.


Choosing the right tool for PDF invoice generation depends on various factors such as the complexity of the task, the need for customization, and the specific business

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