A PDF conversion and form utility based on pdftk.

0.5.0 2018-10-11 07:29 UTC


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A PDF conversion and form utility based on pdftk.


php-pdftk brings the full power of pdftk to PHP - and more.

  • Fill forms, either from a XFDF/FDF file or from a data array (UTF-8 safe for unflattened forms, requires pdftk 2.x !)
  • Create XFDF or FDF files from PHP arrays (UTF-8 safe!)
  • Create FDF files from filled PDF forms
  • Combine pages from several PDF files into a new PDF file
  • Split a PDF into one file per page
  • Add background or overlay PDFs
  • Read out meta data about PDF and form fields
  • Set passwords and permissions
  • Remove passwords


  • The pdftk command must be installed and working on your system
  • This library is written for pdftk 2.x versions. You should be able to use it with pdftk 1.x but not all methods will work there. For details consult the man page of pdftk on your system.

Note If you're on Ubuntu you may want to install the version from ppa:malteworld/ppa. The default packages seems to use snap an there have been reports about file permission issues with this version.


You should use composer to install this library.

composer require mikehaertl/php-pdftk



Please consult the pdftk man page for each operation to find out how each operation works in detail and which options are available.

Note: Some commands allow to alias your files with a handle (see examples below). In version 2.x of pdftk a handle can be one or more upper case letters.

For all operations you can either save the PDF locally through saveAs($name) or send it to the browser with send(). If you pass a filename to send($name) the client browser will open a download dialogue whereas without a filename it will usually display the PDF inline.

IMPORTANT: You can always only perform one of the following operations on a single PDF instance. Below you can find a workaround if you need multiple operations.

Fill Form

Fill a PDF form with data from a PHP array or an XFDF/FDF file.

use mikehaertl\pdftk\Pdf;

// Fill form with data array
$pdf = new Pdf('/full/path/to/form.pdf');
        'name'=>'ÄÜÖ äüö мирано čárka',
        'nested.name' => 'valX',

// Fill form from FDF
$pdf = new Pdf('form.pdf');

// Check for errors
if (!$pdf->saveAs('my.pdf')) {
    $error = $pdf->getError();

Note: When filling in UTF-8 data, you should always add the needAppearances() option. This will make sure, that the PDF reader takes care of using the right fonts for rendering, something that pdftk can't do for you. Also note that flatten() doesn't really work well if you have special characters in your data.

Create a XFDF/FDF file from a PHP array

This is a bonus feature that is not available from pdftk.

use mikehaertl\pdftk\XfdfFile;
use mikehaertl\pdftk\FdfFile;

$xfdf = new XfdfFile(['name' => 'Jürgen мирано']);

$fdf = new FdfFile(['name' => 'Jürgen мирано']);


Assemble a PDF from pages from one or more PDF files.

use mikehaertl\pdftk\Pdf;

// Extract pages 1-5 and 7,4,9 into a new file
$pdf = new Pdf('/path/to/my.pdf');
$pdf->cat(1, 5)
    ->cat([7, 4, 9])

// Combine pages from several files, demonstrating several ways how to add files
$pdf = new Pdf([
    'A' => '/path/file1.pdf',                 // A is alias for file1.pdf
    'B' => ['/path/file2.pdf','pass**word'],  // B is alias for file2.pdf
$pdf->addFile('/path/file3.pdf','C','**secret**pw');  // C is alias file3.pdf
$pdf->cat(1, 5, 'A')                // pages 1-5 from A
    ->cat(3, null, 'B')             // page 3 from B
    ->cat(7, 'end', 'B', null, 'east') // pages 7-end from B, rotated East
    ->cat('end',3,'A','even')       // even pages 3-end in reverse order from A
    ->cat([2,3,7], 'C')             // pages 2,3 and 7 from C


Like cat() but create "streams" and fill the new PDF with one page from each stream at a time.

use mikehaertl\pdftk\Pdf;

$pdf = new Pdf([
    'A' => '/path/file1.pdf',     // A is alias for file1.pdf
    'B' => '/path/file2.pdf',     // B is alias for file2.pdf

// new.pdf will have pages A1, B3, A2, B4, A3, B5, ...
$pdf->shuffle(1, 5, 'A')    // pages 1-5 from A
    ->shuffle(3, 8, 'B')    // pages 3-8 from B


Split a PDF file into one file per page.

use mikehaertl\pdftk\Pdf;

$pdf = new Pdf('/path/my.pdf');
$pdf->burst('/path/page_%d.pdf');     // Supply a printf() pattern

Add background PDF

Add another PDF file as background.

use mikehaertl\pdftk\Pdf;

// Set background from another PDF (first page repeated)
$pdf = new Pdf('/path/my.pdf');

// Set background from another PDF (one page each)
$pdf = new Pdf('/path/my.pdf');

Add overlay PDF

Add another PDF file as overlay.

use mikehaertl\pdftk\Pdf;

// Stamp with another PDF (first page repeated)
$pdf = new Pdf('/path/my.pdf');

// Stamp with another PDF (one page each)
$pdf = new Pdf('/path/my.pdf');

Generate FDF

Create a FDF file from a given filled PDF form.

use mikehaertl\pdftk\Pdf;

// Create FDF from PDF
$pdf = new Pdf('/path/form.pdf');

Get PDF data

Read out metadata or form field information from a PDF file.

use mikehaertl\pdftk\Pdf;

// Get data
$pdf = new Pdf('/path/my.pdf');
$data = $pdf->getData();

// Get form data fields
$pdf = new Pdf('/path/my.pdf');
$data = $pdf->getDataFields();

// Get data as string
echo $data;
$txt = (string) $data;
$txt = $data->__toString();

// Get data as array
$arr = (array) $data;
$arr = $data->__toArray();
$field1 = $data[0]['Field1'];

How to perform more than one operation on a PDF

As stated above, you can only perform one of the preceeding operations on a single PDF instance. If you need more than one operation you can feed one Pdf instance into another:

use mikehaertl\pdftk\Pdf;

// Extract pages 1-5 and 7,4,9 into a new file
$pdf = new Pdf('/path/my.pdf');
$pdf->cat(1, 5)
    ->cat([7, 4, 9]);

// We now use the above PDF as source file for a new PDF
$pdf2 = new Pdf($pdf);
$pdf2->fillForm(['name' => 'ÄÜÖ äüö мирано čárka'])


You can combine the above operations with one or more of the following options.

use mikehaertl\pdftk\Pdf;

$pdf = new Pdf('/path/my.pdf');

$pdf->allow('AllFeatures')      // Change permissions
    ->flatten()                 // Merge form data into document (doesn't work well with UTF-8!)
    ->compress($value)          // Compress/Uncompress
    ->keepId('first')           // Keep first/last Id of combined files
    ->dropXfa()                 // Drop newer XFA form from PDF
    ->dropXmp()                 // Drop newer XMP data from PDF
    ->needAppearances()         // Make clients create appearance for form fields
    ->setPassword($pw)          // Set owner password
    ->setUserPassword($pw)      // Set user password
    ->passwordEncryption(128)   // Set password encryption strength

// Example: Fill PDF form and merge form data into PDF
// Fill form with data array
$pdf = new Pdf('/path/form.pdf');
$pdf->fillForm(['name' => 'My Name'])

// Example: Remove password from a PDF
$pdf = new Pdf;
$pdf->addFile('/path/my.pdf', null, 'some**password')

Shell Command

The class uses php-shellcommand to execute pdftk. You can pass $options for its Command class as second argument to the constructor:

use mikehaertl\pdftk\Pdf;

$pdf = new Pdf('/path/my.pdf', [
    'command' => '/some/other/path/to/pdftk',
    // or on most Windows systems:
    // 'command' => 'C:\Program Files (x86)\PDFtk\bin\pdftk.exe',
    'useExec' => true,  // May help on Windows systems if execution fails

Temporary File

Internally a temporary file is created via php-tmpfile. You can also access that file directly, e.g. if you neither want to send or save the file but only need the binary PDF content:

use mikehaertl\pdftk\Pdf;

$pdf = new Pdf('/path/my.pdf');
$pdf->fillForm(['name' => 'My Name'])
$content = file_get_contents( (string) $pdf->getTmpFile() );


Please consult the source files for a full documentation of each method.