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September 17, 2007

Manhandle that PDF on OpenSUSE Linux

by @ 1:23 pm. Filed under General Linux, review, sweet tools

So I bought a new motorcycle a couple of weeks ago. It is a Kawasaki KLR650 (street-legal and rides well in dirt). I took ‘er out Friday for a spin amongst the vast hilly region to the west and south of my house, just about all of which belongs to the Bureau of Land Management (sweet, this means no neighbors on that land). There are some fun and interesting things to be found there.

I had gone up this really sweet incline, the view from which was cool and all that. Proceeding back down the incline, I realized that I was riding almost entirely in the finely powdered dirt commonly found in that area. All too quickly, I discovered that when you apply the rear brake going down an powdered incline, the back tire locks up readily. Problem is, going down hill, using the front brake is a no-no because if that baby locks up, you are gonna eat some dirt (and perhaps a rock or two).

About that moment, my guts shoot up into my throat as I realize that I am now headed down a steep, curvy incline essentially with no brakes. As I’m bouncing down that hill, wrestling the 337-lb bike to stay on it, I realize something… “Boy, it would sure be cool to have a good PDF manipulation tool.”

Well, the story has a happy ending, because I found that pdftk (included in openSUSE) can do an astonishing number of things with and to a PDF. Not only that, it can handle multiple PDFs at once. Go, Linux.

Bunches of Open Source applications exist that allow PDF creation, such as OpenOffice, Firefox, KGhostView, etc. Every once in awhile, you need to cut out some pages, or combine multiple PDFs. Maybe you want to rotate some pages, grab metrics, add watermarks, or even repair a corrupted PDF. pdftk does all of this.

One of the reasons I use it is to merge several PDFs into one. This is very simple:

pdftk first.pdf second.pdf third.pdf cat output final.pdf

A superb page with large amounts of great info on pdftk is right here.

pdftk is a lifesaver when you need to manipulate PDF files. Take a look.

In all fairness, pdftk will actually work on Windows and Mac, in addition to Linux.

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