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Posted 16 Mar 2006

PDF Writer

, 16 Mar 2006
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An article on using the Virtual Printer Method to create a PDF writer.

Sample Image - PDFWriter1.jpg


The main purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how to create a PDF writer by using the Virtual Printer Method, which gives your applications an ability to generate PDF files through simply "printing". I am pretty sure there are many PDF writers using the same technique, like PrimoPDF. However, you probably wish to create your own PDF writer some day. Here, I give an example to uncover the whole process of creating such a kind of PDF writer.


  • Ghostscript is an interpreter for PDF files, which also has the ability to convert PostScript language files to PDF.
  • RedMon is a port monitor, which redirects a special printer port to Ghostscript.

The main idea is actually simple. What you need to do is install a PostScript printer and let RedMon work as a bridge between the printer and Ghostscript.

Using the code

Before jumping to the demo project

You have to first download Ghostscript. My demo requires AFPL Ghostscript 8.53. Don’t install it at this time. You are encouraged to use WinRAR or WinZip (I didn’t try WinZip) to unzip it to “C:\\UTReportPrerequisite\\gs\\”. You need to copy pdfwrite.rsp (a text file, which can be found in the demo project) to the folder as well.

You may download RedMon from its website, but I suggest you use a replacement that is packed in the demo project. There is a folder “redmon17” in the demo project, please copy this folder to “C:\\UTReportPrerequisite\\”.

The last thing you need is a printer driver. By chance, I chose HP color LaserJet 8550 PostScript driver. Don’t install it at this time. Instead, use WinRAR to unzip all files to “c:\\UTReportPrerequisite\\Driver”.

The final folder structure should be like below:

Sample screenshot

Running the demo project

The demo project is very straightforward. Clicking buttons from "Setp1", "Step2", "Step3" to "Setp4" sequentially, you will have a printer named "UTReport PDF Writer " installed if each step has been done successfully, as shown in the figure below. I want to point out here that "Step3" and "Step4" are a little bit time consuming so more patience should be paid.

Sample screenshot

Now is the right time to test our PDF writer. Open WordPad.exe, type in whatever you want, then print it using "UTReport PDF Writer". Check C:\SampleOut.PDF, which is your output PDF file.

"Step5" to "Setp8" let you have a chance to uninstall the printer you installed just now.

Points of interest

  1. AddPrinterDriver
  2. Based on MSDN: Before an application calls the AddPrinterDriver function, all files required by the driver must be copied to the system's printer-driver directory. An application can retrieve the name of this directory by calling the GetPrinterDriverDirectory function. Therefore, in our demo, we have to copy all the printer driver files from c:\\UTReportPrerequisite\\Driver to the folder returned by GetPrinterDriverDirectory.

    //Install Driver
    void CInstallPrinterDlg::OnBnClickedButtonStep3()
        CString msg="Failed";
        if (CopyPrintDriverFiles2System() && AddPrinterDriver())
            msg = "Add Printer Driver Successfully";
        return ;

    The other tricky thing is the pDependentFiles field of DRIVER_INFO_3. From MSDN: pDependentFiles is a pointer to a null-terminated string that specifies the files the driver is dependent on. Each file name in the string is also terminated with a null (for example, "Pscript.dll\0Qms810.PPD\0Pscrptui.dll\0Pspcriptui.hlp\0Pstest.txt\0\0"). How do we assign a value to this field? My answer is:

    DRIVER_INFO_3 di3; 
    di3.pDependentFiles = TEXT("hpbafd32.dll\0hpbftm32.dll\0HPLJ8550.cfg\" 
  3. Updating the Registry
  4. In order to let our PDF writer work like a charm, we have to update the registry info for both Ghostscript and RedMon. For RedMon:

    //#define PORT_KEY TEXT("SYSTEM\\ControlSet001\\Control\\"
    //                      "Print\\Monitors\\Redirected Port\\Ports\\UTReportPDFPort:")
    if ((rc = RegOpenKeyEx(HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, PORT_KEY, 0, 
                           KEY_ALL_ACCESS, &hkey)) != ERROR_SUCCESS) 
        /* failed to open key, so try to create it */
        rc = RegCreateKey(HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, PORT_KEY, &hkey);
    if (rc == ERROR_SUCCESS) 
        lstrcpy(buffer, "@c:\\UTReportPrerequisite\\gs\\pdfwrite.rsp -");
        RegSetValueEx(hkey, TEXT("Arguments"), 0, REG_SZ, 
                     (CONST BYTE *)buffer, lstrlen(buffer)+1);
        lstrcpy(buffer, "C:\\UTReportPrerequisite\\gs\\gs8.53\\bin\\gswin32c.exe");
        RegSetValueEx(hkey, TEXT("Command"), 0, REG_SZ, 
                     (CONST BYTE *)buffer, lstrlen(buffer)+1);
        dwValue =2;
        RegSetValueEx(hkey, TEXT("ShowWindow"), 0, 
                                 REG_DWORD,(CONST BYTE *)&dwValue, 4);
        dwValue =0;
        RegSetValueEx(hkey, TEXT("RunUser"), 0, REG_DWORD,
                                (CONST BYTE *)&dwValue, 4);
        dwValue =300;
        RegSetValueEx(hkey, TEXT("Delay"), 0, REG_DWORD,
                     (CONST BYTE *)&dwValue, 4);

    For Ghostscript:

    //#define GHOSTSCRIPT_KEY2 TEXT("SOFTWARE\\AFPL Ghostscript\\8.53")
    if ((rc = RegOpenKeyEx(HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, GHOSTSCRIPT_KEY2, 0, 
                           KEY_ALL_ACCESS, &hkey)) != ERROR_SUCCESS) 
        /* failed to open key, so try to create it */
        rc = RegCreateKey(HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, GHOSTSCRIPT_KEY2, &hkey);
    if (rc == ERROR_SUCCESS) 
        lstrcpy(buffer, TEXT("C:\\UTReportPrerequisite\\gs\\gs8.53\\bin\\gsdll32.dll"));
        RegSetValueEx(hkey, TEXT("GS_DLL"), 0, REG_SZ, 
                     (CONST BYTE *)buffer, lstrlen(buffer)+1);
        lstrcpy(buffer, TEXT("C:\\UTReportPrerequisite\\gs\\gs8.53\\lib;C:\\" 
        RegSetValueEx(hkey, TEXT("GS_LIB"), 0, REG_SZ, 
                     (CONST BYTE *)buffer, lstrlen(buffer)+1);
  5. About pdfwrite.rsp
  6. pdfwrite.rsp is actually a parameter file used to control the PDF generation, i.e., page size, resolution etc. -sOutputFile is used to control where the produced PDF file should go. For more details, please read the Ghostscript online help.



First of all, thanks to all open source projects. Special thanks should be extended to Ghostscript and RedMon.


  • 2006/03/16, First release.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


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Comments and Discussions

GeneralRe: Can anyone convert the above code into VB.NET please? Pin
ben68829-Dec-08 8:22
memberben68829-Dec-08 8:22 
GeneralProblem installing the printer Pin
fabio.porrino4-Nov-08 11:17
memberfabio.porrino4-Nov-08 11:17 
GeneralHelp Pin
nitin_ion7-May-08 23:51
membernitin_ion7-May-08 23:51 
QuestionOpenPrinter and AddPort Help needed on Win98 Pin
charliewang3-Apr-08 4:42
membercharliewang3-Apr-08 4:42 
GeneralAddPrinter failed Pin
ytfrdfiw28-Jan-08 20:29
memberytfrdfiw28-Jan-08 20:29 
QuestionStart a exe after print Pin
Mayo4-Dec-07 20:11
sussMayo4-Dec-07 20:11 
AnswerRe: Start a exe after print Pin
Joe.vc31-Mar-09 5:27
memberJoe.vc31-Mar-09 5:27 
Generalport is not added Pin
vinayakpict20-Sep-07 5:05
membervinayakpict20-Sep-07 5:05 
In case of adding port it is not showing port in available port list.but message is given that "port is added successfully " . at the time of adding printer it giving message "specifed port is unknown".

please help me regarding this.

Thank you.
QuestionRe: port is not added Pin
bencohen28-Feb-09 16:17
memberbencohen28-Feb-09 16:17 
GeneralPDF Writer .Net Version Pin
IshfaqHussain24-Aug-07 2:38
memberIshfaqHussain24-Aug-07 2:38 
GeneralAddMonitor( ) failed Pin
vijboy5-Jun-07 16:44
membervijboy5-Jun-07 16:44 
GeneralRe: AddMonitor( ) failed Pin
ytfrdfiw28-Jan-08 22:24
memberytfrdfiw28-Jan-08 22:24 
QuestionPlease Help Pin
Ragha Venkat23-Apr-07 20:21
memberRagha Venkat23-Apr-07 20:21 
AnswerRe: Please Help Pin
Ragha Venkat23-Apr-07 23:34
memberRagha Venkat23-Apr-07 23:34 
GeneralError in printing PDF with PostScript downloaded fonts Pin
Ramya_Indian6928-Mar-07 23:50
memberRamya_Indian6928-Mar-07 23:50 
QuestionVery Excellent Project Pin
MGHH24-Mar-07 2:38
memberMGHH24-Mar-07 2:38 
AnswerRe: Very Excellent Project Pin
ben68826-Mar-07 4:50
memberben68826-Mar-07 4:50 
AnswerRe: Very Excellent Project Pin
illium5-Apr-07 11:50
memberillium5-Apr-07 11:50 
GeneralFilename extension replacement Pin
Chris Meech13-Mar-07 8:27
memberChris Meech13-Mar-07 8:27 
GeneralRe: Filename extension replacement Pin
ben68814-Mar-07 10:43
memberben68814-Mar-07 10:43 
GeneralA minor bug Pin
pan li17-Nov-06 21:13
memberpan li17-Nov-06 21:13 
GeneralRe: A minor bug Pin
ben68820-Nov-06 4:41
memberben68820-Nov-06 4:41 
QuestionIs there a Problem with Paths including spaces? Pin
MyTassos16-Nov-06 8:14
memberMyTassos16-Nov-06 8:14 
AnswerRe: Is there a Problem with Paths including spaces? Pin
MyTassos16-Nov-06 22:20
memberMyTassos16-Nov-06 22:20 
GeneralThanks! Pin
sohbear24-Oct-06 16:28
membersohbear24-Oct-06 16:28 

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