Awesome Asciidoctor.js: Create PDF using Web technologies

The first question you might ask is: does it make sense to use Web technologies for print?
It actually makes a lot of sense!

Why Web technologies make sense for print

First of all, you can create complex layout using Flexbox and Grid. Just take a look at a few experiments by Jules Forrest:

You can also check out the great experimental layout lab of Jen Simmons. Here are my favorite ones:

Pretty neat, right? πŸ”₯

Furthermore, much of the CSS you already know will be useful when formatting for print. But there’s more, CSS has two specifications which deal specifically with CSS for print:

You can define page size, page margins, page orientation, bleed area, crop and registration marks, footnotes, page numbering…​ and more!

So, basically we have everything we need, right? Well…​ currently, very few things are natively supported by browsers 😞

But don’t despair, there’s hope!

Paged.js to the rescue! ⛑️

Paged.js is a free and open source JavaScript library that paginates content in the browser to create PDF output from any HTML content. Paged.js follows the Paged Media standards published by the W3C. In effect, Paged.js acts as a polyfill for the CSS modules to print content using features that are not yet natively supported by browsers.

So, while browsers don’t support natively all the great features specified by the W3C, we can use Paged.js to fill the gap!

Moreover, in February this year, the CSS Print Community Group has been launched and Paged.js is part of it! The goal of this community group is to gather use cases, help with specifications, and advocate for more and better implementations in browsers.

So things are moving and the future of CSS print is bright!🌻

What about Asciidoctor.js?

Asciidoctor.js can convert AsciiDoc content to HTML5 using the built-in converter or a custom HTML5 converter. So, we already have everything we need to produce a "print-ready" HTML5 page from an AsciiDoc document.

But we still need to open this Web page in a browser and instruct the browser to print it to PDF…​ and that’s exactly what Puppeteer can do!
Puppeteer is a Node library which provides a high-level API to control Chrome over the DevTools Protocol. Puppeteer runs headless by default and provides an API to generate a PDF of the page with print css media.


Let’s recap quickly:

  • CSS is awesome and provide a great set of features for printing

  • Browsers don’t support natively all these features but Paged.js is here to fill the gap

  • Asciidoctor.js can produce a "print-ready" HTML5 page from an AsciiDoc document

  • Puppeteer can run a headless browser and print a Web page to PDF

Putting it all together!

Introducing Asciidoctor Web PDF πŸŽ‰

This project provides a PDF converter for AsciiDoc based on Web technologies using:

  • Asciidoctor.js

  • Paged.js

  • Puppeteer

The project is at an early stage but it already has a few interesting features:

  • Complex layouts with CSS and JavaScript

  • SVG icons with Font Awesome 5

  • PDF document outline (i.e., bookmarks)

  • Table Of Contents

  • Document metadata (title, authors, subject, keywords, etc)

  • Fully customizable template

  • Syntax highlighting with Highlight.js

  • Page numbering

  • Preview mode

  • STEM support with MathJax 3

If you have Node installed, you can give it a try:

$ npm i asciidoctor-pdf
$ asciidoctor-pdf doc.adoc

Have fun! πŸ˜€