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April 9, 2009

The PDF Printer from Google Docs

If you open the document properties dialog for a PDF produced by Google Docs you'll notice that Google uses Prince 7.0 alpha 16 to convert files to PDF. It seems that Google has an unreleased alpha version of the software, so that might explain some of the errors.

According to the software's website, "Prince is a computer program that converts XML and HTML into PDF documents. Prince can read many XML formats, including XHTML and SVG. Prince formats documents according to style sheets written in CSS."

Prince is available for free if you want to use it on a single computer, but the server license costs $3800. "Prince is an ideal printing component for server-based software such as web applications and database systems. Using Prince, data in XML can easily be converted to PDF documents that can be printed, archived or downloaded over the web," which is exactly the way it's used in Google Docs.

Håkon Wium Lie and Michael Day gave a talk at Google in November 2007 about the software.

{ Thanks, David. }


  1. I noticed this some time ago, the really interesting part is, that spreadsheet uses "iText 2.1.3 (by", while documents use "Prince 7.0 alpha 16 (" and presentations don't list a creator. The reason is most likely because spreadsheet is a Java app, documents was writely and is ASP.NET and presentations is a PHP application.

  2. If anyone's interested in incorporating a less expensive library into their application, I've been using PD4ML ( in an app that needed to produce PDFs from HTML-based reports and it's worked really well. The support has been excellent. I don't believe it supports SVG, but for HTML pages styled using CSS, it's great!

    [No connection to the company - just a happy customer]

  3. Why they are not using the the other freeware tools?
    There are many webapplications available that converts XML/HTML to PDF, and also they doesn't require any licence to be used on servers.

  4. It's taking hell sort of time to convert a document to pdf. I am in broadband connection from Sri Lanka. Is there any problem with downloading to pdf? is it because of Prince converter instead of Open office?