Hack 22 Spinning Collection Portals

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Convert directories full of secretive PDFs into inviting HTML portals, automatically.

You can create portals that enable readers to comfortably navigate entire directories of PDF documents. These directory portals list document titles, authors, and modification dates, a layer up from the document portals created in [Hack #21] . They offer hyperlinks to each PDF's document portal and to neighboring directories. Written in PHP, these portals, shown in Figure 2-14, are easy to adapt to your requirements.

Figure 2-14. Our collection portals reporting PDF information to the reader

2.9.1 Tool Up

You'll need pdftk [Hack #79] and pdfportal. To install pdfportal, visit http://www.pdfhacks.com/pdfportal/ and download pdfportal-1.0.zip. Unpack the archive and copy its files to a location on your PHP-enabled web server where it can read and execute them. Edit pdfportal.config.php to reflect the location of pdftk on your system.

Windows users without access to a PHP-enabled web server can download and install IndigoPerl from http://www.indigostar.com. IndigoPerl is an Apache installer for Windows that includes PHP and Perl support.

2.9.2 Running pdfdir.php

Let's say you copied the pdfportal files to http://localhost/pdfportal/ and you have a directory named http://localhost/collection/. To view this directory using the portal, pass it to pdfdir.php like so:


pdfdir.php calls pdftk's dump_data operation to create info files for every PDF in this directory, as needed. It then uses these plain-text info files to create an informative HTML summary page. As noted earlier, an info file is simply the output from pdftk's dump_data operation [Hack #64] .

Click a document's title, and its document portal [Hack #21] opens. Navigate from directory to directory using the hyperlinked tree at the top of the page.

2.9.3 Hacking the Hack

You can easily expand this portal framework in many directions. For example, add features for uploading PDFs to the current directory. Or, enable users to move a PDF from one directory to another.