Introducing PDF.js Express

2020 Apr 2020

Nick Johansson

PDF.js is a popular open-source JavaScript library, originally developed by Mozilla and maintained by an open-source community with 299 known contributors and over 27k Github stars. It has helped organizations around the world consolidate their document workflows on PDF with basic PDF viewing capabilities.

But users soon end up requesting more than basic PDF viewing; they desire annotations, form filling, and signatures -- PDF capabilities ubiquitous today but currently not supported by or out of scope of the PDF.js project.

Implementing these features in-house often proves more time-consuming and complicated than anticipated. And, until recently, no professional, commercially available solution provided these features out of the box to speed up development and eliminate maintenance costs.

To help these developers in achieving their short-term goals, and to support them as their needs evolve, we’re therefore proud to announce a brand new solution -- PDF.js Express.

PDFTron’s PDF.js Express wraps a modern React UI around the PDF.js rendering engine to enable PDF annotation, form filling, and signing inside your web app.

In this way, Express snaps in a few extra puzzle pieces to help developers get their projects off the ground and go to market faster. And it supports a clear upgrade path to our commercial-grade PDF SDK when you are ready to take your application rendering accuracy, reliability, and capabilities to the next level.

Here are the key PDF.js Express features that help make PDF.js more attractive to developers.

Making PDF.js Better

A modern and responsive React-based UI. PDF.js Express has a responsive UI that is completely open-source, giving developers the freedom needed to build unique, world-class user experiences and, ultimately, a successful product.

PDF Annotation. Create or edit annotations through the UI or programmatically via the API. With annotations managed in a separate annotations layer, you can even specify unique user roles & permissions for creating, replying to, editing, and deleting annotations.

Signatures. Built-in signature capabilities let users sign their PDFs in your Express viewer using their hand-drawn, typed, and uploaded signatures, as well as save their signatures for signing multiple pages or documents.

Forms. PDF.js Express interactive form features let users fill in forms and supports programmatic form fill-in and form value extraction, which can be used to hook the viewer into an automated data capture workflow.

Real-time document collaboration. You can have multiple users add their comments and markups, and replies to comments on the same document in real time.

(Check out the real-time collaboration documentation including a sample Firebase config to get started.)

Built-in measurement tools. You can leverage built-in measurement functionality to let your users perform measures of distance, area, and perimeter based on document scale.

Sharp graphics even at extreme zoom. Additionally, we’ve taken a different approach to how the viewer uses the PDF.js rendering API, resulting in incredible clarity at any zoom magnifications up to and over 100,000%. What this means is that users can zoom into and inspect the finest details on any large page and still have vector graphics and text present with perfect legibility. Even at extreme zoom levels, scrolling remains butter smooth.

Improved text search. We’ve optimized and tuned the search algorithm to more accurately find text or annotations. Search results also provide contextual surrounding text to guide users to relevant matches.

A clear upgrade path to a professional SDK. User needs often evolve as they grow reliant on a PDF viewer. Indeed, customers may request more and more advanced PDF features or upload more challenging PDFs. And to ensure customers have all their needs met, today and in the future, we have therefore future-proofed PDF.js Express with a clear upgrade path to the #1 choice commercial PDF SDK from PDFTron, with support for 30+ additional file formats including MS Office and CAD, all the major platforms, hundreds of unique document processing features, and more.

Switching to PDFTron from PDF.js Express requires only 1 line of code -- no lengthy migrations. And any UI customizations you’ve made will continue to work. PDFTron WebViewer uses the very same UI as PDF.js Express but has the powerful PDFTron rendering engine and API under the hood instead, providing access to advanced PDF SDK capabilities from a proven technology partner.

About PDFTron SDK

There’s good reason why top-tier companies such as IBM, Autodesk, and DocuSign rely upon PDFTron as their document technology partner, why Silversmith Capital Partners recently invested $71 million into PDFTron, and why we were voted the #1 choice by organizations considering a commercial PDF SDK. Fortune 500s, governments, and innovative startups around the world recognize PDFTron for its market-leading cross-platform offerings as well as for the best customer support in the industry.

You may not want to upgrade right away -- and that’s totally fine. But if and when you’re ready to take your solution to the next level, PDFTron will cover your needs.

Next Steps

To learn more about PDF.js Express, check out the PDF.js Express demo, and don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or feedback.