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Chapter 8: Miscellaneous useful features

pageNumber

As you'd expect from the name, this tag adds page numbers to your document. This has nothing tricky to remember - all you have to do is put the a <pageNumber/> tag where you want the page number to appear.

The <name> and <namedString> tags allow you to set a variable as you would in a programming language. You can then retrieve this to put in another place by using the <getName> tag. You can do this as many or as few times as you need - so it is handy for things like headers and footers, or for items that you see changing many times over the life of your document such as version or revision numbers. If you set them using a <name> tag, you only have to revise them in one place every time they change, rather than having to plough through the document changing them manually in each location and inevitably missing one.

<name> has three attributes: id and value are required, but type is optional.

<namedString> has five main attributes: id is required as the name of the variable. This tag is not self closing and the value to be assigned should be between <namedString> and </namedString>. The new attribute may be set to "1" to indicate that the definition should happen only on the first time this variable is seen. The discard attribute may be set to "1" to indicate that the definition should happen immediately and not at render time and the value is discarded. The indexName attribute may be set to the name of another variable which should be used as an index into the main variable where the value should be stored.

<getName> only has three attributes the first id is required so that it knows which name to "yank". The default attribute may be used to supply a default value (in case the variable is not yet defined). Finally the indexName attribute may be used to specify an index name that is to be looked up to index into the id variable allowing complex programming see https://www.reportlab.com/examples/rml/test/test_052_pagenum.rml.

In practice, it would look something like this example:

<stylesheet>
    <initialize>
        <name id="YourVariableName"
              value="Type anything you want between these quotes..."/>
        <namedString id="x">0</namedString>
        <namedString id="anothervariable" indexName="x">value of anothervariable</namedString>
    </initialize>
</stylesheet>

<story>
    <para>
        <b><getName id="YourVariableName"/></b>
        <b><getName id="anothervariable" indexName="x"/></b>
    </para>
</story>

You can also use the <name> tag inside the story of a document. In this case, as well as setting the value for the variable, it is also displayed on the page (i.e. the name has a "textual value").

Seq, seqReset, seqChain and SeqFormat

The "seq" in <seq>, <seqDefault> and <seqReset> stands for sequence. These tags are all used for paragraph numbering (or indeed anything that requires numbering items in a sequence, such as list items or figures and illustrations).

This is how they look in use:

<seq/>
<seqDefault id="myID"/>
<seqReset/> or <seqReset id="myID"/>
<seqChain order="id0 id1 id2...idn"/>
<seqFormat id="myID" value="i"/>

Each time you call <seq/>, its value is automatically incremented.

With <seqReset>, the id is an optional attribute. However, it is still best to use it to save confusion.

The <seqChain order="id0 id1 id2"/> tag is used to make multi sequence use easier. When sequence id0 is changed sequence id1 is reset; likewise when sequence id1 is changed sequence id2 is reset and so on for the identifiers in the order attribute.

The tag <seqFormat id="myID" value="i"/> is used to associate a numbering format to myID. The allowed values for the value attribute are given in the table below.

Value Meaning
1 Decimal
i Lowercase Roman
I Uppercase Roman
a Lowercase Alphabetic
A Uppercase Alphabetic

Here is an example that shows <seq/>, <seqReset> and <seqDefault> in use:

EXAMPLE 6

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="iso-8859-1" standalone="no" ?>
<!DOCTYPE document SYSTEM "../rml.dtd"> 
<document filename="example_6.pdf">

<template>
    <pageTemplate id="main">
    <frame id="first" x1="72" y1="72" width="451" height="698"/> 
    </pageTemplate>
</template>

<stylesheet>
</stylesheet>

<story>
    <h1>
        seq in seq, seqDefault and seqReset
    </h1>
    <para>copied: <seq id="spam"/>, <seq id="spam"/>, <seq id="spam"/>.
Reset<seqReset id="spam"/>.  <seq id="spam"/>, <seq id="spam"/>,
<seq id="spam"/>.</para>
    <h2>
        <i>simple use of seq</i>
    </h2>
    <para>
        First seq: <seq/>
    </para>
    <para>
        Second seq: <seq/>
    </para>
    <spacer length="6"/>
    <para>
        <seqReset/>
        We have just done a &lt;seqReset"/&gt;
    </para>
    <spacer length="6"/>
    <para>
        First seq after seqReset: <seq/>
    </para>
    <para>
        second seq after seqReset: <seq/>
    </para>
    <spacer length="6"/>
    <para>
        If you are going to use multiple seq tags, you need to use the "id" attribute. 
    </para>

    <h2>
        <i>Better use of seq</i>
    </h2>
    <para>
        <seqDefault id="test"/>
        We have just done a &lt;seqDefault id="test"/&gt;
    </para>
    <para>
        <seqReset id="test"/>
        We have just done a &lt;seqReset id="test"/&gt;
    </para>
    <spacer length="6"/>
    <para>
        First seq: <seq id="test"/>
    </para>
    <para>
        Second seq: <seq id="test"/>
    </para>
    <spacer length="6"/>
    <para>
        <seqReset id="test"/>
        We have just done a &lt;seqReset id="test"/&gt;
    </para>
    <spacer length="6"/>
    <para>
        First seq after seqReset: <seq id="test"/>
    </para>
    <para>
        second seq after seqReset: <seq id="test"/>
    </para>

    <h2>
        <i>Using two seqs independently</i>
    </h2>
    <para>
        <seqReset id="testOne"/>
        We have just done a &lt;seqReset id="testOne"/&gt;
    </para>
    <para>
        <seqReset id="testTwo"/>
        We have just done a &lt;seqReset id="testTwo"/&gt;
    </para>
    <spacer length="6"/>
    <para>
        First seq for testOne: <seq id="testOne"/>
    </para>
    <para>
        Second seq for testOne: <seq id="testOne"/>
    </para>
    <spacer length="6"/>
    <para>
        First seq for testTwo: <seq id="testTwo"/>
    </para>
    <para>
        Second seq for testTwo: <seq id="testTwo"/>
    </para>
    <spacer length="6"/>
    <para>
        <seqReset id="testOne"/>
        We have just done a &lt;seqReset id="testOne"/&gt;
    </para>
    <spacer length="6"/>
    <para>
        First seq after seqReset for testOne: <seq id="testOne"/>
    </para>
    <para>
        second seq after seqReset for testOne: <seq id="testOne"/>
    </para>
    <spacer length="6"/>
    <para>
        First seq after seqReset for testTwo: <seq id="testTwo"/>
    </para>
    <para>
        second seq after seqReset for testTwo: <seq id="testTwo"/>
    </para>
    <spacer length="15"/>
    <para>
        Notice how resetting testOne doesn't affect testTwo at all.
    </para>

</story>

</document>

Image

One more sophisticated use for using these tags is for multiple page counters. If you have a document where you need different sections numbered separately from the main body of a document (perhaps for introductory matter such as the contents and preface of a book), this can be done with a named seq tag.

The page counter as used by the pageNumber tag is a 'unique value' which depends on the actual physical number of pages. If rather than using a pageNumber tag, you instead use something like <seq id="pageCounter"/> , you have the ability to use <seqReset id="pageCounter"/> in between sections so that each chapter has pages numbered from the start of that chapter rather than the start of the document. If you use a different template for each chapter, this can then give you page numbers in the format "1-12" rather than just "12" (where you are on page 12 of the document, which is page 12 of chapter 1).

Entities

In example 6, we saw our first use of entities. In RML, you can't use the characters "<", ">" or "&" inside any display elements such as drawString or para. If you do, rml2pdf will assume that they are tags and attempt to interpret them. Since they won't be valid RML tags, you will just end-up getting an error message along the lines of "Error: Start tag for undeclared element <YourNonValidTag>".

To get around this, you should use "entities".

When you need to use "<", replace it with "&lt;",
when you need to use ">;", replace it with "&gt;",
and when you need to use "&", replace it with "& amp;".

Aliases

Aliases allow you to assign more than one name to a paragraph style.

The alias tag has two required attributes - id and value.

Example:

<alias id="alreadyDefinedStyleName" value="myNewStyleName"/>

This can be useful in a number of ways.

You can give a more descriptive name to a style. So you can define a number of paragraph styles called things like "ItalicBold" or "DesignerOneParagraphStyleTwo" in the stylesheet for your document. You can then assign aliases to these styles using names that describe the role they fill in your document such as "pictureCaption", "abstract", "acknowledgement" and so on.

If at any point you decide to change the style for that kind of paragraph, you can then change it in one alias rather than in every individual paragraph that uses that style.

CDATA -- unparsed character data

CDATA is a standard XML tag which indicates to the parser (in this case rml2pdf) to ignore anything inside the CDATA section. It shouldn't parse it or process it in any way - just display it.

A CDATA section is started with the characters "<![CDATA[" and is closed off with the characters "]]>". It can appear inside any flowable - though it is most useful inside a <pre> tag.

CDATA may be useful in places where you have large quantities of "<" and ">" characters that you want to display in your PDF, and that you would rather not have to convert them all to "&lt;" and "&gt;" entities. Quoting sections of RML, XML, or HTML code is an example of a good place to use CDATA - if you needed to revise the code example at a later date, you would have to convert the characters in every tag into entities. CDATA saves you having to do this.

However, you should only use CDATA when necessary. If you are using other XML tools, they will also ignore anything inside a CDATA section.

Example:

<xpre>
    <![CDATA[
Anything could go here. <non_existant_tags/>, "&" signs.
Whatever you want. RML ignores it.
]] >
</xpre>

Plug-ins: plugInGraphic and plugInFlowable

Both plugInGraphics and plugInFlowables allow you to use objects from outside your RML document.

plugInGraphic A plugInGraphic identifies a function (callable) in a module which takes a canvas and a data string as arguments and presumably draws something on the canvas using information in the data string.

Example:

<plugInGraphic module="mymodule" function="myfunction">data string</plugInGraphic>

when executed results in effectively the following execution sequence:

import mymodule
mymodule.myfunction(canvas, "data string")

using the current canvas object. <PlugInGraphic> has two mandatory attributes: module and function. It is used in the <pageGraphics> section of your document.

plugInFlowable A plugInFlowable identifies a function (callable) in a module which takes a canvas data string as an argument and returns a flowable object :

Example:

<plugInFlowable module="mymodule" function="myfunction">data string</plugInFlowable>

when executed results in effectively the execution sequence:

import mymodule
flowable=mymodule.myfunction("data string")
story.append(flowable)

using the current canvas object.

plugInFlowable has two mandatory attributes: module and function. It is also used in the <pageGraphics> section of your document.

Integrating with PageCatcher: catchForms, doForm and includePdfPages

You can use our product PageCatcher to capture individual pages from an external PDF file (e.g. application forms, government forms, annual reports and so on). Extracting the required pages with PageCatcher will most often be a one-off design-time step. Once PageCatcher has extracted a page, it archives it in a data file as formatted form data. (The default name for this file is "storage.data").

If you have full production versions of both RML2PDF and PageCatcher you can use the <catchForms> tag to import all forms from a PageCatcher storage file for use in your RML document.

Example:

This example takes the form called PF0 (a page "caught" by PageCatcher and stored in the file storage.data) and draws it into your document as a page backdrop.

<pageDrawing>
    <catchForms storageFile="storage.data"/>
    <doForm name="PF0"/>
</pageDrawing>

The <catchForms> tag is a drawing operation, and can occur anywhere in your RML document where a <doForm> tag can occur. (For example, you can use a <catchForms> inside the flow of a story by using it inside an <illustration>). The <catchForms> tag has one mandatory argument (storageFile) which gives the name of the PageCatcher storage file to extract the form from.

One small point to remember is that if you are using multiple forms from the same data file, you only need to use the actual <catchForms> tag once. To actually put the captured data into your document, you would use multiple instances of the <doForm> tag. Notice how this works in the example below:

<illustration width="451" height="698">
    <pageGraphics>
        <catchForms storageFile="samples.data"/>
        <doForm name="PF0"/>
    </pageGraphics>
</illustration>

<illustration width="451" height="698">
    <pageGraphics>
        <doForm name="PF1"/>
    </pageGraphics>
</illustration>

If you do use repeated <catchForms> tags to point at the same data file, you will get an error message similar to the one below.

ValueError: redefining named object: 'FormXob.PF0'

If this is the case, find the places where you are using the second and subsequent <catchForms> tags and delete them, leaving only the <doForm> tags. (Of course, this doesn't apply to any doForms which are pointing at other data files. They would still need their own initial <catchForms> tags).

[Note: For the <catchForms> tag to work, you must have PageCatcher installed. In addition, your PageCatcher must be the full version with a .py or .pyc file. The *.exe version of PageCatcher will not work with RML2PDF. If you get the error message "ImportError: catchForms tag requires the PageCatcher product http://www.reportlab.com", then you either do not have PageCatcher installed, or have the wrong version].

The includePdfPages tag

In some circumstances, you may not know how many pages there will be in the PDF file you need to pageCatch. This is the case which <includePdfPages> tag was designed for.

<includePdfPages> is a generic flowable, which means that it can appear at any point in the story.

In its simplest form, an includePdfPages tag will look like this:

<includePdfPages filename="mypdffile.pdf"/>

This will take the PDF file called "mypdffile.pdf", use pageCatcher behind the scenes and include every page in the PDF file in your output. There is also an optional "pages" attribute. This can have either individual pages or ranges. The following are all valid (providing the PDF file is long enough).

<includePdfPages filename="mypdffile.pdf"/>
<includePdfPages filename="mypdffile.pdf" pages="1"/>
<includePdfPages filename="mypdffile.pdf" pages="1,2,3"/>
<includePdfPages filename="mypdffile.pdf" pages="2,1,1,2,2"/>
<includePdfPages filename="mypdffile.pdf" pages="1-5"/>
<includePdfPages filename="mypdffile.pdf" pages="1,2,4-5"/>

There are a number of differences between this tag and the other PageCatcher related tags. Unlike the others, includePdfPages doesn't require you to pre-pagecatch the file you intend to use (so saving you an additional step). It also differs in that the imported PDF gets drawn "over the top" of your exiting document, rather than being used as a background underneath your existing page. So if you have a header or footer in your page template, the included PDF page will overwrite it.

How includePdfPages works with templates

When you have an includePdfPages tag in your RML file, RML outputs a page break before the first new page, leaving you on the same page as the last imported one. This allows you to do template switching:

<setNextTemplate>

    <setNextTemplate name="myIncludePagesTemplate"/>
    <includePdfPages filename="mypdffile.pdf" pages="1,2,3"/>
    <setNextTemplate name="myNormalTemplate"/>
    <nextFrame/>

    <para>
        This text appears on the next normal (non-included) page of your
        document)
    </para> 

This snippet switches to a new page template for use with your included pages, adds in the first three pages from your PDF file, switches back to what is presumably the template you have been using throughout the rest of the document, and outputs a line of text into the next "normal" page of your document. If you don't want any headers or footers behind your PDF pages, define a page template called something like "blank" (in the template section at the head pf your document) with a single frame and no decoration on it and use that. If you are content for your included pages to appear over the template you have been using on the previous pages (if the included pages don't have any headers and footers and have large enough margins not clash with the ones you are using in your document, for example), then you can skip both of the setNextTemplate tags completely.

The nextFrame tag is used because the includedPdfPages places you at the top of the last included PDF page. This allows you to flow paragraphs or other flowables down your last page. This may be useful if you want to place text in a form, or use some other pre-prepared background for your text. If all you want to do is just drop in a pre-made page, you need this nextFrame to kick you into the next normal page and continue with your document normally

Look in section 7.6 ("Using multiple frames") for more info on the nextFrame and setNextTemplate tags. Look at the file test\test_016_pagecatcher.rml for an example of this tag in use.

These attributes control the <includePdfPages> tag:

filename filename to include
pages The page list
template optional page template name
outlineText optional outline text
outlineLevel optional outline level
outlineClosed true for closed outline
leadingFrame (yes | no | 0 | 1 | notAtTop): no if you don't want a page throw before the first page
isdata boolean true if the file is a pageCatcher .data file
orientation (0 | portrait | 90 | landscape | 180 | 270 | auto) auto means use the file implied layout

Outlines

It can go in either graphics or in a story. (Assigning outline levels to parts of your document (such as paragraphs) allows you to build up a hierarchical structure for your document).

The level specifies how deep in the outline the entry appears. The default level is 0.

closed, if set, hides any children of this outline entry by default. Closed takes Boolean arguments.

Example:

    <outlineAdd>First outline entry</outlineAdd>
    <outlineAdd level="1">sub entry</outlineAdd>
    <outlineAdd closed="true">Second outline entry 2</outlineAdd>
    <outlineAdd level="1">sub entry 2</outlineAdd>

A note about levels: in order to add a level 3 outline entry, the previous outline entry must be at least level 2 (2,3,4...). In other words, you can "move back" any number of levels, but you can only "move forward" one level at a time.

Form field tags

An important class of reports contains lots of fields to be traditionally filled in manually by users, like for application forms and similar cases. Sometimes though, these fields are already filled in by some computational process and the user might only need to sign the entire form before leaving it with a bank clerk or sending it off to some destination. RML supports creating both kind of reports by providing a set of special-purpose tags to create such form elements (or fields, widgets...) quite easily. These tags are named <checkBox> <textBox> and <letterBoxes> and are described in the rest of this section.

All these form elements share a lot of features when it comes to what they look like in the document. They all appear as a rectangular shape with some background and border colour, plus some width for the border itself. They also have some sort of text label attached to this rectangle to describe the field's purpose in the context of the report to the human reader. The text inside the field as well as the one in the attached label also should have the usual properties like fontname and size and colour. All form field elements have a boxStyle attribute that can be used to group attribute names and values and reuse them in many field elements with much less typing effort.

But there are also specific features that distinguish these form elements from each other. A checkbox does not contain text, but only a cross (when checked), and a textbox contains one or more lines of text with different possible alignments, while letterboxes are used for single line mono-space text with visible subcompartments for each letter.

Checkboxes

By default, checkboxes have a very simple style similar to UK bank application forms - an outer rectangle and a cross which exactly fills it when checked. The attributes control the appearance.

It is also possible to supply your own pair of bitmap images which will be used instead of the default drawing mechanism - this could be used to provide 3d effects, tick-and-cross icons or whatever is needed. To make use of this, set the two attributes graphicOn and graphicOff to point to two bitmap files on the disk; these will be used in preference to the default appearance. Note that they will be stretched to the boxWidth and boxHeight stated, so it is important to set the same aspect ratio as the underlying image. Also, remember the printing intent - a 24 pixel bitmap drawn to occupy a 12 point space on a form will be visibly grainy on a good quality printer, but may be fine on an inkjet.

Because checkboxes do not contain text it can be argued that when they are to be displayed as checked the cross' colour should be the same as the border colour. Equally well it can be argued that it should be the same colour used for text in textboxes. To provide both options checkboxes have an additional colour attribute named checkStrokeColor which will be used for the cross instead of the border colour if the former is provided.

Note that the label attached to a checkbox is limited to three lines of text now and always appears at the right margin of the box, but this might be generalised in future versions. The label is expected to be vertically centered with the box no matter how many lines it is composed of.

The following code creates a row of sample checkboxes providing different values for the most relevant attributes:

<checkBox x="0cm" y="0cm" checked="0"/>

<checkBox x="1.5cm" y="0cm" checked="1"/>

<checkBox x="3cm" y="0cm"
          boxWidth="0.75cm" boxHeight="1cm"
          checked="1"/>

<checkBox x="4.5cm" y="0cm"
          boxWidth="0.75cm" boxHeight="1cm"
          lineWidth="0.1cm"
          checked="1"/>

<checkBox x="6cm" y="0cm"
          lineWidth="0.1cm"
          boxFillColor="yellow" boxStrokeColor="green"
          checked="1"/>

<checkBox x="7.5cm" y="0cm"
          lineWidth="0.1cm"
          boxFillColor="yellow" boxStrokeColor="green"
          checkStrokeColor="red"
          checked="1"/>

<checkBox x="9cm" y="0"
          line1="desc 1"
          line2="desc 2"
          checked="1"/>

Image

Textboxes

A textbox contains one, but often more lines of text, like in an address field. (Of course, it can also contain no text at all, like for a signature field.) Sometimes it is not clear in advance exactly how much text will go into one such field. Therefore, textbox fields in RML provide a means for automatically resizing the fontsize to shrink the contained text by exactly what is needed to make it fit into the box. This is a two-step process that first tries to shrink the fontsize to make the text fit horizontally. If that is not enough, it is further shrinked to make it also fit vertically. This process is controlled using the attribute shrinkToFit.

Because human readers are very sensible to reading text and get quickly irritated when it does not feel "right", there is a default amount of space (1 point) left between the text and any of the borders of the box, which will be respected by the resizing mechanism. This is hardcoded now, but might become another attribute in the future.

The following code creates a row of sample textboxes illustrating different values for the most relevant attributes: as well as the auto-resizing text feature:

<illustration width="18cm" height="2cm">
<textBox x="0cm" y="0cm"
boxWidth="3cm" boxHeight="1cm"
label="labeled textbox">some text</textBox>

<textBox x="3.5cm" y="0cm"
boxWidth="3cm" boxHeight="1cm"
boxFillColor="yellow" boxStrokeColor="blue"
label="colorful textbox">some text</textBox>

<textBox x="7cm" y="0cm"
lineWidth="0.1cm"
boxWidth="3cm" boxHeight="1cm"
boxFillColor="yellow" boxStrokeColor="blue"
label="bold textbox">some text</textBox>

<textBox x="10.5cm" y="0cm"
boxWidth="3cm" boxHeight="1cm"
lineWidth="0.1cm"
boxFillColor="yellow" boxStrokeColor="blue"
fontName="Times-Bold"
fontSize="14"
label="textfancy textbox">some text</textBox>
</illustration>

Image

The following code creates a row of sample textboxes illustrating the auto-resizing text feature:

<textBox x="0cm" y="0cm"
         boxWidth="3cm" boxHeight="1cm"
         fontSize="14"
         label="no resizing">some text</textBox>

<textBox x="3.5cm" y="0cm"
         boxWidth="3cm" boxHeight="1cm"
         fontSize="14"
         label="horiz. resizing">some more text</textBox>

<textBox x="7cm" y="0cm"
         boxWidth="3cm" boxHeight="1cm"
         shrinkToFit="1"
         fontSize="14"
         label="vert. resizing">some text
    some text
    some text</textBox>

<textBox x="10.5cm" y="0cm"
         boxWidth="3cm" boxHeight="1cm"
         shrinkToFit="1"
         fontSize="14"
         label="horiz./vert. resizing">some more text
    some text
    some text
    some text</textBox>

Image

Letterboxes

Letterboxes are intended for single-line text fields where each letter is contained in a subcell, clearly seperated from neighbouring cells. This is often seen on official forms where people are expected to write letters of a word at predefined positions. RML provides such letterboxes, too, and they behave mostly like textboxes, but show some significant differences, too.

Usually, the overall width of a form field element is defined by the mandatory boxWidth attribute. For letterboxes, though, this is an optional attribute and specifies the width of a subcell containing one letter. The resulting width of the entire box is defined as a multiple of that boxWidth attribute with another one named count, which is a mandatory attribute.

The following code creates a row of sample letterboxes showing basic attributes:

<letterBoxes x="0cm" y="7.5cm"
             count="12">letterboxes</letterBoxes>

<letterBoxes x="0cm" y="6cm"
             count="12">more letterboxes</letterBoxes>

<letterBoxes x="0cm" y="4.5cm"
             boxWidth="0.75cm"
             count="12">letterboxes</letterBoxes>

<letterBoxes x="0cm" y="3cm"
             lineWidth="0.1cm"
             boxFillColor="yellow" boxStrokeColor="blue"
             label="some label"
             count="12">letterboxes</letterBoxes>

<letterBoxes x="0cm" y="1.5cm"
             lineWidth="0.1cm"
             boxFillColor="yellow" boxStrokeColor="blue"
             label="some label"
             fontName="Courier-Bold"
             fontSize="14"
             count="12">letterboxes</letterBoxes>

Image

There may also be instances where you want obvious dividers between each subcell, but you don't want entirely separate boxes. Letterboxes have something that allows for this - the optional combHeight attribute.

In a 'standard' letterBoxes element (ie one where the combHeight isn't specified), the divider between each individual subcell is a line which fills the whole height of the letterBoxes box. If you specify the combHeight, you can vary the height of this line. This attribute must be a number between zero and one, where "0" means no divider at all and "1" means one that is the whole height of the letterboxes element (and therefore "0.25" is a quarter of the height and so on).

The following code creates a row of sample letterboxes showing the combHeight attribute in use:

<letterBoxes x="0cm" y="0cm"
             combHeight="0"
             count="4">comb</letterBoxes>

<letterBoxes x="3.75cm" y="0cm"
             combHeight="0.25"
             count="4">comb</letterBoxes>

<letterBoxes x="7.5cm" y="0cm"
             combHeight="1"
             count="4">comb</letterBoxes>

<letterBoxes x="11.25cm" y="0cm"
             lineWidth="0.1cm"
             boxWidth="0.75cm" boxHeight="0.75cm"
             boxFillColor="yellow" boxStrokeColor="blue"
             label="combHeight"
             fontName="Times-Bold"
             fontSize="14"
             combHeight="0.5"
             count="4">comb</letterBoxes>

Image

Using styles with form field elements

As we've already mentioned, checkBox, textBox and letterBoxes all allow you to re-use styles in a similar way to the way you can re-use styles with paragraphs with the boxStyle tag. Like the other style tags (paraStyle and blockTableStyle), boxStyle lives in the stylesheet section, near the start of your document.

boxStyle style can have the following attributes:

name: This is the required attribute which allows you to refer this style by name.

alias: An optional attribute which allows you to refer to your style by another name.

parent: If this is supplied, it must refer to the name of another style. This style with then inherit from the style named.

fontName: An optional attribute, this refers to the font to be used for the main contents of letterboxes or a textbox - it is ignored for checkBoxes.

fontSize: This optional attribute sets the size for the main contents of letterboxes or a textbox - it is ignored for checkBoxes.

alignment: For letterboxes or a textbox, this optional attribute sets the alignment of the contents of the box. It may be either LEFT, RIGHT, CENTER or CENTRE. It is ignored for checkBoxes.

textColor: An optional attribute that sets the colour for the main contents in the letterboxes or textbox.

labelFontName: The (optional) tag specifying the font to be used for the label of the letterboxes, textbox or checkBox.

labelFontSize: The (optional) tag specifying the size of the font to be used for the label of the letterboxes, textbox or checkBox.

labelAlignment: The (optional) specifying the alignment of the label - may be LEFT, RIGHT, CENTER or CENTRE

labelTextColor: An optional attribute specifying the colour to be used for the text of the label of an textBox, letterBox or checkBox.

boxFillColor: An optional tag specifying the colour to be used for the background for a textBox, letterBox or checkBox.

boxStrokeColor: An optional tag specifying the colour to be used for the lines making up a textBox, letterBox or checkBox.

cellWidth: An optional tag, specifying the width of a "cell" in a form element. Must be a measurment, but may 'in', 'cm', 'mm'or 'pt' - see the section on 'Coordinates and measurements' for more details on measurements.

cellHeight: An optional tag, specifying the width of a "cell" in a form element. Must be a measurment, but may 'in', 'cm', 'mm'or 'pt'

Some Examples

As an example of them in use, let's set up two boxStyles, and see what effect they have on letterBoxes, textBoxes and a checkBox.

Firstly, the boxStyles:

<boxStyle name="special1"
          labelFontName="Helvetica"
          fontSize="10"
          alignment="RIGHT"
          textColor="red"
          fontName="Helvetica"
          labelFontSize="10"
          labelAlignment="RIGHT"
          labelTextColor="blue"
          boxStrokeColor="red"
          boxFillColor="pink"/>

<boxStyle name="special2"
          parent="special1"
          fontName="Courier"
          fontSize="12"
          textColor="green"
          labelFontName="Courier"
          labelFontSize="12"
          labelTextColor="green"
          boxFillColor="yellow"
          boxStrokeColor="red"/>

Image

Barcodes

One other tag that may often find use on forms is the barCode tag. As its name implies, this creates a barcode in one of a number of different symbologies.

The three attributes you need to supply for this tag are x and y to position it on the page and code to inform rml2pdf which form of barcode you require.

This is a brief example of what a barcode tag looks like in use, and what it actually produces:

<barCode x="1cm" y="0" code="Code11">123456</barCode>

Output

Image

This table shows you the allowed names for the code attribute, along with an example of the barcode produced.

Image Image

Interactive Form Field tags

PDF allows documents to intereact with the user provided the renderer supports this. The most common renderers including Acrobat Reader, evince and the various browsers certainly allow this.
RML supports the following interactive form elements

textField Attributes

Attribute Meaning Default
name the radio's group (ie parameter) name None
value Value of the text field ''
x the horizontal position on the page (absolute coordinates) 0
y the vertical position on the page (absolute coordinates) 0
width The widget width 120
height The widget height 36
fontName The name of the type 1 font to be used 'Helvetica'
fontSize The size of font to be used 12
maxlen None or maximum length of the widget value 100
fillColor colour to be used to fill the widget None
textColor the colour of the symbol or text None
borderWidth as it says 1
borderColor the widget's border colour None
borderStyle The border style name 'solid'
tooltip The text to display when hovering over the widget None
annotationFlags blank separated string of annotation flags print
fieldFlags Blank separated field flags (see below)
forceBorder when true a border force a border to be drawn False
relative if true obey the current canvas transform False
multiline if true then add multiline flag",'true'],
dashLen the dashline to be used if the borderStyle=='dashed' 3"]

checkboxField Attributes

Attribute Meaning Default
name the radio's group (ie parameter) name None
value Value of the text field ''
x the horizontal position on the page (absolute coordinates) 0
y the vertical position on the page (absolute coordinates) 0
size The outline dimensions size x size 20
checked if True the checkbox is initially checked False
buttonStyle the checkbox style (see below) check
shape The outline of the widget (see below) square
fillColor colour to be used to fill the widget None
textColor the colour of the symbol or text None
borderWidth as it says 1
borderColor the widget's border colour None
borderStyle The border style name 'solid'
tooltip The text to display when hovering over the widget None
annotationFlags blank separated string of annotation flags 'print'
fieldFlags Blank separated field flags (see below) required
forceBorder when true a border force a border to be drawn False
relative if true obey the current canvas transform False
dashLen the dashline to be used if the borderStyle=='dashed' 3

radioField Attributes

Attribute Meaning Default
name the radio's group (ie parameter) name None
value Value of the text field ''
name the radio's group (ie parameter) name None
value the radio's group name None
x the horizontal position on the page (absolute coordinates) 0
y the vertical position on the page (absolute coordinates) 0
size The outline dimensions size x size 20
selected if True this radio is the selected one in its group False
buttonStyle the checkbox style (see below) check
shape The outline of the widget (see below) square
fillColor colour to be used to fill the widget None
textColor the colour of the symbol or text None
borderWidth as it says 1
borderColor the widget's border colour None
borderStyle The border style name 'solid'
tooltip The text to display when hovering over the widget None
annotationFlags blank separated string of annotation flags print
fieldFlags Blank separated field flags (see below) noToggleToOff required radio
forceBorder when true a border force a border to be drawn False
relative if true obey the current canvas transform False
dashLen the dashline to be used if the borderStyle=='dashed' 3

choiceField Attributes

Attribute Meaning Default
name the radio's group (ie parameter) name None
value Value of the text field ''
name the radio's group (ie parameter) name None
options List or tuple of avaiable options []
value Singleton or list of strings of selected options []
x the horizontal position on the page (absolute coordinates) 0
y the vertical position on the page (absolute coordinates) 0
width The widget width 120
height The widget height 36
fontName The name of the type 1 font to be used 'Helvetica'
fontSize The size of font to be used 12
fillColor colour to be used to fill the widget None
textColor the colour of the symbol or text None
borderWidth as it says 1
borderColor the widget's border colour None
borderStyle The border style name 'solid'
tooltip The text to display when hovering over the widget None
annotationFlags blank separated string of annotation flags print
fieldFlags Blank separated field flags (see below) combo
forceBorder when true a border force a border to be drawn False
relative if true obey the current canvas transform False
dashLen the dashline to be used if the borderStyle=='dashed' 3
maxlen None or maximum length of the widget value None

listboxField Attributes

Attribute Meaning Default
name the radio's group (ie parameter) name None
value Value of the text field ''
name the radio's group (ie parameter) name None
options List or tuple of avaiable options []
value Singleton or list of strings of selected options []
x the horizontal position on the page (absolute coordinates) 0
y the vertical position on the page (absolute coordinates) 0
width The widget width 120
height The widget height 36
fontName The name of the type 1 font to be used 'Helvetica'
fontSize The size of font to be used 12
fillColor colour to be used to fill the widget None
textColor the colour of the symbol or text None
borderWidth as it says 1
borderColor the widget's border colour None
borderStyle The border style name 'solid'
tooltip The text to display when hovering over the widget None
annotationFlags blank separated string of annotation flags print
fieldFlags Blank separated field flags (see below)
forceBorder when true a border force a border to be drawn False
relative if true obey the current canvas transform False
dashLen the dashline to be used if the borderStyle=='dashed' 3

Button styles

The button style argument indicates what style of symbol should appear in the button when it is selected. There are several choices

  • cross
  • circle
  • star
  • diamond

note that the document renderer can make some of these symbols wrong for their intended application. Acrobat reader prefers to use its own rendering on top of what the specification says should be shown (especially when the forms hihlighting features are used)

Widget shape

The shape argument describes how the outline of the checkbox or radio widget should appear you can use

  • circle
  • square

the renderer may make its own decisions about how the widget should look; so Acrobat Reader prefers circular outlines for radios.

Border style

The borderStyle argument changes the 3D appearance of the widget on the page alternatives are

  • solid
  • dashed
  • inset
  • bevelled
  • underlined

Field Flag Tokens and values

The fieldFlags arguments can be an integer or a string containing blank separate tokens the values are shown in the table below. For more information consult the PDF specification.s

Token Meaning Value
readOnly The widget is read only 1<<0
required the widget is required 1<<1
noExport don't export the widget value 1<<2
noToggleToOff radios one only must be on 1<<14
radio added by the radio method 1<<15
pushButton if the button is a push button 1<<16
radiosInUnison radios with the same value toggle together 1<<25
multiline for multiline text widget 1<<12
password password textfield 1<<13
fileSelect file selection widget 1<<20
doNotSpellCheck as it says 1<<22
doNotScroll text fields do not scroll 1<<23
comb make a comb style text based on the maxlen value 1<<24
richText if rich text is used 1<<25
combo for choice fields 1<<17
edit if the choice is editable 1<<18
sort if the values should be sorted 1<<19
multiSelect if the choice allows multi-select 1<<21
commitOnSelChange not used by reportlab 1<<26

Annotation Flag Tokens and values PDF widgets are annotations and have annotation properties these are shown in the table below

Token Meaning Value
invisible The widget is not shown 1<<0
hidden The widget is hidden 1<<1
print The widget will print 1<<2
nozoom The annotation will notscale with the rendered page 1<<3
norotate The widget won't rotate with the page 1<<4
noview Don't render the widget 1<<5
readonly Widget cannot be interacted with 1<<6
locked The widget cannot be changed 1<<7
togglenoview Teh widget may be viewed after some events 1<<8
lockedcontents The contents of the widget are fixed 1<<9

Colorspace Checking

RML >= v2.5 supports a way to ensure the consistent enforcement of color models within a document. For more information on this topic, and examples of when you might want to use different scenarios, please refer to the 'Printing' chapter later in this document.

RGB, CMYK and the use of 'spot colors' such as Pantone can be allowed or disallowed using the 'colorSpace' parameter to the document tag, which can be set to the following values:

  • MIXED - The default. As in RML versions before 2.5, rgb, cmyk, spot colors and 'named' colors can all be used.
  • RGB - Permits only the use of RGB colour values.
  • CMYK - Permits only the use of CMYK colour values.
  • SEP - 'Spot Colors' only - all colour values must define a 'spotName' value.
  • SEP_BLACK - spot colors, plus shades of grey only.
  • SEP_CMYK - spot colors plus cmyk values only.

The use of any color definitions outside the specified type will result in an exception when you try to compile the document, thereby ensuring that, for instance, a document can be produced for CMYK or spot color printing without containing any RGB color definitions.

Any 'named' colours (see appendix A or 'reportlab/lib/colors.py') for black or shades of grey are automatically converted to cmyk/rgb as required. So you can use lowercase 'black' as a color in all models except 'SEP'. However, any other RML 'named' colors such as 'aqua' or 'hotpink' will not be converted.

Balanced Column

Use the BalancedColumns tag to make a flowable that splits its content flowables into two or more roughly equal sized columns. Effectively n frames are synthesized to take the content and the flowable tries to balance the content between them. The created frames will be split when the total height is too large and the split will maintain the balance.

Attributes
ncols - Sets the number of columnns content should be split
needed - Sets the minimum space needed by the flowable (default is 72 points)
spaceBefore - Sets space before the content
spaceAfter - Sets space after the content
showBoundary - Draws a boundary box around each column
leftPadding - Sets left paddings
innerPadding - Sets inner padding
rightPadding - Sets right padding
topPadding - Sets top padding
bottomPadding - Sets bottom padding

More examples here test_051_balancedcolumns.rml test_051_balancedcolumns.pdf