5 Reasons to Use the Scroll PDF Exporter

This blog post has been updated to reflect version 4.0 of Scroll PDF Exporter. Read the latest post here.

This is a guest blog post by Thomas Krug. Thomas is Senior Business Engineer and has been using Atlassian products for years. He is a user of Scroll PDF Exporter since 2009, and is the founder of the Atlassian User Group in Karlsruhe, Germany.

The question sometimes comes up "why should we use the Scroll PDF Exporter, when Confluence already has a built-in PDF exporter?

That's a perfectly fair question, and I've been asked it enough, that I thought it would be a good topic for a blog post. To be honest, it also made me think hard exactly what I wanted to say. So, here's what I came up with.

The built-in export function in Confluence works fine - it's just basic. But...

  • if you want some control over the look and feel of your exported documents
  • if you want your documentation to reflect the effort you put into writing it
  • if you prefer writing to spending your time looking for workarounds,

then, that's why you need Scroll PDF Exporter.

 


Personally I'm not the sort of person who stays on top of all the latest developments and who's using all the greatest new tools. But sometimes I change when I find something that is obviously working better for me. So, I downloaded the Boomerang Email App for my smartphone because I like having only my personal emails show up in my inbox and not the promotions, social media and updates. The point is, I stopped using the built-in mail app because I saw there was something better and it was worth it to me.

It's the same with Confluence, it comes with lots of great features, but they can't do everything. That's why the Atlassian Marketplace, and the Add-ons you find there, have been able to take Confluence to another level so quickly. Scroll PDF Exporter is part of that process.

Overview

The following table should give a short overview about the features for those who are not avid readers:

FeatureConfluence PDF ExporterScroll PDF Exporter
Export to PDF

(tick)

(tick)
CSS customization(tick)(tick)
Manage templates  

use the built in templates as they are or customize them

(error)(tick)

use your own templates

(error)(tick)

make templates available globally to everyone 

(error)(tick)
Integrate with other add ons  

works with Ad hoc Workflows

(error)(tick)

works with Scroll Versions

(error)(tick)

works with Scroll Translations

(error)(tick)
Automate document export(error)(tick)
Define custom document placeholders and metadata(error)(tick)
Output hyperlinks as text (or suppress them)(error)(tick)
Include page numbers and manage captions relating to figures(error)(tick)

Built-in export choice

There are only so many words in English, and you've seen this one before 'Scheme' but what does it mean to you when you want to export the perfect PDF? It means everything. You have an idea of what a template is right? Maybe you've used a Confluence Blueprint? OK, well, the Export Schemes are a super easy way of telling the printer how to visually style the output. You can take the content from Confluence and you can make it look anyway you want, and have many versions of the same content produced in many different ways.

Select the content you want to publish to PDF, take a look and if you're satisfied, then the job is done. If you want something changed, (say the captions with the pictures are above the images and you want them below) then you go back to the settings (for that template), select to re-position the captures and export to PDF one more time. And, you can change how Scroll PDF Exporter works without being an administrator, so finding an administrator will never slow you down. 

Version, Translate, Sign-off and Export 

Perhaps you already use one of the other Scroll products, like Scroll Versions or the new Scroll Translations. Maybe you are also an Ad Hoc Workflows user. It would be a shame to lose the work you had done with making a version, doing the translations and then getting a sign-off without then being able to use the fruit of that work when it came time to do the export to PDF. Understandably, Scroll PDF Exporter is compatible with the other Scroll add-ons, but it's also completely compatible with Ad Hoc Workflows. The same can not be said for the built-in PDF exporter. Remember I said it was 'basic', and here basic means it plays nicely alone, but doesn't like to play with the other 'kids in the playground' (so to speak).

Use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)

Scroll PDF Exporter lets you use CSS in defining your own templates. That's right. You can use your own fonts, add images and logos to your personal templates, and exactly define the output of your Confluence content.

Automating documentation export (REST API)

An event can trigger Scroll PDF Exporter to automatically produce your PDFs. Imagine you are running a build overnight and want the documentation waiting for you when you come into work in the morning. This is setup by easily copying the REST URL and inserting it into your script, and then you're done.

A place for everything and everything in its place

Author, date, company logo, brand logo, language: you name it, there's a placeholder for it. So now you can include all your specific Confluence data in your exported PDF files. 

Furthermore, if you don't see what you need, you can simply define your own placeholder using the Metadata Plugin.

You are probably close to being convinced that the Scroll PDF Exporter is going to give you a lot of powerful reasons to use it instead of the built in PDF exporter. But I still have to mention the index-functionality. There are two ways of defining index-terms: you can do it with the Indexterm-Macro, or by using labels. Both approaches allow the definition of primary, secondary, and tertiary index-terms. 

Did I say index terms was the last thing. Well it was, except for the ability to export your Table of Contents so it displays the way you want it to. You can define how many heading levels you display and how each one should be styled.

Conclusion

When I started writing this, I knew Scroll PDF Exporter was good, but now that I've finished, I realise just exactly how good it is. If you want your documentation to look good as a PDF, you should try it out. I think you'll want to keep using it. It's really good.

What's Next?

The upcoming releases will be focussed on implementing more Confluence Editor features, like text indentations, alignments, better table-handling and more. Generally a new version is released twice a month. Be prepared for the next major step in exporting Confluence content.

If there's anything you'd like to see in one of the upcoming releases - please tell the K15t team! Just leave your comments under this blogpost or vote for the corresponding JIRA issue. You know you want to...

You can try Scroll PDF Exporter for free for 30 days. 

It's easy to use and easy to get started.

If you have any questions, send an email to info@k15t.com


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