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Python bindings to PDFium

Project description



pypdfium2 is an ABI-level Python 3 binding to PDFium, a powerful and liberal-licensed library for PDF rendering, inspection, manipulation and creation.

This bindings project is built using ctypesgen and external PDFium binaries. Its custom setup infrastructure provides a seamless packaging and installation process. A wide range of platforms is supported with wheel packages.

pypdfium2 includes helpers to simplify common use cases, while the raw PDFium/ctypes API remains accessible as well.


  • Installing the latest PyPI release (recommended)

    python3 -m pip install -U pypdfium2

    This will use a pre-built wheel package, the easiest way of installing pypdfium2.

  • Installing from source

    • With an external PDFium binary

      # In the directory containing the source code of pypdfium2
      python3 -m pip install .
    • With a locally built PDFium binary

      python3 setupsrc/pypdfium2_setup/  # call with --help to list options
      PDFIUM_PLATFORM="sourcebuild" python3 -m pip install .

      Building PDFium may take a long time because it comes with its own toolchain and bundled dependencies, rather than using system-provided components.[^pdfium_buildsystem]

    The host system needs to provide git and a C pre-processor (gcc or clang). Setup code also depends on the Python packages ctypesgen, wheel, and setuptools, which will usually get installed automatically.

    When installing from source, some additional options of the pip package manager may be relevant:

    • -v: Request more detailed logging output. Useful for debugging.
    • -e: Install in editable mode, so that the installation will point to the source tree. This way, changes directly take effect without needing to re-install. Recommended for development.
    • --no-build-isolation: Do not isolate the installation in a virtual environment and use system packages instead. In this case, dependencies specified in pyproject.toml (PEP 518) will not take effect and should be pre-installed by the caller. This is an indispensable option if wanting to run the installation with custom versions of setup dependencies.[^no_build_isolation]

    [^pdfium_buildsystem]: Replacing PDFium's toolchain with a lean build system that is designed to run on an arbitrary host platform is a long-standing task. This would be required to enable local source build capabilities on installation of an sdist. If you have the time and expertise to set up such a build system, please start a repository and inform us about it.

    [^no_build_isolation]: Possible scenarios include using a locally modified version of a dependency, or supplying a dependency built from a certain commit.

  • Installing an unofficial distribution

    To the authors' knowledge, there currently are no other distributions of pypdfium2 apart from the official wheel releases on PyPI and GitHub. There is no conda package yet. So far, pypdfium2 has not been included in any operating system repositories. While we are interested in cooperation with external package maintainers to make this possible, the authors of this project have no control over and are not responsible for third-party distributions of pypdfium2.

Setup magic

As pypdfium2 uses external binaries, there are some special setup aspects to consider.

  • Binaries are stored in platform-specific sub-directories of data/, along with bindings and version information.
  • The environment variable $PDFIUM_PLATFORM controls which binary to include on setup.
    • If unset or auto, the host platform is detected and a corresponding binary will be selected. By default, the latest pdfium-binaries release is used, otherwise $PDFIUM_VERSION may be set to request a specific one. Moreover, $PDFIUM_USE_V8=1 may be set to use the V8 (JavaScript) enabled binaries. (If matching platform files already exist in the data/ cache, they will be reused as-is.)
    • If set to a certain platform identifier, binaries for the requested platform will be used.[^platform_ids] In this case, platform files will not be downloaded/generated automatically, but need to be supplied beforehand using the script.
    • If set to sourcebuild, binaries will be taken from the location where the build script places its artefacts, assuming a prior run of
    • If set to none, no platform-dependent files will be injected, so as to create a source distribution.

[^platform_ids]: This is mainly of internal interest for packaging, so that wheels can be crafted for any platform without access to a native host.

Runtime Dependencies

pypdfium2 does not have any mandatory runtime dependencies apart from Python and its standard library.

However, some optional support model features require additional packages:

  • Pillow (module name PIL) is a highly pouplar imaging library for Python. pypdfium2 provides convenience methods to directly take or return PIL image objects when dealing with raster graphics.
  • NumPy is a library for scientific computing. Similar to Pillow, pypdfium2 provides helpers to get raster graphics in the form of multidimensional numpy arrays.


Support model

Here are some examples of using the support model API.

  • Import the library

    import pypdfium2 as pdfium
  • Open a PDF using the helper class PdfDocument (supports file path strings, bytes, and byte buffers)

    pdf = pdfium.PdfDocument("./path/to/document.pdf")
    version = pdf.get_version()  # get the PDF standard version
    n_pages = len(pdf)  # get the number of pages in the document
  • Render multiple pages concurrently

    page_indices = [i for i in range(n_pages)]  # all pages
    renderer = pdf.render(
        page_indices = page_indices,
        scale = 300/72,  # 300dpi resolution
    for i, image in zip(page_indices, renderer):"out_%0*d.jpg" % (n_digits, i))
  • Read the table of contents

    for item in pdf.get_toc():
        state = "*" if item.n_kids == 0 else "-" if item.is_closed else "+"
        target = "?" if item.page_index is None else item.page_index+1
            "    " * item.level +
            "[%s] %s -> %s  # %s %s" % (
                state, item.title, target, item.view_mode,
                [round(c, n_digits) for c in item.view_pos],
  • Load a page to work with

    page = pdf[0]
    # Get page dimensions in PDF canvas units (1pt->1/72in by default)
    width, height = page.get_size()
    # Set the absolute page rotation to 90° clockwise
    # Locate objects on the page
    for obj in page.get_objects():
        print(obj.level, obj.type, obj.get_pos())
  • Render a single page

    bitmap = page.render(
        scale = 1,    # 72dpi resolution
        rotation = 0, # no additional rotation
        # ... further rendering options
    pil_image = bitmap.to_pil()
  • Extract and search text

    # Load a text page helper
    textpage = page.get_textpage()
    # Extract text from the whole page
    text_all = textpage.get_text_range()
    # Extract text from a specific rectangular area
    text_part = textpage.get_text_bounded(left=50, bottom=100, right=width-50, top=height-100)
    # Locate text on the page
    searcher ="something", match_case=False, match_whole_word=False)
    # This returns the next occurrence as (char_index, char_count), or None if not found
    first_occurrence = searcher.get_next()
  • Create a new PDF with an empty A4 sized page

    pdf =
    width, height = (595, 842)
    page_a = pdf.new_page(width, height)
  • Include a JPEG image in a PDF

    pdf =
    image =
    width, height = image.get_size()
    matrix = pdfium.PdfMatrix().scale(width, height)
    page = pdf.new_page(width, height)
  • Save the document

    # PDF 1.7 standard"output.pdf", version=17)

Raw PDFium API

While helper classes conveniently wrap the raw PDFium API, it may still be accessed directly and is available in the namespace pypdfium2.raw. Lower-level helpers that may aid with using the raw API are provided in pypdfium2.internal.

import pypdfium2.raw as pdfium_c
import pypdfium2.internal as pdfium_i

Since PDFium is a large library, many components are not covered by helpers yet. You may seamlessly interact with the raw API while still using helpers where available. When used as ctypes function parameter, helper objects automatically resolve to the underlying raw object (but you may still access it explicitly if desired):

permission_flags = pdfium_c.FPDF_GetDocPermission(pdf.raw)  # explicit
permission_flags = pdfium_c.FPDF_GetDocPermission(pdf)      # implicit

For PDFium documentation, please look at the comments in its public header files.[^pdfium_docs] A large variety of examples on how to interface with the raw API using ctypes is already provided with support model source code. Nonetheless, the following guide may be helpful to get started with the raw API, especially for developers who are not familiar with ctypes yet.

[^pdfium_docs]: Unfortunately, no recent HTML-rendered documentation is available for PDFium at the moment.

  • In general, PDFium functions can be called just like normal Python functions. However, parameters may only be passed positionally, i. e. it is not possible to use keyword arguments. There are no defaults, so you always need to provide a value for each argument.
    # arguments: filepath (bytes), password (bytes|None)
    # null-terminate filepath and encode as UTF-8
    pdf = pdfium_c.FPDF_LoadDocument((filepath+"\x00").encode("utf-8"), None)
    This is the underlying bindings declaration,[^bindings_decl] which loads the function from the binary and contains the information required to convert Python types to their C equivalents.
    if _libs["pdfium"].has("FPDF_LoadDocument", "cdecl"):
        FPDF_LoadDocument = _libs["pdfium"].get("FPDF_LoadDocument", "cdecl")
        FPDF_LoadDocument.argtypes = [FPDF_STRING, FPDF_BYTESTRING]
        FPDF_LoadDocument.restype = FPDF_DOCUMENT
    Python bytes are converted to FPDF_STRING by ctypes autoconversion. When passing a string to a C function, it must always be null-terminated, as the function merely receives a pointer to the first item and then continues to read memory until it finds a null terminator.

[^bindings_decl]: From the auto-generated bindings file, which is not part of the repository. It is built into wheels, or created on installation. If you have an editable install, the bindings file may be found at src/

  • While some functions are quite easy to use, things soon get more complex. First of all, function parameters are not only used for input, but also for output:

    # Initialise an integer object (defaults to 0)
    c_version = ctypes.c_int()
    # Let the function assign a value to the c_int object, and capture its return code (True for success, False for failure)
    ok = pdfium_c.FPDF_GetFileVersion(pdf, c_version)
    # If successful, get the Python int by accessing the `value` attribute of the c_int object
    # Otherwise, set the variable to None (in other cases, it may be desired to raise an exception instead)
    version = c_version.value if ok else None
  • If an array is required as output parameter, you can initialise one like this (conceived in general terms):

    # long form
    array_type = (c_type * array_length)
    array_object = array_type()
    # short form
    array_object = (c_type * array_length)()

    Example: Getting view mode and target position from a destination object returned by some other function.

    # (Assuming `dest` is an FPDF_DEST)
    n_params = ctypes.c_ulong()
    # Create a C array to store up to four coordinates
    view_pos = (pdfium_c.FS_FLOAT * 4)()
    view_mode = pdfium_c.FPDFDest_GetView(dest, n_params, view_pos)
    # Convert the C array to a Python list and cut it down to the actual number of coordinates
    view_pos = list(view_pos)[:n_params.value]
  • For string output parameters, callers needs to provide a sufficiently long, pre-allocated buffer. This may work differently depending on what type the function requires, which encoding is used, whether the number of bytes or characters is returned, and whether space for a null terminator is included or not. Carefully review the documentation for the function in question to fulfill its requirements.

    Example A: Getting the title string of a bookmark.

    # (Assuming `bookmark` is an FPDF_BOOKMARK)
    # First call to get the required number of bytes (not characters!), including space for a null terminator
    n_bytes = pdfium_c.FPDFBookmark_GetTitle(bookmark, None, 0)
    # Initialise the output buffer
    buffer = ctypes.create_string_buffer(n_bytes)
    # Second call with the actual buffer
    pdfium_c.FPDFBookmark_GetTitle(bookmark, buffer, n_bytes)
    # Decode to string, cutting off the null terminator
    # Encoding: UTF-16LE (2 bytes per character)
    title = buffer.raw[:n_bytes-2].decode('utf-16-le')

    Example B: Extracting text in given boundaries.

    # (Assuming `textpage` is an FPDF_TEXTPAGE and the boundary variables are set)
    # Store common arguments for the two calls
    args = (textpage, left, top, right, bottom)
    # First call to get the required number of characters (not bytes!) - a possible null terminator is not included
    n_chars = pdfium_c.FPDFText_GetBoundedText(*args, None, 0)
    # If no characters were found, return an empty string
    if n_chars <= 0:
        return ""
    # Calculate the required number of bytes (UTF-16LE encoding again)
    n_bytes = 2 * n_chars
    # Initialise the output buffer - this function can work without null terminator, so skip it
    buffer = ctypes.create_string_buffer(n_bytes)
    # Re-interpret the type from char to unsigned short as required by the function
    buffer_ptr = ctypes.cast(buffer, ctypes.POINTER(ctypes.c_ushort))
    # Second call with the actual buffer
    pdfium_c.FPDFText_GetBoundedText(*args, buffer_ptr, n_chars)
    # Decode to string (You may want to pass `errors="ignore"` to skip possible errors in the PDF's encoding)
    text = buffer.raw.decode("utf-16-le")
  • Not only are there different ways of string output that need to be handled according to the requirements of the function in question. String input, too, can work differently depending on encoding and type. We have already discussed FPDF_LoadDocument(), which takes a UTF-8 encoded string as char *. A different examples is FPDFText_FindStart(), which needs a UTF-16LE encoded string, given as unsigned short *:

    # (Assuming `text` is a str and `textpage` an FPDF_TEXTPAGE)
    # Add the null terminator and encode as UTF-16LE
    enc_text = (text + "\x00").encode("utf-16-le")
    # cast `enc_text` to a c_ushort pointer
    text_ptr = ctypes.cast(enc_text, ctypes.POINTER(ctypes.c_ushort))
    search = pdfium_c.FPDFText_FindStart(textpage, text_ptr, 0, 0)
  • Leaving strings, let's suppose you have a C memory buffer allocated by PDFium and wish to read its data. PDFium will provide you with a pointer to the first item of the byte array. To access the data, you'll want to re-interpret the pointer using ctypes.cast() to encompass the whole array:

    # (Assuming `bitmap` is an FPDF_BITMAP and `size` is the expected number of bytes in the buffer)
    first_item = pdfium_c.FPDFBitmap_GetBuffer(bitmap)
    buffer = ctypes.cast(first_item, ctypes.POINTER(ctypes.c_ubyte * size))
    # Buffer as ctypes array (referencing the original buffer, will be unavailable as soon as the bitmap is destroyed)
    c_array = buffer.contents
    # Buffer as Python bytes (independent copy)
    data = bytes(c_array)
  • Writing data from Python into a C buffer works in a similar fashion:

    # (Assuming `first_item` is a pointer to the first item of a C buffer to write into,
    #  `size` the number of bytes it can store, and `py_buffer` a Python byte buffer)
    c_buffer = ctypes.cast(first_item, ctypes.POINTER(ctypes.c_char * size))
    # Read from the Python buffer, starting at its current position, directly into the C buffer
    # (until the target is full or the end of the source is reached)
    n_bytes = py_buffer.readinto(c_buffer.contents)  # returns the number of bytes read
  • If you wish to check whether two objects returned by PDFium are the same, the is operator won't help you because ctypes does not have original object return (OOR), i. e. new, equivalent Python objects are created each time, although they might represent one and the same C object.[^ctypes_no_oor] That's why you'll want to use ctypes.addressof() to get the memory addresses of the underlying C object. For instance, this is used to avoid infinite loops on circular bookmark references when iterating through the document outline:

    # (Assuming `pdf` is an FPDF_DOCUMENT)
    seen = set()
    bookmark = pdfium_c.FPDFBookmark_GetFirstChild(pdf, None)
    while bookmark:
        # bookmark is a pointer, so we need to use its `contents` attribute to get the object the pointer refers to
        # (otherwise we'd only get the memory address of the pointer itself, which would result in random behaviour)
        address = ctypes.addressof(bookmark.contents)
        if address in seen:
            break  # circular reference detected
        bookmark = pdfium_c.FPDFBookmark_GetNextSibling(pdf, bookmark)

    [^ctypes_no_oor]: Confer the ctypes documentation on Pointers.

  • In many situations, callback functions come in handy.[^callback_usecases] Thanks to ctypes, it is seamlessly possible to use callbacks across Python/C language boundaries.

    [^callback_usecases]: e. g. incremental reading/writing, progress bars, pausing of progressive tasks, ...

    Example: Loading a document from a Python buffer. This way, file access can be controlled in Python while the whole data does not need to be in memory at once.

    # Factory class to create callable objects holding a reference to a Python buffer
    class _reader_class:
      def __init__(self, py_buffer):
          self.py_buffer = py_buffer
      def __call__(self, _, position, p_buf, size):
          # Write data from Python buffer into C buffer, as explained before
          c_buffer = ctypes.cast(p_buf, ctypes.POINTER(ctypes.c_char * size))

          return 1  # non-zero return code for success
    # (Assuming py_buffer is a Python file buffer, e. g. io.BufferedReader)
    # Get the length of the buffer, 2)
    file_len = py_buffer.tell()
    # Set up an interface structure for custom file access
    fileaccess = pdfium_c.FPDF_FILEACCESS()
    fileaccess.m_FileLen = file_len
    # Option A) Assign callback via lower-level helper (recommended)
    # This automates extracting the CFUNCTYPE from the bindings and wrapping the callable
    pdfium_i.set_callback(fileaccess, "m_GetBlock", _reader_class(py_buffer))
    # Option B) Alternatively, you could copy-paste the CFUNCTYPE (discouraged)
    functype = ctypes.CFUNCTYPE(ctypes.c_int, ctypes.POINTER(None), ctypes.c_ulong, ctypes.POINTER(ctypes.c_ubyte), ctypes.c_ulong)
    fileaccess.m_GetBlock = functype( _reader_class(py_buffer) )
    # Finally, load the document
    pdf = pdfium_c.FPDF_LoadCustomDocument(fileaccess, None)
  • When using the raw API, special care needs to be taken regarding object lifetime, considering that Python may garbage collect objects as soon as their reference count reaches zero. However, the interpreter has no way of magically knowing how long the underlying resources of a Python object might still be needed on the C side, so measures need to be taken to keep such objects referenced until PDFium does not depend on them anymore.

    If resources need to remain valid after the time of a function call, PDFium documentation usually indicates this clearly. Ignoring requirements on object lifetime will lead to memory corruption (commonly resulting in a segmentation fault).

    For instance, the documentation on FPDF_LoadCustomDocument() states that

    The application must keep the file resources |pFileAccess| points to valid until the returned FPDF_DOCUMENT is closed. |pFileAccess| itself does not need to outlive the FPDF_DOCUMENT.

    This means that the callback function and the Python buffer need to be kept alive as long as the FPDF_DOCUMENT is used. This can be achieved by referencing these objects in an accompanying class, e. g.

    class PdfDataHolder:
        def __init__(self, buffer, function):
            self.buffer = buffer
            self.function = function
        def close(self):
            # Make sure both objects remain available until this function is called
            # No-op id() call to denote that the object needs to stay in memory up to this point
    # ... set up an FPDF_FILEACCESS structure
    # (Assuming `py_buffer` is the buffer and `fileaccess` the FPDF_FILEACCESS interface)
    data_holder = PdfDataHolder(py_buffer, fileaccess.m_GetBlock)
    pdf = pdfium_c.FPDF_LoadCustomDocument(fileaccess, None)
    # ... work with the pdf
    # Close the PDF to free resources
    # Close the data holder, to keep the object itself and thereby the objects it
    # references alive up to this point, as well as to release the buffer
  • Finally, let's finish this guide with an example on how to render the first page of a document to a PIL image in RGBA color format.

    import math
    import ctypes
    import os.path
    import PIL.Image
    import pypdfium2.raw as pdfium_c
    # Load the document
    filepath = os.path.abspath("tests/resources/render.pdf")
    pdf = pdfium_c.FPDF_LoadDocument((filepath+"\x00").encode("utf-8"), None)
    # Check page count to make sure it was loaded correctly
    page_count = pdfium_c.FPDF_GetPageCount(pdf)
    assert page_count >= 1
    # Load the first page and get its dimensions
    page = pdfium_c.FPDF_LoadPage(pdf, 0)
    width  = math.ceil(pdfium_c.FPDF_GetPageWidthF(page))
    height = math.ceil(pdfium_c.FPDF_GetPageHeightF(page))
    # Create a bitmap
    use_alpha = False  # We don't render with transparent background
    bitmap = pdfium_c.FPDFBitmap_Create(width, height, int(use_alpha))
    # Fill the whole bitmap with a white background
    # The color is given as a 32-bit integer in ARGB format (8 bits per channel)
    pdfium_c.FPDFBitmap_FillRect(bitmap, 0, 0, width, height, 0xFFFFFFFF)
    # Store common rendering arguments
    render_args = (
        bitmap,  # the bitmap
        page,    # the page
        # positions and sizes are to be given in pixels and may exceed the bitmap
        0,       # left start position
        0,       # top start position
        width,   # horizontal size
        height,  # vertical size
        0,       # rotation (as constant, not in degrees!)
        pdfium_c.FPDF_LCD_TEXT | pdfium_c.FPDF_ANNOT,  # rendering flags, combined with binary or
    # Render the page
    # Get a pointer to the first item of the buffer
    first_item = pdfium_c.FPDFBitmap_GetBuffer(bitmap)
    # Re-interpret the pointer to encompass the whole buffer
    buffer = ctypes.cast(first_item, ctypes.POINTER(ctypes.c_ubyte * (width * height * 4)))
    # Create a PIL image from the buffer contents
    img = PIL.Image.frombuffer("RGBA", (width, height), buffer.contents, "raw", "BGRA", 0, 1)
    # Save it as file"out.png")
    # Free resources

Command-line Interface

pypdfium2 also ships with a simple command-line interface, providing access to key features of the support model in a shell environment (e. g. rendering, content extraction, document inspection, page rearranging, ...).

The primary motivation behind this is to have a nice testing interface, but it may be helpful in a variety of other situations as well. Usage should be largely self-explanatory, assuming a minimum of familiarity with the command-line.


PDFium and pypdfium2 are available by the terms and conditions of either Apache-2.0 or BSD-3-Clause, at your choice. Various other open-source licenses apply to dependencies bundled with PDFium. Verbatim copies of their respective licenses are contained in the file LicenseRef-PdfiumThirdParty.txt, which also has to be shipped with binary redistributions. Documentation and examples of pypdfium2 are licensed under CC-BY-4.0.

pypdfium2 complies with the reuse standard by including SPDX headers in source files, and license information for data files in .reuse/dep5.

To the author's knowledge, pypdfium2 is one of the rare Python libraries that are capable of PDF rendering while not being covered by copyleft licenses (such as the GPL).[^liberal_pdf_renderlibs]

As of early 2023, a single developer is author and rightsholder of the code base (apart from a few minor code contributions).

[^liberal_pdf_renderlibs]: The only other liberal-licensed PDF rendering libraries known to the authors are pdf.js (JavaScript) and Apache PDFBox (Java). pdf.js is limited to a web environment. Creating Python bindings to PDFBox might be possible but there is no serious solution yet (apart from amateurish wrappers around its command-line API).


While using pypdfium2, you might encounter bugs or missing features. In this case, please file an issue report. Remember to include applicable details such as tracebacks, operating system and CPU architecture, as well as the versions of pypdfium2 and used dependencies.

In case your issue could be tracked down to a third-party dependency, we will accompany or conduct subsequent measures.

Here is a roadmap of relevant places:

  • pypdfium2
    • Issues panel: Initial reports of specific issues. May need to be transferred to other projects if not caused by or fixable in pypdfium2 code alone.
    • Discussions page: General questions and suggestions.
    • In case you do not want to publicly disclose the issue or your code, you may also contact the maintainers privately via e-mail.
  • PDFium
    • Bug tracker: Defects in PDFium. Beware: The bridge between Python and C increases the probability of integration issues or API misuse. The symptoms can often make it look like a PDFium bug while it is not. In some cases, this may be quite difficult to distinguish.
    • Mailing list: Questions regarding PDFium usage.
  • pdfium-binaries: Binary builder.
  • ctypesgen: Bindings generator.

Known limitations

pypdfium2 also has some drawbacks, of which you will be informed below.

Incompatibility with CPython 3.7.6 and 3.8.1

pypdfium2 built with mainstream ctypesgen cannot be used with releases 3.7.6 and 3.8.1 of the CPython interpreter due to a regression that broke ctypesgen-created string handling code.

However, we are currently making efforts to remove ctypesgen's wonky string code. Since version 4, pypdfium2 releases will be built with a patched variant of ctypesgen.

Risk of unknown object lifetime violations

As outlined in the raw API section, it is essential that Python-managed resources remain available as long as they are needed by PDFium.

The problem is that the Python interpreter may garbage collect objects with reference count zero at any time. Thus, it can happen that an unreferenced but still required object by chance stays around long enough before it is garbage collected. Such dangling objects are likely to cause non-deterministic segmentation faults. If the timeframe between reaching reference count zero and removal is sufficiently large and roughly consistent across different runs, it is even possible that mistakes regarding object lifetime remain unnoticed for a long time.

Although great care has been taken while developing the support model, it cannot be fully excluded that unknown object lifetime violations are still lurking around somewhere, especially if unexpected requirements were not documented by the time the code was written.

Missing raw PDF access

As of this writing, PDFium's public interface does not provide access to the raw PDF data structure (see issue 1694). It does not expose APIs to read/write PDF dictionaries, streams, name/number trees, etc. Instead, it merely offers a predefined set of abstracted functions. This considerably limits the library's potential, compared to other products such as pikepdf.

Theoretically, PDFium's non-public backend would provide these capabilities, but it is not exported into the ABI and written in C++ (not pure C), so we cannot access it with ctypes. This means it's out of scope for this project.

Drawbacks of ABI level bindings

While ABI FFI bindings tend to be more convenient, they do have technical drawbacks compared to API bindings. See here for further information.


This section contains some key information relevant for project maintainers.


pypdfium2 provides API documentation using Sphinx. It can be rendered to various formats, including HTML:

sphinx-build -b html ./docs/source ./docs/build/html/

Built documentation is primarily hosted on It may be configured using a .readthedocs.yaml file (see instructions), and the administration page on the web interface. RTD supports hosting multiple versions, so we currently have one linked to the main branch and another to stable. New builds are automatically triggered by a webhook whenever you push to a linked branch.

Additionally, one documentation build can also be hosted on GitHub Pages. It is implemented with a CI workflow, which is currently linked to main and triggered on push as well. This provides us with full control over the build environment and the used commands, whereas RTD is kind of limited in this regard.


pypdfium2 contains a small test suite to verify the library's functionality. It is written with pytest:

python3 -m pytest tests/ tests_old/

Note that ...

  • you can pass -sv to get more detailed output.
  • $DEBUG_AUTOCLOSE=1 may be set to get debugging information on automatic object finalization.

To get code coverage statistics, you can run

make coverage

Sometimes, it can also be helpful to test code on many PDFs.[^testing_corpora] In this case, the command-line interface and find come in handy:

# Example A: Analyse PDF images (in the current working directory)
find . -name '*.pdf' -exec bash -c "echo \"{}\" && pypdfium2 pageobjects \"{}\" --types image" \;
# Example B: Parse PDF table of contents
find . -name '*.pdf' -exec bash -c "echo \"{}\" && pypdfium2 toc \"{}\"" \;

[^testing_corpora]: For instance, one could use the testing corpora of open-source PDF libraries (pdfium, pikepdf/ocrmypdf, mupdf/ghostscript, tika/pdfbox, pdfjs, ...)

Release workflow

The release process is fully automated using Python scripts and a CI setup for GitHub Actions. A new release is triggered every Tuesday, one day after pdfium-binaries. You may also trigger the workflow manually using the GitHub Actions panel or the gh command-line tool.

Python release scripts are located in the folder setupsrc/pypdfium2_setup, along with custom setup code:

  • downloads binaries and generates the bindings.
  • builds platform-specific wheel packages and a source distribution suitable for PyPI upload.
  • takes care of versioning, changelog, release note generation and VCS checkin.

The autorelease script has some peculiarities maintainers should know about:

  • The changelog for the next release shall be written into docs/devel/ On release, it will be moved into the main changelog under docs/source/, annotated with the PDFium version update. It will also be shown on the GitHub release page.
  • pypdfium2 versioning uses the pattern major.minor.patch, optionally with an appended beta mark (e. g. 2.7.1, 2.11.0, 3.0.0b1, ...). Version changes are based on the following logic:
    • If PDFium was updated, the minor version is incremented.
    • If only pypdfium2 code was updated, the patch version is incremented instead.
    • Major updates and beta marks are controlled via empty files in the autorelease/ directory. If update_major.txt exists, the major version is incremented. If update_beta.txt exists, a new beta tag is set, or an existing one is incremented. These files are removed automatically once the release is finished.
    • If switching from a beta release to a non-beta release, only the beta mark is removed while minor and patch versions remain unchanged.

In case of necessity, you may also forego autorelease/CI and do the release manually, which will roughly work like this (though ideally it should never be needed):

  • Commit changes to the version file
    git add src/pypdfium2/
    git commit -m "increment version"
    git push
  • Create a new tag that matches the version file
    # substitute $VERSION accordingly
    git tag -a $VERSION
    git push --tags
  • Build the packages
    python3 setupsrc/pypdfium2_setup/
    python3 setupsrc/pypdfium2_setup/
  • Upload to PyPI
    # make sure the packages are valid
    twine check dist/*
    # upload to PyPI (this will interactively ask for your username/password)
    twine upload dist/*
  • Update the stable branch to trigger a documentation rebuild
    git checkout stable
    git rebase origin/main  # alternatively: git reset --hard main
    git checkout main

If something went wrong with commit or tag, you can still revert the changes:

# perform an interactive rebase to change history (substitute $N_COMMITS with the number of commits to drop or modify)
git rebase -i HEAD~$N_COMMITS
git push --force
# delete local tag (substitute $TAGNAME accordingly)
git tag -d $TAGNAME
# delete remote tag
git push --delete origin $TAGNAME

Faulty PyPI releases may be yanked using the web interface.

Thanks to[^thanks_to]

... and further code contributors (GitHub stats).

If you have somehow contributed to this project but we forgot to mention you here, please let us know.

[^thanks_to]: People listed in this section may not necessarily have contributed any copyrightable code to the repository. Some have rather helped with ideas, or contributions to dependencies of pypdfium2.



The PDFium code base was originally developped as part of the commercial Foxit SDK, before being acquired and open-sourced by Google, which maintains PDFium independently ever since, while Foxit continue to develop their SDK closed-source.


pypdfium2 is the successor of pypdfium and pypdfium-reboot.

Inspired by wowpng, the first known proof of concept Python binding to PDFium using ctypesgen, the initial pypdfium package was created. It had to be updated manually, which did not happen frequently. There were no platform-specific wheels, but only a single wheel that contained binaries for 64-bit Linux, Windows and macOS.

pypdfium-reboot then added a script to automate binary deployment and bindings generation to simplify regular updates. However, it was still not platform specific.

pypdfium2 is a full rewrite of pypdfium-reboot to build platform-specific wheels and consolidate the setup scripts. Further additions include ...

  • A CI workflow to automatically release new wheels every Tuesday
  • Support models that conveniently wrap the raw PDFium/ctypes API
  • Test code
  • A script to build PDFium from source

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