Quality assurance and PDF comparison

To assure that new versions of the speedata Publisher produce the exact the same results as before, it has a built in functionality to check for unwanted changes of behavior.

The idea is as follows: with a layout file and a “good” result (a reference PDF) the publisher can check whether the current version of the publisher gets the same result. For that one has to create a layout and data XML file, run the speedata Publisher and save the result under the name reference.pdf. When the publisher is invoked with sp compare <directory> it will re-create the document and compare, page by page, if the resulting PDF is visually the same as the previously created file reference.pdf.

Prerequisites for the comparison

The speedata publisher searches recursively from the given directory for directories that contain the file layout.xml or publisher.cfg. In these directories a new publisher run will be started. The layout file must be named layout.xml, the data file must be named data.xml unless configured otherwise in the optional configuration file publisher.cfg.

The PDF comparison requires an installation of the free software ImageMagick, that is able to manipulate and compare images without user interaction. ImageMagick is available for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and other platforms.

How to use sp compare

Having a layout and a data file you create the PDF as usual. The easiest way is to create it directly with the name reference.pdf.

sp --jobname reference

creates the correct PDF file. With

sp --jobname reference clean

the redundant and not needed temporary files are removed. The directory now looks like this:

example/
├── data.xml
├── layout.xml
└── reference.pdf
 
0 directories, 3 files

When you run sp compare example, no error messages should be given in the output:

$ sp compare example/
Total run time: 1.62956s

If a future version of the publisher introduces a visual change of the layout, the output would be something like this:

$ sp compare example/
/path/to/example
Comparison failed. Bad pages are: [0]
Max delta is 2162.760009765625
Total run time: 862.898ms

The differences are available as a PNG file in the directory:

example/
├── data.xml
├── layout.xml
├── pagediff.png
├── publisher.pdf
├── reference.pdf
├── reference.png
└── source.png

The files source.png and reference.png (with documents that contain more than one page the file name looks like this: source-1.png) contain the current version and the reference as a bitmap graphic. The file pagediff.png (same numbering scheme as above) contains the highlighted differences between the two former files.

Quality assurance

The facilities of the PDF comparison can be used to create a collection of sample documents, that are typical for production documents. The practice is now to install a directory structure as follows:

qa/
├── example1
│   ├── data.xml
│   ├── layout.xml
│   └── reference.pdf
├── example2
│   ├── data.xml
│   ├── layout.xml
│   └── reference.pdf
├── example3
│   ├── data.xml
│   ├── layout.xml
│   └── reference.pdf
├── example4
│   ├── data.xml
│   ├── layout.xml
│   └── reference.pdf
└── example5
    ├── data.xml
    ├── layout.xml
    └── reference.pdf

When you run sp compare qa all subdirectories are visited and checked. In the best case the output is:

$ sp compare qa/
Total run time: 4.541458s
Version: 3.5.6 | Start page | Element reference | Other language: German