I’ve been playing with using PrinceXML to generate PDF’s in my Rails applications. PrinceXML takes HTML/CSS as input so there is no need to create seperate HTML and PDF templates which the usual way with other libaries such as Prawn_to. The only downside to PrinceXML is its commercially licensed and can be quite expensive depending on your usage.

That aside I used the princely library for Rails which wraps PrinceXML allowing me to render PDF views with a few lines of code. The only problem was that it did not work when using Passenger. Mongrel however was fine. The error I was getting was:

Cannot find prince command-line app in $PATH

The problem as I eventually found out was that Passenger does not run in a shell context like Mongrel so does not have the usual environment paths. My solution is not battle tested more of a quick fix. I add the path to prince to ENV[‘path’] in environment.rb, right at the bottom of the file.

shell ENV['PATH'] = ENV['PATH'] + ':/usr/local/bin'

Of course I will need to make the path configurable at some point to accomerdate other setups.