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PhantomJS vs wkhtmltopdf: What are the differences?

Differences between PhantomJS and wkhtmltopdf

PhantomJS and wkhtmltopdf are both popular tools for web scraping and converting web pages to PDF. Below are the key differences between the two:

  1. Execution Environment: PhantomJS is a headless browser that uses WebKit rendering engine, while wkhtmltopdf is a command-line tool that utilizes the WebKit engine to convert HTML to PDF.
  2. JavaScript Support: PhantomJS fully supports JavaScript, allowing dynamic web pages to be rendered and interacted with. On the other hand, wkhtmltopdf has limited JavaScript support, leading to potential inaccuracies in the conversion process.
  3. Page Rendering: PhantomJS accurately renders web pages by executing all JavaScript interactively, resulting in a faithful representation of the original page. In comparison, wkhtmltopdf's rendering process is non-interactive and may not handle complex pages with dynamic content as well.
  4. Ease of Use: PhantomJS provides a simple API for automating tasks and interacting with web pages programmatically. In contrast, wkhtmltopdf lacks such an API, requiring users to rely on command-line options for customizing the conversion process.
  5. Speed: PhantomJS generally renders pages slower than wkhtmltopdf due to its support for interactive elements. However, this slower rendering can ensure the accuracy and completeness of the final PDF output.
  6. Platform Compatibility: PhantomJS is compatible with a wide range of operating systems, including Windows, macOS, and Linux. Meanwhile, wkhtmltopdf primarily targets Linux and macOS systems, although Windows support is available but may be less stable.

In summary, PhantomJS is a more flexible and powerful tool for web scraping and page rendering, with full JavaScript support and more extensive platform compatibility. On the other hand, wkhtmltopdf is a simpler command-line tool suitable for basic HTML to PDF conversions, but with limited JavaScript support and less flexibility in customization options.

Advice on PhantomJS and wkhtmltopdf
Ankur Loriya
Needs advice

I am using Node 12 for server scripting and have a function to generate PDF and send it to a browser. Currently, we are using PhantomJS to generate a PDF. Some web post shows that we can achieve PDF generation using Puppeteer. I was a bit confused. Should we move to puppeteerJS? Which one is better with NodeJS for generating PDF?

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Replies (2)

You better go with puppeteer. It is basically chrome automation tool, written in nodejs. So what you get is PDF, generated by chrome itself. I guess there is hardly better PDF generation tool for the web. Phantomjs is already more or less outdated as technology. It uses some old webkit port that's quite behind in terms of standards and features. It can be replaced with puppeteer for every single task.

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I suggest puppeteer to go for. It is simple and easy to set up. Only limitaiton is it can be used only for chrome browser and currently they are looking into expanding into FF. The next thing is Playwright which is just a scale up of Puppeteer. It supports cross browsers.

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Pros of PhantomJS
Pros of wkhtmltopdf
  • 13
    Scriptable web browser
  • 3
    Depends on QT
  • 2
    No ECMAScript 6
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    What is PhantomJS?

    PhantomJS is a headless WebKit scriptable with JavaScript. It is used by hundreds of developers and dozens of organizations for web-related development workflow.

    What is wkhtmltopdf?

    wkhtmltopdf and wkhtmltoimage are command line tools to render HTML into PDF and various image formats using the QT Webkit rendering engine. These run entirely "headless" and do not require a display or display service.

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    What are some alternatives to PhantomJS and wkhtmltopdf?
    Selenium automates browsers. That's it! What you do with that power is entirely up to you. Primarily, it is for automating web applications for testing purposes, but is certainly not limited to just that. Boring web-based administration tasks can (and should!) also be automated as well.
    With Electron, creating a desktop application for your company or idea is easy. Initially developed for GitHub's Atom editor, Electron has since been used to create applications by companies like Microsoft, Facebook, Slack, and Docker. The Electron framework lets you write cross-platform desktop applications using JavaScript, HTML and CSS. It is based on io.js and Chromium and is used in the Atom editor.
    Protractor is an end-to-end test framework for Angular and AngularJS applications. Protractor runs tests against your application running in a real browser, interacting with it as a user would.
    It allows you to manipulate a web page with an external Javascript script: opening a webpage, clicking on links, modifying the content... It is useful to do functional tests, page automation, network monitoring, screen capture etc.
    Puppeteer is a Node library which provides a high-level API to control headless Chrome over the DevTools Protocol. It can also be configured to use full (non-headless) Chrome.
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