March 5, 2015

callas software GmbH releases pdfChip - a quick test

Quick test of a new PDF converter supporting CSS Paged Media.

callas software GmbH released today their pdfChip PDF converter product that follows the same CSS Paged Media approach. We are using CSS Paged Media converters like PrinceXML or PDFreactor for years for generating high-quality PDF documents from XML and HTML content. As an expert in this field I did some quick tests with  the new converter based on real-world customer content that are running our Produce & Publish solution in production for years.

Quick results

  • the feature set of pdfChip is comparable to where PrinceXML and PDFreactor were two or three years ago
  • PDF quality is ok but behind other tools due to missing features like build-in hyphenation
  • no build-in hyphenation support (except using Javascript)
  • no multi-column support (documented)
  • no flexbox support (at least undocumented)
  • no support for page regions, named pages (at least undocumented)
  • no footnote support (at least undocumented)
  • does not seem to implement all the CSS (3) features that we see in decent versions of PrinceXML and PDFreactor (CSS dot leaders missing, hyphenation, no repetitive table headers when a table spans multiple pages)
  • Poor documentation
  • Worth the money? Definitely NO. This product is completely overpriced. The smallest version pdfChip S costs 5000 EUR + VAT and allows to generate documents with up to 25 (twenty five) pages only! The next bigger version supports up to 250 pages per document for 10.000 EUR + VAT. Our customers have in general between 1 and 250 10.000 is a huge investment. The unlimited version costs 25.000 EUR. Even Antennahouse Formatter offering much more features and much better typographical quality for a better price. Our tools (PDFreactor, PrinceXML) are in the price range from 2.250 EUR to 3800 USD with almost no restrictions (except: requires a box with 4 or less CPUs). So you have to pay a three or four times higher price for a tool with less features and many restrictions? I think this ridiculous.


The statement "The Paged Media Module is currently not supported by pdfChip" makes it clear that pdfChip does not want to support the defacto standard for HTML/CSS based publishing or only to a certain degree. pdfChip appears half-baked and essential features that exist in other tools for years are missing. Unfortunately this product is also marketed as being superior over all other tools. This is not the case. There are better and cheaper alternatives.

Update (20.10.2015)

Even half a year after the first evaluation there is no progress visible. The product remains completely overpriced. Interesting enough: half of the documentation covers barcodes...well, this software seems to be a very expensive barcode generator. As written in my original positing: there are better alternatives. We really hope that alternative projects like Vivliostyle catch up fast in order to provide better and cheaper alternatives. Well, PrinceXML and PDFreactor are obviously superior.

Feel free to contact us for CSS Paged Media consulting.