Wikipedia web content to PDFs and books on demand with ReportLab
Wikipedia, the gigantic free encyclopedia has a massive presence online. It's one of the most popular sites on the web, and with 14 million articles, it's the largest encyclopedia ever assembled.
You may have noticed a link which appears on the left hand side of every page on the site. Click 'Download as PDF' and Wikipedia will instantly generate a formatted, PDF version of the article or category you are reading. The power behind the button? ReportLab.
PDF functionality was first rolled out in 2008 on the German site and was extended to the English language sites in 2010. It now generates around 100,000 documents every single day in a large number of European languages and scripts, using Latin and Cyrillic character sets. We're working on adding support for 'right-to-left' languages such as Arabic and Hebrew to our open-source software, which will allow Wikipedia to extend this feature even further.
Operating on 3 servers with a total of 40 processor cores, it's a very public vote of confidence in the rock-solid reliability, speed and scalability of ReportLab's codebase.
If you need more than just a PDF, we can help there too. The Wikipedia Book Creator is a function which allows you to collect content from across the site, and compile it into a book with a cover and a table of contents. Developed by the German company PediaPress as a plugin for the MediaWiki software that powers Wikipedia, the feature uses ReportLab technology under the hood.
As keen users of Python, PediaPress found ReportLab while looking for alternatives to the typesetting system TeX, which would have been far too slow for a web based solution. Apart from speed, PediaPress also required the ability to include scientific equations and formulae as images, inline inside text paragraphs. It's a function you won't find in other PDF libraries.
With its outstanding PDF generating capabilities, the ReportLab Toolkit was the natural choice. And as free, open-source software it's naturally in step with the philosophy behind this great contribution to the web. We're proud to be playing a part in the phenomenon that is Wikipedia.