Use Inkscape and XSLT to Create Cross-Platform Reports and Forms

A way to create platform-independent dynamic forms and reports.

Listing 5 is a simplified version of our solution. In our solution, there is the possibility of having multiple pages for a single claim. To fix this, we had to do multiple transformations, one for each page. To get the multiple-page claims to display in the same browser window, we had to embed them. This can be done using the embed and object HTML tags. Note that there are several issues with browser compatibility when using these tags. To solve the compatibility issues, we wrote a script that checks the user's browser and decides which tag to use. Then, we set the target object data/embedded source to a script similar to the one in Listing 5. This allowed the Web browser to display multiple SVG images in the same window.

Other considerations must be made when using SVG images in a Web browser environment. Internet Explorer does not have native support for SVG images. The user is forced to use a third-party plugin to display the images. Adobe provides one of these for free. Mozilla Firefox has built-in support for SVG images starting with version 1.5. However, Firefox does not support several aspects of SVG images, such as scaling and grouped objects. Fortunately for us, all of our users use an up-to-date version of Firefox.

That is all there is to it. Figure 5 shows a claim image with all of the data filled in.

Figure 5. Claim Form with Sample Data

Printing and Archiving the SVG Images

Once we finished the Web end of our solution, we turned our sights toward the rest of our integration. This meant we had to print the SVG images and find a way to archive them. Some clients request that we send them copies of the claims printed and/or electronically. Because all of our back-end software is written in Python, it also meant we had to do the XML transformation in a different language. To do all of the XML work, we used the 4Suite XML API.

To print the images, we again turned to Inkscape, because our PostScript printer drivers would not print the SVG images. Inkscape has a handful of command-line options that tell Inkscape to run in command-line mode, thus suppressing the graphical interface. The one we used to print is the -p option. This, combined with the lpr command, allowed us to print our images without any user interaction. Listing 6 shows how we did the same transform we did in Listing 5, except now in Python. The example also shows how we called Inkscape to print our claim images.

Earlier, I mentioned we often have multiple pages per claim. When printing, this was not an issue; we simply would send each page to the printer as a separate job. When it came to archiving, we had to do something different. As with the Web interface, we had to group the pages, this time into a file, not a Web browser. When archiving, we had to store the files in PDF format, because that is what our clients wanted. To get the images into a PDF and combine the multiple page claims, we used Inkscape and Ghostscript.

As with printing, Inkscape has an option to export a file into PostScript format. Instead of using -p, we use -P and pass Inkscape the desired output filename. After all of the pages of a claim have been written to files, we use the following Ghostscript command to put the pages into a single PDF and archive them:

gs -dBATCH -dNOPAUSE -q -sDEVICE=pdfwrite -sOutputFile=out.pdf


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I did this for a few

Satya2's picture

I did this for a few projects and then turned to JasperReports. Keeping the XSLT in sync with the Inkscape SVG was getting to be a pain.

Does everyone have this problem, where people keep entering their life story into a field that has room for a couple of short lines only?


ewalstad's picture

Thanks for the article, Chad.

Are your files available for download? I wasn't able to find them on the LJ site. I'm especially interested in your xe2_claim PL/pgSQL function because my data is also in a PostgreSQL database.



Re: Resources?

cfiles's picture

You are welcome.

I will be glad to post the full SVG. The database stuff is a bit more complicated; it is tied into our main processing system. Basically outside of the database, without the structure and the data, it is useless.

I am going to try to get the guy who wrote it to publish an article about what he did.

Multiple lines

Anonymous's picture

I am interested in figuring out how to fill out a list of items that is variable for each record. Creating a new variable for every blank like in the template will not be a good idea, so how did you accomplished that?

Re: Multiple lines

Cafuego's picture

You create a flowRoot object in inkscape by clicking and dragging the text tool.

This object contains flowPara objects, which are the paragraphs that wrap properly within the defined flowRoot area.

Note you need to set the text-align property to justify manually if you want justified text, the inkscape text properties dialog doesn't allow you to do that (yet).

Can you share a sample hcfa

mak's picture

Can you share a sample hcfa 1500 file with layers? That will help to understand the design.