PDF Converter for SharePoint Online 9.10 - Web Page Conversion, Scalability Improvements

Posted at: 15:49 on 16 October 2017 by Muhimbi

sharepoint-online-logoIn addition to releasing new versions of the on-premise editions of our popular PDF Converter for SharePoint and PDF Converter Services (for C#, Java, PHP), our team has been working hard on a new  PDF Converter for SharePoint Online release.

The latest release, version 9.10, was rolled out last weekend and will have reached all our customers by the time you read this. As our servers deal with an ever increasing number of customers we have made considerable improvements in the area of scalability and long running operations.

Although I am sure it will make everyone sleep better at night, scalability and reliability is no fun from an end-user perspective. However, what is fun - within reason - is our new facility to convert SharePoint Online pages (List Items, Wiki pages and other SharePoint Online URLs) to PDF. Not only from the SharePoint Online user interface, but also via SharePoint Designer Workflows, Microsoft Flow and our REST based API.

Please note that all SharePoint Online versions are numbered in the 9.X range. At the time of writing the most recent version of the on-premise software is 8.3. If you are an existing customer, or installed a trial version before mid-October 2017, then we recommend installing the latest workflow actions for the best possible experience.
For those not familiar with the product, the Muhimbi PDF Converter for SharePoint Online is a lightweight subscription based solution that allows end-users to merge, split, watermark, secure, OCR and convert common document types - including InfoPath, AutoCAD, MSG (email) MS-Office, HTML and images - to PDF using SharePoint Online through a friendly user interface or via workflows, without the need to install any client-side software or Adobe Acrobat. More details can be found on the
product page.  

SP Online UI ConversionNew SharePoint Online List Item Conversions

In addition to the changes listed above, the key changes and additions in the new version are as follows:

3098 API Improvement Some API request from Nintex Workflow for O365 generate 'HTTP 400' errors
3603 HTML Improvement Add new HTML converter to Microsoft Flow
3100 HTML New Implement new HTML Converter in SharePoint Online
2976 HTML New Add Web Page conversion to SharePoint Online's user interface
3605 Merging Fix Merge action does not detect invalid file during conversion
3147 Metadata Fix Implement workaround for 'The property or field 'Title' has not been initialized'
3853 OCR Fix Chinese characters in workflow and API show up as '?'
3378 OCR Fix Fix encoding issues of OCR operations
3558 OCR Improvement Improve long running OCR operations
3569 Security Improvement Enable HTTPS for all workflow actions
3611 System Fix Implement workaround for 'Error while retrieving settings from List'.
2999 System Improvement Expose converter specific settings introduced in back-end, to front-end
2875 System Improvement Always send alert emails to primary contact
2881 System Improvement Improve reliability during (very) Long Running Operations
3121 UI Fix Site owners cannot convert from sub-site to first level parent site in 'picker'
3474 UI Improvement Show 'Please wait' message for long running operations
3585 UI Improvement Conversion does not work when a mix of valid and invalid files is selected
3163 UI Improvement File name validation skipped when batch converting files
3078 UI Improvement Remove specialised SharePoint document libraries from folder picker
3111 UI Improvement Reduce latency on Merge screen during post backs
3102 UI Improvement Add 'Document Set' Icon to Muhimbi folder picker
3445 UI Improvement 'Operation size exceeded' message does not show actual size
2894 Watermarking Fix Numerical filter is fixed on 2 decimal places
3051 Watermarking Improvement Implement real-time watermarking for Modern View pages
3075 Watermarking Improvement Tighten security in real-time watermarking facility
3564 Workflow Improvement Improve reliability of unstable Microsoft Workflow Manager instances
3079 Workflow Improvement Improve long running SharePoint Designer workflows

For more information check out the following resources:

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Converting SharePoint Online Pages / Items to PDF

Posted at: 15:21 on 12 October 2017 by Muhimbi

HTML5 logo and wordmarkA couple of months ago we released a new version of our core document conversion platform, with the main change being a completely overhauled HTML converter. It supports the latest HTML, JavaScript, Print and Screen CSS media types and does a great job overall when it comes to converting HTML content to PDF.

In addition to supporting the latest HTML standards, it also comes with the ability to convert SharePoint Online web pages and URLs, a unique facility exclusive to Muhimbi's range of products. This new facility is particularly useful when it comes to archiving Lists and List Items to PDF Format, or sharing the content of SharePoint pages and Wikis with 3rd parties.

Although it is also possible to convert SharePoint Online URLs using our on-premise products, this new functionality is primarily aimed at our Online customers. In this article we will show how to carry out these kinds of conversions using the SharePoint Online User Interface, SharePoint Designer Workflows, Microsoft Flow and Logic Apps, as well as a REST based API.


User Interface

Although automating conversions is very powerful, sometimes all you need is a quick PDF of the current web page, generated by clicking a link in SharePoint's user interface. Please follow the steps below to set this up:

  1. Elevate the Muhimbi App to allow links to be added to the SharePoint User Interface. This requires Site Collection Administrator privileges.
  2. Enable the Muhimbi PDF Converter - Convert Web Page App Feature as described at the end of this Knowledge Base Article.
  3. Specify the default user credentials for converting SharePoint Online pages.

SP Online UI Conversion The original list (left), Convert via Personal Actions (middle), resulting PDF (right)

With everything configured, navigate to a Classic View SharePoint Online page (At the time of writing this functionality is only available in Classic view due to limitations in SharePoint Online's Modern View). From the Personal Actions menu (the menu that is opened when clicking on your name at the top-right corner of the screen), select Convert Page to PDF.

The resulting PDF is automatically optimised for print purposes. The left-hand navigation menu is removed as are (most of) the other user interface elements. If you prefer the PDF to look exactly like what is displayed in the web browser, including user interface elements, then switch to the Screen media type in the HTML Conversion configuration screen (the same screen used for specifying the default credentials).


SharePoint Designer Workflows

Converting via the SharePoint User Interface is nice and well, but more often than not conversion is part of an automated process. For example, every time a List Item is updated, or whenever a List Item's status changes to Approved, a PDF rendition will need to be created and archived / emailed or whatever other business process is important to your organisation.

The easiest way to automate this is by creating a SharePoint Designer Workflow. Please follow the steps below to set this up:

  1. Install and activate the Muhimbi Workflow Actions. Make sure to use version 9.10 or later.
  2. Although there is no need to Elevate the Muhimbi App, and enabling the Muhimbi PDF Converter - Convert Web Page App Feature, it may come in handy if you do not wish to store HTML Conversion credentials inside the workflow itself. You can specify the default credentials, as well as a number of optional aliases, using Muhimbi's User Credentials facility.
  3. Create a new SharePoint Designer workflow. In our case we navigate to the List and use SharePoint's List ribbon to create a workflow in SharePoint Designer. A full tutorial for creating SharePoint Designer Workflows is beyond the scope of this article, have a look at this video for a basic introduction.
  4. Give the workflow a name, set its Start Options (we use manual in this example) and design the workflow.
  5. Insert the Convert HTML to PDF workflow action and fill in the blanks.
    HTMLConversion-SPD - Online
    • this url / html: The fully qualified URL to convert. In this example we would like to convert the List Item so navigate to the View Item URL for the list item, and copy the URL up to and including '?ID=''. This will result in something like https://acme.sharepoint.com/sites/somesite/Lists/some_list/DispForm.aspx?ID=. Select this url, click the ... button and paste the address. Place the cursor at the end of the URL and click the Add or Change Lookup button. From the Field from source option, select ID to automatically insert the ID of the item that is being converted.
    • this file: Specify the location to write the PDF file to, e.g. Shared Documents/item.pdf. Naturally you can make the file name unique by inserting the ID in the same way as described in the previous step. For details about specifying output paths, see this blog post.
    • Orientation: Page orientation of the converted file. Use Portrait or Landscape.
    • Credentials: In order to convert SharePoint Online web pages - not files, this applies to URLs only - the HTML Converter needs to authenticate during conversion. Specify credentials, or leave them empty to use the default credentials configured centrally. If one or more aliases have been configured then they can be used by specifying the alias name between curly braces in the user name field (e.g. {SomeAliasName}). The password field can be left empty in this case.
    • Authentication: Accept the default value for URLs located in SharePoint Online. For external - non-SharePoint - URLs, specify Web (for normal web based authentication) or anonymous for sites that require no authentication.
    • Viewport: Optionally specify a virtual screen resolution to allow responsive web content to output the appropriate version (e.g. mobile or desktop version).
    • Media Type: Control if output should be optimised for Print layout (using the Print CSS Media type) or rendered exactly as displayed on screen.
    • Conversion delay: Control the delay between initially loading the page, including JavaScript rendering, and starting the PDF Conversion process. Do not set this value too low as SharePoint Online pages contain very rich content.
  6. Finish the workflow, publish it, and start it on a list item of your choice. After a few seconds you will find a PDF rendition in the output folder.


Microsoft Flow & Logic Apps

Microsoft Flow, and its big brother Logic Apps, are rapidly increasing in popularity. It is easy to see why, not only does it provide a great browser-based workflow editor for SharePoint Online, it can also be used in combination with non-SharePoint environments such as OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, SalesForce and hundreds of other systems. Muhimbi's PDF Converter is available out of the (Flow) box, and makes it easy to convert, merge, watermark, secure, split and OCR files, just have a look at these tutorials.

As of mid-October 2017 our Flow actions also support the conversion of SharePoint Online pages. The SharePoint Designer workflow created in the previous section can easily be recreated in Flow. From a high level perspective, the steps are as follows:

  1. Create a new Flow and use the SharePoint Online trigger When an item is created or modified. Fill out the URL for the site collection and select the relevant SharePoint list from the dropdown menu.
  2. Insert Muhimbi's Convert HTML to PDF action and fill it out as per the screenshot displayed below. Naturally you will need to substitute the source URL, User name and password. Make sure that for SharePoint Online conversions you select Print as the Media type.
  3. Insert a Create File action to write the converted file back to SharePoint Online (or Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, or send the PDF via email).
  4. Publish the workflow and create / update a list item in the specified list. After a few seconds the Flow will trigger and a PDF file will be generated.     

HTML Conversion - Flow



All functionality exposed by the Muhimbi PDF Converter is also available via an online REST based API. Sample code is beyond the scope of this blog post, you can find details for languages such as C#, Java and PHP on GitHub.


Troubleshooting / Caveats

Please keep in mind that HTML is not the best format for print or PDF Conversion purposes. Although our new HTML Converter is excellent, it is not magic. Depending on your exact needs and source material, you may need to experiment with the various settings. Our support desk staff is very experienced, so contact us if you have any questions or require assistance.

Some points to take into account:

  1. Modern Views: In SharePoint Online it is possible to display Lists and Libraries in Modern or Classic mode. Modern View is undergoing constant change (by Microsoft), as a result we currently only support the conversion of pages displayed in Classic View. Some Modern View pages will convert fine while others don't.
  2. Multi Factor Authentication (MFA):  An increasing number of SharePoint Online / Office 365 environments are secured using MFA. Although this is a positive development, it gets in the way of automated systems such as our HTML converter. If your environment uses MFA then please create an App password for HTML conversions, or disable MFA on your HTML Conversion account.
  3. HTML Conversion link not displayed: The option to convert the current page to PDF is only available in Classic SharePoint pages. Modern pages currently do not provide a facility for extending the personal actions menu. We will make sure it is added as soon as Microsoft makes this functionality available.
  4. The generated PDF looks different from what is displayed on screen. By default the page being converted is optimised for print / PDF output. If you prefer the PDF to look exactly like what is displayed on screen, including user interface elements, then set the Media Type to Screen in the HTML Conversion configuration screen.
  5. User modified content is not converted: Please keep in mind that the converter has no knowledge about the information currently displayed in the user's browser (e.g. size of the browser window, or custom data entered but not yet submit to the server). The converter always requests a fresh copy of the URL and converts that information to PDF.
  6. User specific information is missing: HTML Conversion is carried out in the context of the configured user account, the system is not aware of the user carrying out the HTML conversion. Be careful, don't specify accounts that display more information than the users should have access to.


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