I have a cross platform (python) application which needs to generate a jpeg preview of the first page of a PDF.

On the mac I am spawning sips. Is there something similarly simple I can do on Windows?

+4  A: 

You can use ImageMagick's convert utility for this, see some examples in

Federico Builes
That's a really handy tip - thanks!
Jon Cage

Is the PC likely to have Acrobat installed? I think Acrobat installs a shell extension so previews of the first page of a PDF document appear in Windows Explorer's thumbnail view. You can get thumbnails yourself via the IExtractImage COM API, which you'll need to wrap. VBAccelerator has an example in C# that you could port to Python.

Dominic Cooney
+8  A: 

ImageMagick delegates the PDF->bitmap conversion to GhostScript anyway, so here's a command you can use (it's based on the actual command listed by the ps:alpha delegate in ImageMagick, just adjusted to use JPEG as output):

-dMaxBitmap=500000000 -dLastPage=1 -dAlignToPixels=0 -dGridFitTT=0 \
-sDEVICE=jpeg -dTextAlphaBits=4 -dGraphicsAlphaBits=4 -r72x72 \
-sOutputFile=$OUTPUT -f$INPUT

where $OUTPUT and $INPUT are the output and input filenames. Adjust the 72x72 to whatever resolution you need. (Obviously, strip out the backslashes if you're writing out the whole command as one line.)

This is good for two reasons:

  1. You don't need to have ImageMagick installed anymore. Not that I have anything against ImageMagick (I love it to bits), but I believe in simple solutions.
  2. ImageMagick does a two-step conversion. First PDF->PPM, then PPM->JPEG. This way, the conversion is one-step.

Other things to consider: with the files I've tested, PNG compresses better than JPEG. If you want to use PNG, change the -sDEVICE=jpeg to -sDEVICE=png16m.

Chris Jester-Young
Excellent answer. This is definitely the way to go.
Daniel Straight

There's another article on codeproject, though I wonder how relevant that's to cross-platform python (codeproject is a goldmine of windows-related code).

Valters Vingolds