[reportlab-users] ReportLab vs LaTex

timr at probo.com timr at probo.com
Wed Dec 27 02:23:07 EST 2006

On Tue, Dec 26, 2006 at 09:43:24PM -0800, crp2006 at shaw.ca wrote:


> Our workplace may be able to use ReportLab's properties to good avail. We

> have committed to being a Python shop, so that fits. We do some publishing

> that involves basically the same text (minor changes every 6 months, say)

> but detailed database queries that we need to run into tables and graphs

> (ReportLab has some very nice graphical facilities!).


> We might need indices and bibliographies - are there ReportLab facilities

> for that sort of thing? How do these compare to LaTex?

> How about mathematical equations and other math typesetting? Is there

> support for that (it isn't necessary, but it might be handy so I threw that

> in. . .).

You can DO all of these things in both packages, although they aren't
equally easy. I was going to reply that LaTeX and ReportLab are really
aimed at two different problem domains, but I eventually decided that
wasn't quite true.

With LaTeX, you just enter text, and the existing LaTeX macros decide how
they should be placed on the page. With ReportLab, you place each item
yourself, at precisely the location you want it. ReportLab works at a
lower level than LaTeX. The basic ReportLab package is essentially a
friendly wrapper around PostScript.

Of course, the real situation is not that clear-cut. ReportLab includes
Platypus, which does provide word-wrapping and flowables.

Remember that LaTeX produces a format that has to be converted to PDF.
Reportlab produces PDF directly.

> How about just plain text formatting? Are the results comparable to LaTex?

Results in what sense? In many ways, ReportLab gives you much more control
over your output than LaTeX. LaTeX has a vast set of formatting rules, and
if your project wants to vary from those rules, life is very difficult.
With ReportLab, everything is under your control. On the other hand, with
ReportLab, you have to worry about a lot of details that LaTeX handles for

> It would be possible to use ReportLab to do some database queries, snag the

> numbers and then spit out the -always-the-same LaTex code and start the pdf

> creation process. . . Is this a silly route to take?

Yes. ReportLab doesn't have anything to do with databases. It's quite
possible to use Python code to query a database and generate LaTeX code,
but you couldn't feed ReportLab's output into LaTeX.

> Thanks for any input on this! Without being an expert in both systems it is

> impossible to really have an accurate idea as to what might be best.

It depends on your expertise. If your group is comfortable with LaTeX, it
would probably be expedient to generate LaTeX, and let the LaTeX tools
produce your PDF. If your group is comfortable with Python and knows
something about PDF files, then it might behoove you to dig into ReportLab.
Tim Roberts, timr at probo.com
Providenza & Boeklheide, Inc.

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