pikepdf Documentation

A northern pike

A northern pike, or esox lucius.

pikepdf is a Python library allowing creation, manipulation and repair of PDFs. It provides a Pythonic wrapper around the C++ PDF content transformation library, QPDF.

Python + QPDF = “py” + “qpdf” = “pyqpdf”, which looks like a dyslexia test and is no fun to type. But say “pyqpdf” out loud, and it sounds like “pikepdf”.

At a glance

pikepdf is a library intended for developers who want to create, manipulate, parse, repair, and abuse the PDF format. It supports reading and write PDFs, including creating from scratch. Thanks to QPDF, it supports linearizing PDFs and access to encrypted PDFs.

# Rotate all pages in a file by 180 degrees
import pikepdf
my_pdf = pikepdf.Pdf.open('test.pdf')
for page in my_pdf.pages:
   page.Rotate = 180

It is a low level library that requires knowledge of PDF internals and some familiarity with the PDF specification. It does not provide a user interface of its own.

pikepdf would help you build apps that do things like:

A cartoon sketch of a pike

Pike fish are tough, hard-fighting, aggressive predators.

  • Copy pages from one PDF into another
  • Split and merge PDFs
  • Extract content from a PDF such as text or images
  • Replace content, such as replacing an image without altering the rest of the file
  • Repair, reformat or linearize PDFs
  • Change the size of pages and reposition content
  • Optimize PDFs similar to Acrobat’s features by downsampling images, deduplicating
  • Calculate how much to charge for a scanning project based on the materials scanned
  • Alter a PDF to meet a target specification such as PDF/A or PDF/X
  • Add or modify PDF metadata
  • Create well-formed but invalid PDFs for testing purposes

What it cannot do:

A square of pikemen, carrying pikes

Pikemen bracing for a calvary charge, carrying pikes.

  • Rasterize PDF pages for display (that is, produce an image that shows what a PDF page looks like at a particular resolution/zoom level) – use Ghostscript instead
  • Convert from PDF to other similar paper capture formats like epub, XPS, DjVu, Postscript – use MuPDF or PyMuPDF
  • Print to paper

If you only want to generate PDFs and not read or modify them, consider reportlab (a “write-only” PDF generator).


pikepdf currently requires Python 3.5+. There are no plans to backport to 2.7 or older versions in the 3.x series.

Support for Python 3.5 will end in September 2020, when Python 3.5 itself reaches “end of life”.

Similar libraries

Unlike similar Python libraries such as PyPDF2 and pdfrw, pikepdf is not pure Python. Both were designed prior to Python wheels which has made Python extension libraries much easier to work with. By leveraging the existing mature code base of QPDF, despite being new, pikepdf is already more capable than both in many respects – for example, it can read compress object streams, repair damaged PDFs in many cases, and linearize PDFs. Unlike those libraries, it’s not pure Python: it is impure and proud of it.

In use

pikepdf is used by the same author’s OCRmyPDF to inspect input PDFs, graft the generated OCR layers on to page content, and output PDFs. Its code contains several practical examples, particular in pdfinfo.py, graft.py, and optimize.py. pikepdf is also used in its test suite.