Advanced printing/layout tools

Polytropon freebsd at
Fri Jan 1 17:42:23 UTC 2010

On Fri, 01 Jan 2010 11:30:09 -0600, Doug Poland <doug at> wrote:
> Hello,
> I've been tasked to print a phonebook style directory for an 
> organization.  The data will be coming out of a MySQL database and can 
> be easily saved as comma-delimited, or whatever text format I need.
> My specific question is, what open source tools would one use to tackle 
> a project like this?  I'm very comfortable in a CLI and do not 
> require/desire a GUI.

I'd suggest to use awk + LaTeX. I've been very happy with this
combination for a various number of tasks - just as you mentioned:
Data coming from some kind of database (MySQL, CSV or whatever)
and should then be layouted.

I use an awk script that reads the input line-wise, and then
splitting it via a known delimiter, e. g. ":". Before doing
so, it creates a LaTeX preamble, and afterwards it "closes"
the document. The tex file is then processed by pdflatex,
giving you a PDF file as output.

For your particular task, I'd suggest a two- or more column
layout (LaTeX provides that), containing a tabular environment.
This environment then contains the data. If LaTeX doesn't
take care of "page full" for you - I don't know format or
amount of your source data - you can do that easily with the
awk script.

In order to update the document, you just have to re-run the
awk script and pdflatex command. I often (ab)use a Makefile
for this.

The awk interpreter comes with FreeBSD, and LaTeX can easily
be installed, e. g. with "pkg_add -r teTeX". Of course, you
stay in the free land of open source with this combination.

In case you want to have an example file, write off-list to
me - no need to pollute the list with this niche-market stuff. :-)

Magdeburg, Germany
Happy FreeBSD user since 4.0
Andra moi ennepe, Mousa, ...

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