Using psfmtdrv to Generate PDF.

We are using the below command as such:



psfmtdrv -nhdr -df /psdestinationdir -pdfusegs -efd2 -cd ${JOBDIR}/${DIVDIR} -pn /our_custom_file;


Up until a couple days ago this worked perfectly in test, today it is failing.  It just silently dies without producing any PDF output file at all.  This is perplexing as nothing was done to the shell script that runs the command.  We've spent a lot of time trying to track down the problem, and my current theory is that it has something to do with the configuration information stored via the XPPathfinder GUI, or gained by accessing config data within the Job or Div directories.  So I have a couple of questions:


- Other than strace how can I debug this executable to see what it is doing and try and resolve the problem?

- Is there a way to translate the command line flags for this program into the command line flags necessary to generate the PDF using ghostscript?

- Am I using the psfmtdrv command correctly is there a better way to generate the PDF (ghostscript perhaps)? 


Any assistance is appreciated.


Thanks - Tod 

  • Hi Tod. What happens if you attempt to run the psftmdrv command, against a problem job, from the command line? Does it still fail? If so, then please open a new support ticket with us.

    Barry Stankiewicz
    Manager, SDL Customer Support
  • Hi Tod,

    First thing I have is an observation.

    It appears to me that the psfmtdrv command you have stated is not correct if you are really expecting a PDF (.pdf) file as a result. Unless you've not given the command correctly or not given it in it's entirety.

    So if the command you've stated is incomplete, then you'll have to be more exact in what is the command in order to get back a meaningful response.

    All I would expect from the command you've stated is a PS (.ps) result, because the command as stated does not include the -distill option. But this command you've given will not produce a PDF result (unless you have something else in your script that follows that's producing a PDF from the PS output file). The -pdfusegs option tells psfmtdrv to use the XPP delivered 'gs' command as the distiller (PS to PDF) - but it only does that if the -distill option is also specified.

    The second thing I observe is that the argument to the -pn option does not seem to me that it would be correct, if indeed it does contain a slash (/) in it (i.e. -pn /our_custom_file). As I understand it, the argument to -pn should be just a filename (not a path), and can also contain % arguments in it as shown in the documentation (e.g. %j for JOB name and %d for DIV name). The path (where there would be slashes) where the destination file is written is specified with the -df option.

    • I'm not sure what "debugging" you're trying to do. Using strace will trace all the system calls, but I doubt that will help you much. If you can capture the real full command that is being run by your script, then running the exact same command manually via the command line along with adding the -X option (extra process messages) might help.
    • With the right options, psfmtdrv will use 'gs' to generate the PDF. If you add the -X option to the psfmtdrv command, I believe it will spit out an extra message saying what is the 'gs' command it runs to create the PDF from its PS output.
    • I don't understand your third question. It almost seems to imply that the "default" for your process is to use Acrobat Distiller to produce the PDF, and not 'gs' (Ghostscript), since you seem to be asking if using Ghostscript is a better way to generate the PDF. Maybe you can clarify your third question.
  • Jonathan,

    Thank you for your comments.

    The root of the problem was the difference between the -distill and -pdfusegs flags fed to the psfmtdrv.  From the command line PDF manual:


    Distill to PDF using Ghostscript.

    This overrides any distiller choice

    specified by file or environmental



    After creating a PostScript (.ps) file,

    invoke the Adobe Acrobat Distiller

    program to create a Portable

    Document Format (PDF) file with a

    .pdf extension. See the –pdfmark, the

    –pdfps spec, and the –pn filename

    switches below.

    We do not use Adobe Distiller but instead rely on Ghostscript.  These two seem to contradict each other until you realize that using -distill with the -pdfusegs flag overrides the Adobe Distiller ONLY if you have already specified -distill.  By contrast.the wording reported by Xyhelp:


    When creating PDF output, use Ghostscript. This requires the

    -distill switch. If neither -pdfuseacro nor -pdfusegs is

    specified, XPP uses the installation default.

    ... is more specific.  We relied on the pdf manual and only saw the Xyhelp description later.

    Thanks again for your help.

  • Hi Tod,

    Ah, yes, I can see how it could be a bit confusing from what's stated in the Command Line Utilities manual.

    Perhaps we can tweak that for a future version of cmdutils.pdf to make it match more closely how it's described in the online xyhelp file.

    Thanks you very much for letting us know what was the source of confusion.