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Forimplementationtosucceed,theterminologyneedstobeprecise. Design
goaleightofthespecificationtellsusthat‘thedesignofXMLshallbeformal
andconcise’. TodescribeXML,thespecificationthereforeusesformal
languagedrawnfromseveralfields,specificallythoseofdocument
engineering,internationalstandardsandcomputerscience.Thisisoften
confusingtopeoplewhoareunusedtothesedisciplinesbecausetheyuse
well-knownEnglishwordsinaspecialisedsensewhichcanbeverydifferent
fromtheircommonmeanings—forexample: grammar,production,token,
orterminal.
Thespecificationdoesnotexplainthesetermsbecauseoftheotherpartof
thedesigngoal: thespecificationshouldbeconcise. Itdoesn’trepeat
explanationsthatareavailableelsewhere: itisassumedyouknowthisand
eitherknowthedefinitionsorarecapableoffindingthem. Inessencethis
meansthattogrokthefullnessofthespec,youdoneedaknowledgeof
someSGMLandcomputerscience,andhavesomeexposuretothelanguage
offormalstandards.
Sloppyterminologyinspecificationscausesmisunderstandingsandmakesit
hardtoimplementconsistently,soformalstandardshavetobephrasedin
formalterminology. ThisFAQisnotaformaldocument,andtheastute
readerwillalreadyhavenoticeditrefersto‘elementnames’where‘element
typenames’ismorecorrect;buttheformerismorewidelyunderstood.
Thosenewtotheterminologymayfinditusefultoreadsomethinglikethe
Sperberg-McQueenandBurnard,2002orDuCharme,1999.
4.3 What are these terms DTDless, valid, and
well-formed?
Well-formed means just syntactically correct; valid means it
conforms to a DTD or Schema.
XML lets you use a Schema or Document Type Definition (DTD) to describe
the markup (elements and other constructs) available in any specific type of
document. However, the design and construction of Schemas and DTDs can
be complex and non-trivial, so XML also lets you work without one. DTDless
71
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operation means you can invent markup without having to define it formally,
provided you stick to the well-formedness rules of XML syntax.
To make this work, a DTDless file is assumed to define its own markup
purely by the existence and location of elements where you create them.
When an XML application encounters a DTDless file, it builds its internal
model of the document structure while it reads it, because it has no Schema
or DTD to tell it what to expect. There must therefore be no surprises or
ambiguous syntax. To achieve this, the document must be ‘well-formed’
(must follow the rules).
To understand why this concept is needed, look at standard HTML as an
example:
• The <img> element is declared (in the [SGML] DTDs for HTML) as
EMPTY, so it doesn’t have an end-tag (there is no such thing as </img>);
• Many other HTML elements (such as <para>) allow you to omit the
end-tag for brevity.
• If an XML processor reads an HTML file without knowing this (because
it isn’t using a DTD), and it encounters an <img> or a <para> (or any
other start-tag), it would have no way to know whether or not to expect
an end-tag. This makes it impossible to know if the rest of the file is
correct or not, because it has now no evidence of whether it is inside an
element or if it has finished with it.
Well-formed documents therefore require start-tags and end-tags on every
normal element, and any EMPTY elements must be made unambiguous,
either by using normal start-tags and end-tags, or by appending a slash to the
name of the start-tag before the closing > as a signal that there will be no
separate end-tag.
All XML documents, both DTDless and valid, must be well-formed. They
must start with an XML Declaration if necessary (for example, identifying
the character encoding or using the Standalone Document Declaration):
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="iso-8859-1" standalone="yes"?>
<foo>
<bar>...<blort/>...</bar>
</foo>
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DavidBrownell writes:
XMLthat’sjustwell-formeddoesn’tneedtouseaStandaloneDocument
Declarationatall. Suchdeclarationsaretheretopermit certainspeedups
whenprocessingdocumentswhileignoringexternal parameterentities—
basically,youcan’t relyonexternal declarationsinstandalonedocuments.
Thetypesthatarerelevantareentitiesandattributes. Standalone
documentsmustnotrequireanykindofattributevaluenormalisationor
defaulting,otherwisetheyareinvalid.
It’s also possible to use a Document Type Declaration with DTDless files,
even though there is no Document Type to refer to:
RichardLanderwrites:
Ifyouneedcharacterentities[otherthanthefivebuilt-inones]ina
DTDlessfile,youcandeclaretheminaninternalsubsetwithout
referencinganythingotherthantherootelementtype:
<?xml version="1.0" standalone="yes"?>
<!DOCTYPE example [
<!ENTITY mdash "&mdash;">
]>
<example>Hindsight&mdash;a wonderful thing.</example>
So...here are the rules:
W
ELL FORMED
XML
• All tagsmustbebalanced: thatis,everyelementwhichmaycontain
characterdataorsub-elementsmusthaveboththestart-tagandthe
end-tagpresent(omissionisnotallowedexceptforEMPTY
elements,seebelow);
• All attributevaluesmustbeinquotes. Thesingle-quotecharacter
(theapostrophe)maybeusedifthevaluecontainsadouble-quote
character,andviceversa. Ifyouneedisolatedquotesasdataaswell,
youcanuse&apos;or&quot;. Donotunderanycircumstancesuse
theautomatedtypographic(‘curly’)invertedcommassubstitutedby
somewordprocessorsforquotingattributevalues.
• AnyEMPTYelements(egthosewithnoend-taglikeHTML’s<img>,
<hr>,and<br>andothers)must either endwith/>or theymustlook
likenon-EMPTYelementsbyhavingareal end-tag(butnocontent).
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Example: <br>wouldbecomeeither<br/>or<br></br>(withnothing
inbetween).
• Theremustnotbeanyisolatedmarkup-startcharacters(<or&)in
yourtextdata. Theymustbegivenas&lt;and&amp;respectively,
andthesequence]]>mayonlyoccurastheendofaCDATAmarked
section: ifyouareusingit foranyotherpurposeitmustbegivenas
]]&gt;.
• Elementsmustnest insideeachotherproperly(nooverlapping
markup,sameasforHTML);
• DTDlesswell-formeddocumentsmayuseattributesonanyelement,
buttheattributesareallassumedtobeoftypeCDATA.Youcannot
useID/IDREFattributetypesforparser-checkedcross-referencingin
DTDlessdocuments.
• XMLfileswithnoDTDareconsideredtohave&lt;,&gt;,&apos;,
&quot;,and&amp;predefinedandthusavailableforuse. WithaDTD,
all characterentitiesusedmustbedeclared,includingthesefive.
V
ALID
XML
ValidXMLfilesarewell-formedfileswhichhaveaDocumentType
Definition(DTD)orSchemaandwhichconformtoit.Theymustalreadybe
well-formed,soalltherulesaboveapply.
AvalidfilebeginswithaDocumentTypeDeclarationspecifyingaDTD,
orcodespecifyingaW3C Schema. Itmayhaveanoptional XML
Declarationprepended.
<?xml version="1.0"?>
<!DOCTYPE advert SYSTEM "http://www.foo.org/ad.dtd">
<advert>
<headline>...<pic/>...</headline>
<text>...</text>
</advert>
The XML Specification predefines an SGML Declaration for XML which is
fixed for all instances and is therefore hard-coded into all XML software and
never specified separately (except when using an SGML/XML switchable
validator like onsgmls: see below).
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Peter Flynnwrites:
TheSGMLDeclarationforXMLhasbeenremovedfromthetextofthe
Specificationbutisavailableasaseparatedocument). Asthisappearsto
sufferoccasionallyfrombitrot orneglect,thereisacopyhere(WebSGML
TC)and here(ExtendedNamingRulesTC),andaversionforonsgmls here.
The specified DTD must be accessible to the XML processor using the URI
supplied in the SYSTEM Identifier, either by being available locally (ie the
user already has a copy on disk), or by being retrievable via the network.
Note that DTD specifications must be URIs (local, relative, or absolute).
Proprietary-specific filesystem references (eg C:\dtds\my.dtd are not URIs
and cannot be used: use the file:///C|/dtds/my.dtd format instead.
It is possible (many people would say preferable) to supply a Formal Public
Identifier with the PUBLIC keyword, and use an XML Catalog to
dereference it, but the Specification mandates a SYSTEM Identifier so this
must still be supplied after the PUBLIC identifier: no further keyword is
needed. A PUBLIC identifier constitutes a claim to ownership only of the
identifier, not to the DTD itself (although ion many cases that is implied).
<!DOCTYPE advert PUBLIC
"+//Silmaril//DTD Foo Corp Advertisements//EN"
"http://www.foo.org/ad.dtd">
<advert>...</advert>
The test for validity is that a validating parser finds no errors in the file: it
must conform absolutely to the definitions and declarations in the DTD.
XML (W3C) Schemas are not usually linked directly from within an XML
document instance in the way that DTDs are: the relevant Schema (XSD file)
for a document instance is normally specified to the parser separately, either
by file system reference, or using aTargetNamespace.
4.4 Which should I use in my DTD/Schema, attributes
or elements?
Seehttp://xml.coverpages.org/elementsAndAttrs.html
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There is no single answer to this: a lot depends on what you are designing
the document type for.
Traditional editorial practice for normal text documents is to put the real text
(what would be printed) as character data content, and keep the metadata
(information about the text) in attributes, from where they can more easily
be isolated for analysis or special treatment like display in the margin or in a
mouseover:
<l n="184">
<spara>Portia</spara>
<text>The quality of mercy is not strain’d,</text>
...
</l>
But from the systems point of view, there is nothing wrong with storing the
data the other way round, especially where the volume of text data on each
occasion is relatively small:
<line speaker="Portia" text="The quality y of f mercy y is not strain’d,">184</line>
Alot will depend on what you want to do with the information and which bits
of it are easiest accessed by each method. A rule of thumb for conventional
text documents is that if the markup were all stripped away, the bare text
should still be correct, readable, and usable, even if unformatted and
inconvenient. For database output, however, or other machine-generated
documents like e-commerce transactions, human reading may not be
meaningful, so it is perfectly possible to have documents where all the data is
in attributes, and the document contains no character data in content models
at all. Seehttp://xml.coverpages.org/elementsAndAttrs.html for more
information.
MikeKaywrites:
Fromauser: ‘[...] domostofyououtthereuseelement-basedor
attribute-basedxml? why? ’
Beginnersalwaysaskthisquestion. Thosewithalittleexperience
expresstheiropinionspassionately. Expertstellyouthereisnoright
answer. (http://lists.xml.org/archives/xml-dev/200006/msg00293.html)
76
4.5 What has changed between SGML and XML?
Stricter syntax and no options.
The main syntactic change is that EMPTY elements in DTDless documents
must use the Null End-Tag trick (eg <img src="pic"/>) because without a
DTD or Schema there is no way for the parser to know not to expect an
end-tag. If an element type is declared as EMPTY in the DTD/Schema then it
can use either the NET or the full end-tag syntax (eg <img src="pic"></img>).
Other syntactic changes are that all attribute values must be quoted; there is
no minimisation of attributes or elements; and everything is case-sensitive.
One important addition is that multiple ATTLIST declarations are allowed, so
an internal subset can add to the attributes already declared for an element
type.
The principal changes in Document Type Definitions (DTDs) are in what you
can specify. To simplify it and make it easier to write processing software, a
large number of SGML markup declaration options have been suppressed
(see thelistofomittedfeatures). The biggest change in vocabulary
management is the introduction of W3C Schemas, which allow a level of
content-type validation not available in DTDs, and are themselves expressed
in XML Document Syntax.
The main addition here isnamespaces, which enable Schemas and
documents to distinguish element-type and attribute-type source (ownership,
origin, or application). This lets you have element types with the same name
but different meanings in the same document, eg DocBook:table and
TEI:table. An extra Name Start Character (the colon) was added in XML
Names to allow this. Despite its classification, a colon may only appear in
mid-name, not at the start or the end, and the prefix xml: is Reserved.
4.6 Can I use JavaScript, ActiveX, etc in XML files?
Not in the XML file itself, but via a stylesheet.
This will depend on what facilities your users’ browsers implement. XML is
77
about describing information; scripting languages and languages for
embedded functionality are software which enables the information to be
manipulated at the user’s end, so these languages do not normally have any
place in an XML file itself, but in stylesheets like XSL and CSS, and script
files for Javascript etc, where they can be added to generated HTML.
XML itself provides a way to define the markup needed to implement
scripting languages: as a neutral standard it neither encourages nor
discourages their use, and does not favour one language over another, so it
is possible to use XML markup to store the program code, from where it can
be retrieved by (for example) XSLT and re-expressed in a HTML script
element.
Server-side script embedding, like PHP or ASP, can be used with the relevant
server to modify the XML code on the fly, as the document is served, just as
they can with HTML. Authors should be aware, however, that embedding
server-side scripting may mean the file as stored is not valid XML: it only
becomes valid when processed and served, so care must be taken when
using validating editors or other software to handle or manage such files. A
better solution may be to use an XML serving solution likeCocoon.
Ifyouneedtoembedscriptsinawebpagethatyouaregeneratingfrom
XML,youneedtomakesurethatthetwomarkupcharacters<and&are
eitherescapedas&lt;and&amp;respectively,orthateachscript’scontent
isenclosedinaCDATASectionsothat itdoesn’tget seenasmarkup.
4.7 Can I use Java to create or manage XML files?
Sure.
Yes, any programming language can be used to output data from any source
in XML format. There is a growing number of front-ends and back-ends for
programming environments and data management environments to
automate this. Java is just the most popular one at the moment.
There is a large body of middleware (APIs) written in Java and other
languages for managing data either in XML or with XML input or output.
There is a suite of Java tutorials (with source code and explanation) available
athttp://developerlife.com/tutorials/.
78
Pleasedonot mail theFAQeditorwithquestionsaboutyourJava
programmingbugs. AskoneoftheJavanewsgroupsinstead.
4.8 How do I get XML into or out of my database?
Ask your database manufacturer
Almost all database management systems now provide XML import and
export modules to connect XML applications with databases.
In some trivial cases there will be a 1:1 match between field names in the
database table and element type names in the XML Schema or DTD, but in
most cases some programming will be required to establish the desired
match. This can usually be stored as a procedure so that subsequent uses are
simply commands or calls with the relevant parameters.
Alternatively, most database systems now provide an XML dump format that
lets you export a table as-is, for example by surrounding the field values with
tags called after the fieldnames. For example, the -X option to the mysql
command will do this, eg
$ echo ’select * * from m news;’ | mysql -X -u username -p password dbname
<?xml version="1.0"?>
<resultset statement="select * * from m news"
xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance">
<row>
<field name="id">1</field>
<field name="stamp">0</field>
<field name="title"></field>
<field name="date">0000-00-00</field>
<field name="time">test</field>
<field name="description">News Engine test item 1</field>
</row>
</resultset>
$
In less trivial, but still simple, cases, you could export by writing a report
routine that formats the output as an XML document by adding the relevant
tags as literals before and after each data value; and you could import by
79
writing an XSLT or similar transformation that formatted the XML data as a
load file in your database’s preferred format. For example, with the following
data:
<news>
<entry xml:id="N1" stamp="0" date="0000-00-00" time="test">
<title></title>
<description>News Engine test item 1</description>
</entry>
</news>
you could turn it into a MySQL statement with lxprintf:
$ lxprintf -e entry \
’INSERT INTO ‘news‘ VALUES (%s,%s,"%s","%s","%s","%s");\n’ \
’substring(@xml:id,2)’ @stamp title @date @time description \
mynews.xml
INSERT INTO ‘news‘ VALUES (1,0,"","0000-00-00","test","News Engine test item m 1");
$
Usersfromadatabaseorcomputersciencebackgroundshouldbeaware
thatXMLisnotadatabasemanagementsystem: itisatextmarkup
system. Whiletherearemanysimilarities,someoftheconceptsofoneare
simplynon-existentintheother: XMLdoesnotpossesssome
database-likefeaturesinthesamewaythatdatabasesdonotpossess
markup-likeones. It isacommonerrortobelievethatXMLisaDBMSlike
OracleorAccessandthereforepossessesthesamefacilities. Itdoesn’t.
Database users should read the article Salminen and Tompa [&],2001 [thanks
to Bart Lateur for identifying this.] Ronald Bourret also maintains a good
resource on XML and Databases discussing native XML databases at
http://www.rpbourret.com/xml/XMLAndDatabases.htm.
There is some information about theXQuery(XQL) Language in thenoteon
Searching.
4.9 What’s a namespace?
Anamed DTD/Schema orfragment identified by a URI(URL).
80
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