Reading/Web/PDF Functionality

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Update September 2017

Our current PDF rendering service, the offline content generator (OCG), is no longer maintainable. Simply put, it's breaking down. The Reading team at the Wikimedia Foundation has been working towards replacing it for months. Originally created by a third party, OCG has been running on outdated code which may introduce security vulnerabilities and other major issues in the future. Over the last three months, we’ve had banners on the PDF creation page asking for feedback on the prototype for our new renderer. The new renderer will have improved capabilities from OCG – it will be able to print tables and infoboxes and will contain styling focused on better readability. We've gathered a lot of good feedback on the prototype and are working on making the required updates to our new PDFs.

Later addendum: Turning PDF book rendering OFF for the short term

Unfortunately, major issues with our old renderer (OCG) will require us to remove it as a rendering option prior to completing the necessary updates for the books feature. This is earlier than we wanted. By the time we remove OCG, the work for rendering of single articles will be completed. However, the rendering of books will be paused while we evaluate and complete the necessary work. Our initial choice of renderer for the replacement, the Electron rendering service, is not capable of supporting PDFs of larger sizes and fails when attempting to render a book with multiple articles. We will be working to select a new rendering system for books which can handle the size of the files and support our requirements. This is not how we planned to do this. We never aimed to temporarily remove the book PDF functionality.

Timeline:

  • Release of full-featured renderer for single articles (print to pdf) – Oct 1, 2017
  • Pausing book PDF rendering – Oct 1, 2017
  • Sunsetting of OCG renderer – Oct 1, 2017
  • Release of new PDF renderer – Jan, 2018 (tentative based on research results into alternative rendering systems)

Functionality:

For a full list of current and upcoming functionality, see below.

In addition to this page being updated, this will be communicated in a banner on PDF creation page, in Tech News and on some Wikimedia mailing lists.

Introduction

Our current PDF rendering service, the offline content generator, is no-longer maintainable. Simply put, it's breaking down. Originally created by a third party, it currently runs on outdated code which may introduce security vulnerabilities and other major issues in the future. If we're to have the PDF functionality, we unfortunately have to replace it, or we might suddenly find ourselves in a situation where we'd have to take it down without having planned to do so.

Additionally, it does not support a number of rendering requests from the community, the main one being the ability to render tables. We have selected a new service, the electron rendering service, as a suitable replacement. Our next step is to duplicate the functionality provided by OCG using the electron rendering service. Below, we will describe the main portions of the functionality we have identified as necessary. We would like to invite conversation around what is missing or what is superfluous in the provided list. We would also like to highlight over our future plans for PDF rendering to gather initial feedback.

Userbase

The following table shows a sample of traffic to the Electron "Download as PDF" service for over a 6 hour period. The traffic is broken down by operating system (OS), browser, and the browser major version (e.g. Windows 7, Chrome v61.*).

Note well that the majority of our traffic appears to come from Windows based machines.

OS Browser Browser Major Version  % of requests
Other Other - 14.38
Windows 7 Chrome 61 12.42
Windows 10 Chrome 61 8.83
Windows 7 IE 11 7.33
Windows 7 Firefox 56 6.59
Windows 10 Firefox 56 3.82
Windows 10 Edge 15 3.24
Windows 8.1 Chrome 61 3.07
Windows XP Chrome 49 2.2
Windows 10 Chrome 59 1.53
Windows 10 IE 11 1.51
Windows 8.1 Firefox 56 1.31
Windows XP Firefox 52 1.22
Windows 8 Chrome 61 1.15
Windows 8.1 IE 11 1.15
Mac OS X Safari 11 0.9
Windows 7 Firefox 53 0.89
Windows 7 Firefox 52 0.78
Ubuntu Firefox 56 0.78
Windows XP IE 6 0.7
Windows 7 Chrome 55 0.68
Windows 7 Firefox 55 0.62
Mac OS X Chrome 61 0.62
Android UC Browser 11 0.6
Windows 10 Edge 14 0.59
Windows 7 Opera 48 0.53
Android Chrome Mobile 61 0.49
Windows 10 Opera 48 0.44
Windows 7 Chrome 60 0.4
Windows Vista Chrome 49 0.39
Windows 7 Yandex Browser 17 0.37
Windows 10 Firefox 55 0.37
Mac OS X Safari 10 0.36
Windows 10 Chrome 50 0.34
Android Android 4 0.33
Mac OS X Firefox 56 0.33
Windows 10 Chrome 60 0.32
Windows 8.1 Chrome 43 0.3
Android Amazon Silk 60 0.29
Windows 7 Sogou Explorer 1 0.27
Windows 8 IE 10 0.26
Windows 7 IE 8 0.26
Windows 7 IE 9 0.25
Windows 8 Opera 12 0.25
Linux Firefox 52 0.25
Mac OS X Firefox 53 0.24
Windows 7 Firefox 45 0.24
Windows 10 Firefox 57 0.24
Windows 7 Firefox 38 0.22
Windows 10 Firefox 47 0.21

Current Functionality Requirements

The following is a list of the current requirements for PDF rendering for single-article PDF's and for books. The requirements different from the current implementation are displayed in bold.

History

  • Rendering PDF articles and books from Wikipedia pages is handled by a service called OCG. When rendering "books" through the book creator, it uses OCG as embedded within the Collection extension. OCG has multiple issues, especially with tables.
  • Multiple issues with OCG are identified, including complaints from the community around OCG's inability to render tables.
  • Rendering of tables ranks as number 9 on the German-speaking Community Technical Wishlist.
  • Wikimedia Deutschland begins on working on a solution for rendering tables in PDF's, and introduces Electron. They do this planning to run it alongside OCG, not to replace it.
  • At the same time as Wikimedia Deutschland is working on the Electron service, the responsible maintainers of the OCG service at the Wikimedia Foundation come to the conclusion that OCG has to be replaced.
  • The WMF Reading Team takes over the responsibility for the long term maintenance of PDF rendering begins plans on implementing table rendering across all projects.
  • The Reading team launches a community consultation for gathering feedback on Electron.
  • The Reading Infrastructure and Web teams begin scoping the working necessary to port OCG functionality over to the Electron service.

Update After Consultation

Proposed PDF and print styles based on feedback from consultation

We launched a consultation on the current implementation of the PDF renderer in early June, 2017. After reviewing the consultation responses, we have made the following observations:

  • A larger number of users preferred the single-column format over the double column format
  • Users which prefered the double-column format highlighted that their preference was based in the styling and look and feel of double columns. Some users also expressed concerns with font size and wasting paper when printing PDF's in the single-column option
  • The following feature requests were made:
    • Functional hyperlinks
    • Date and url, 'this page downloaded [date] from [URL]'
    • Customizable css for layout, title, TOC
    • Option for 2 column format
    • Include/exclude images versions
    • Modifiable margins
    • print by section - allows you to remove references, paragraphs you don’t want, index, etc
    • allowing configurable text size

Based on the feedback, we have incorporated the following into our new print styles:

  • hyperlinks
  • article information
  • smaller font and book-like styling

The remainder of the requests above will be postponed until the second iteration of the PDF renderer, in which we plan to build a settings mode that will allow for customization of the available options.

Proposal

The following is a proposal for the scope of functionality necessary for PDF rendering:

  • Individual articles will be rendered to PDF using the "Download as PDF" link in the sidebar
  • Multiple articles will be rendered to PDF using the Book Creator tool
  • All articles will contain attribution for text and images
  • All PDF's rendered will be able to print tables
    • Users will be able to customize the layout of their PDF (optional)

Differences between current and future implementation

OCG New Service Notes
Rendering individual articles Yes Yes
Rendering multiple articles using the book creator Yes Yes
Contains table of contents for multiple articles Yes Yes
Renders tables No Yes
Attribution Yes Yes Open question: location of attribution within the new service
Styling Latex New styles
N-column layout Yes No
Default 2-column layout Yes Tentative Default one column or two-column layout will be chosen based on feedback and quantitative and/or qualitative testing
Output format PDF, Plaintext PDF Only

Design

The new PDF styles will be designed for increased readability. Based on community feedback and qualitative or quantitative testing, support for a 2-column layout may be built for the book creator and/or for individual PDFs.

Development and Deployment Roadmap

The following is a rough outline of the development and deployment roadmap. It is subject to change.

  1. April – May 2017:
    1. The Reading team builds back-end support for functionality identified above
    2. Communities are consulted on expanding or shrinking proposed functionality
    3. Qualitative test performed for styling
  2. June – July 2017:
    1. New styles implemented
    2. First iteration is launched along with OCG on all projects and performance is compared
    3. Iterations based on consultations and identified edge cases
  3. August 2017 – September 2017
    1. Additional changes made if necessary
  4. October 2017
    1. Second iteration launched without OCG on all projects

Single Articles

  • A PDF for a single article will be created by selecting the "Download as PDF" link
  • Upon selecting "Download as PDF", the PDF file will be generated. To download the file, users will select the "Download the file link"
  • Each PDF file will contain the following:
    • Article title and text
    • Infobox (if any)
    • Tables (if any)
    • Single-column layout
    • Page number
    • All article images and captions
    • Links to pages linked from the article (blue links and external links)
    • Text and image sources, contributors, and licenses

Books

Functionality available in October, 2017

Note: no changes will be made to the current book creator workflow at this time

  • User will launch the books creator by selecting "Create a book"
  • This will navigate to the current book creation page
  • To download a book, users will select the "download" link from the books page
  • Users may only download books in PDF format
  • Books will contain all elements from single article format as well as:
    • Book title page
    • The references for each article from the book will appear at the end of the article
    • Each article will begin on a new page
    • A single section for text and image sources, contributors, and licenses, that contains the collected contributions from all articles

Functionality available in November - December, 2017

  • Books will contain a table of contents with page numbers
    • Selecting a section from the table of contents will navigate the user to the corresponding section within the book

Styles for books will be updated for improved readability