The subject of serving PDF documents comes up rather frequently on the Struts mailing lists. This seems like an obvious candidate for a Wiki entry!

It should be noted right up front that serving PDFs, and the issues that frequently come up, are in no way specific to Struts (although there may indeed be some Struts-specific issues). This is a general requirement which can be troublesome whether using Struts or not, so feel free to reference this entry outside the Struts world as well.

First up, let's see an example of serving a PDF from a Struts Action:

public ActionForward execute(ActionMapping mapping, ActionForm inForm, HttpServletRequest request, HttpServletResponse response) throws Exception {

  // somePDFGenerator is some class that returns a ByteArrayOutputStream
  // representation of a PDF.  Could be iText, could be DataVision, could be your own
  // custom class, whatever.
  ByteArrayOutputStream pdfStream = somePDFGenerator.generatePDF(); 
  response.setHeader("Content-Disposition", "inline; filename=myPDF.pdf"); 
  ServletOutputStream sos = response.getOutputStream(); 
  pdfStream = null; 
  return null; 


This is clearly not meant to be robust, production-quality code, but it should get the basic point across. It should be noted that the StrutsFileDownload Wiki entry shows how to do this using the DownloadAction introduced with Struts 1.2.6. In general, I suggest using the DownloadAction whenever you need to serve content like this if you want to do it directly from with a Struts apps.

So, what issues can arise? Here are just a few (all of which seem to be bug^H^H^H features of various versions of InternetExplorer), and please do feel free to add from your own experience:

ServingPdfDocuments (last edited 2009-09-20 23:11:37 by localhost)