Batch command line file conversion with PyODConverter - Ninja

Batch command line file conversion with PyODConverter

Posted by Andrew Z at Wednesday, February 27, 2008 | Permalink

You want to batch convert .doc to .pdf using the command line on a server without a GUI? Or you need automated .ppt to .swf conversion through cron, a sysvinit service, or a remote web server? Online conversion services such as and not working for you? Whichever formats you need to batch convert, PyODConverter is a simple Python script for just this purpose.

On Linux

Make sure you have the headless package installed. For the vanilla 2.4, it has the name

This shell script demonstrates the full use of PyODConverter for Linux:

#!/bin/bash # Try to autodetect OOFFICE and OOOPYTHON. OOFFICE=`ls /usr/bin/openoffice.org2.4 /usr/bin/ooffice /usr/lib/openoffice/program/soffice | head -n 1` OOOPYTHON=`ls /opt/*/program/python /usr/bin/python | head -n 1` if [ ! -x "$OOFFICE" ] then echo "Could not auto-detect binary" exit fi if [ ! -x "$OOOPYTHON" ] then echo "Could not auto-detect Python" exit fi echo "Detected binary: $OOFFICE" echo "Detected python: $OOOPYTHON" # Reference: # If you use the that comes with Fedora or Ubuntu, uncomment the following line: # export PYTHONPATH="/usr/lib/" # If you want to simulate for testing that there is no X server, uncomment the next line. #unset DISPLAY # Kill any running processes. killall -u `whoami` -q soffice # Download the converter script if necessary. test -f || wget # Start in listening mode on TCP port 8100. $OOFFICE "-accept=socket,host=localhost,port=8100;urp;StarOffice.ServiceManager" -norestore -nofirststartwizard -nologo -headless & # Wait a few seconds to be sure it has started. sleep 5s # Convert as many documents as you want serially (but not concurrently). # Substitute whichever documents you wish. $OOOPYTHON sample.ppt sample.swf $OOOPYTHON sample.ppt sample.pdf # Close killall -u `whoami` soffice

Xvfb vs -headless

To use the -headless command line parameter, you must use 2.3.0 or later with the RPM package If you use an older version, you will need Xvfb to simulate an X server where one is not available:

!/bin/bash # Set DISPLAY to something besides :1 (because :1 is the standard display). DISPLAY=:1000 # Kill any existing virtual framebuffers. killall -u `whoami` Xvfb # Start the framebuffer. Xvfb $DISPLAY -screen 0 800x600x24 & # Run the conversion script above. # Clean up killall -u `whoami` Xvfb

On Windows

On Windows, convert documents as follows. Of course, download PyODConverter and adjust the pathnames to match the version of you have installed.

Windows users don't have to worry about Xvfb or the headless package.

"C:\Program Files\OpenOffice.org2.4\program\soffice.exe" -headless -nologo -norestore -accept=socket,host=localhost,port=8100;urp;StarOffice.ServiceManager "C:\Program Files\OpenOffice.org2.4\program\python" test.odt test.pdf

UPDATE: On Windows XP in 2.4, you may need to switch the socket to a pipe if you get the following error: Connector : couldn't connect to socket (WSANOTINITIALISED, WSAStartup() has not been called)

Supported formats

PyODConverter supports all of the formats that you can import or export manually in They include:

  • odt OpenDocument (ODF) Text
  • sxw version 1 Text
  • doc Microsoft Word 97/2000/XP
  • rtf Rich Text Format
  • txt Plain text
  • wpd WordPerfect
  • html Web page
  • ods OpenDocument (ODF) Spreadsheet
  • sxc version 1 Spreadsheet
  • xls Microsoft Excel 97/2000/XP
  • odp OpenDocument (ODF) Presentation
  • sxi version 1 Presentation
  • ppt Microsoft PowerPoint 97/2000/XP
  • swf Adobe Flash

To convert .docx, .xlsx, .pptx, substitute OxygenOffice for

To export to .csv, use JODConverter.


Especially when batch converting many documents, you should take into consideration that the process may crash. If it does, the conversion script will fail too. A reliable method is to start, convert one document, tear down the process, and repeat; however, this is slow. You may wish to reuse the process, say 10 times, while using error checking to determine whether the process needs restarted prematurely.

JODConverter 3.0 (currently in development) will automatically restart in the event of a crash.

PDF printer method

If you just want to generate PDF files, you don't need a Python script, a Basic macro, Java code, or any other kind of programming. Just install a PDF printer such as PDFCreator (Windows) or CUPS-PDF. Then, use the -pt command with the the first argument as the printer name and the second argument as the source document.


openoffice.org2.4 -norestore -nofirststartwizard -nologo -headless -pt Cups-PDF sample.ppt


"C:\Program Files\OpenOffice.org2.4\program\soffice" -norestore -nofirststartwizard -nologo -headless -pt PDFCreator sample.ppt

Thanks to bikram for this tip.

Converting to image formats

Do you need to convert to .png, .jpg, or .tif? Install ImageMagick. Then, convert whichever format to .pdf. Then, convert the .pdf to the image format like this:

convert sample.pdf sample.png convert sample.pdf sample.jpg convert sample.pdf sample.tif

If the document has multiple pages, ImageMagick creates filenames like sample-0.png.

If you prefer a more direct approach, use a script such as unoconv.

Other methods

There are many ways to batch convert files with


Unknown said...

Great blog. But in "-accept=socket,host=localhost,port=8100;urp;StarOffice.ServiceManager" -norestore -nofirststart -nologo -headless &
it's -nofirststartwizard and not -nofirststart

Andrew Z said...

Aidan PangChi: Nice catch! I fixed that and made small updates.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone an ideo how to convert something like html into mediawiki text?

Thank you very much!

Andrew Z said...

Anonymous: Try HTML::WikiConverter which I use online, but you can download it too.

Anonymous said...

thx for the solution but i don´t want to use the online tool. I want to use my own server. Hay anyone an idea ?

Thank you !

Andrew Z said...

Are you same anonymous? :) If so, the answer is you can download HTML::WikiConverter for use on your own server.

Anonymous said...

first of all - thank you a lot for the very helpful script - we appreciate it a lot!
When we start OOffice as headless server on a linux machine and use your script on another host (mainly ppt to html) the OO-instance grows endless. Limiting it with ulimit to say 1GByte leads to a crash (alloc error) after a while. Has anyone a hint how we could get around that?
Kindly Your's f.woeckener

J.Naveen said...

This is very nice, you information helped for me but I want a converter program which can convert batch file into shell script file. Please tell me a way for that.

Anonymous said...

Can use the same script in BROffice ?!

Andrew Z said...

Anonymous: Basically, yes, you can use it in BROffice. You may need to adjust the command line slightly to account for any difference in BROffice's different pathnames.

J.Naveen said...

Please any body tell me a way to extract Text data from the pdf file with java program.

Unknown said...

FlexiDoc Server is a product that combines, Apache and Wiki in a single. You may givi it a try, look for more info here:

Anonymous said...

I am getting following error when using PyODConverter:
Traceback (most recent call last):
File "./", line 144, in module
converter.convert(argv[1], argv[2])
File "./", line 76, in convert
document = self.desktop.loadComponentFromURL(inputUrl, "_blank", 0, self._toProperties(Hidden=True))
__main__.IllegalArgumentException: URL seems to be an unsupported one.

Any clues?

Paolo Benvenuto said...

Does it work with OO.o 3.0?

I can't get it working, i get an IO Exception

Anonymous said...

I have sucessfully used this to convert a ppt to pdf, however when I try to convert to html I get "ERROR! ErrorCodeIOException 2074". Has anyone used this to convert ppt to html? Do I need to do something different when specifing the "output file" since it should create a number of files to render the ppt in html?

Anonymous said...

As a followup to my previous post about converting ppt to html - boy am I feeling foolish! I haven't fully backtracked to see what exactly I did to get things working, but I have had success. I think it may be because I didn't have necessary additional OpenOffice packages installed (I added the SDK, draw, and graphicfilter to my installation).

Anonymous said...


Anyone can help me with following errors?

/usr/lib/ X11 error: Can't open display:
Set DISPLAY environment variable, use -display option
or check permissions of your X-Server
(See "man X" resp. "man xhost" for details)
error opening security policy file /usr/lib/xserver/SecurityPolicy
Traceback (most recent call last):
File "", line 13, in ?
import uno
ImportError: No module named uno
Traceback (most recent call last):
File "", line 13, in ?
import uno
ImportError: No module named uno
soffice: no process killed
Could not init font path element unix/:7100, removing from list!
FreeFontPath: FPE "built-ins" refcount is 2, should be 1; fixing.

Andrew Z said...

Crirus: The first error about DISPLAY means you either need to use Xvfb or use -headless

Crirus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I am ..I spent three days figuring this out

I use OO 2.3

Whatever I try to launch soffice it keeps bugging me about X Display

Any more thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Can anyone point me to a clean instalation of OOo 2.4 headless on a centos 5?

I spent enough figuring out on bad versions...


Andrew Z said...

Crirus: Clean copies of 2.4 are available from

Mike said...

This is great. I'm having an issue though, xls files with multiple worksheets only convert the first one. Any idea how to get around that?

Andrew Z said...

MScappa: Sorry, I am not sure. Try asking the author of PyODConverter at his web site.

Anonymous said...

You may be missing the package of ""

Yargon said...

I am getting the following error when running the script

Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "", line 13, in <module>
import uno
ImportError: No module named uno

any idea how to fix this?

Andrew Z said...

Yargon: Are you Ubuntu? Try 'apt-get install' (or a similar name, I am recalling this from memory)

Yargon said...

I'm using gentoo, I couldn't find any ebuild with uno in it. (no keywords either).


Andrew Z said...

Yargon: You need something to install Maybe you can search for that filename. If you can't build it, you can download the Vanilla RPMs and "unzip" them using this command:
for i in `ls *rpm`; do rpm2cpio $i | cpio -ivd; done

Anonymous said...

Does this only work with openoffice running as a service? Would it be possible to manually create the openoffice process and do the conversion all in one command?

Andrew Z said...

Anonymous: doesn't naturally run as a service, and the first script shows you how to do it all in "one command" (considering the script itself as one command).

Anonymous said...

Small diff to allow ODS to CSV conversion :

--- /home/alex/téléchargements/ 2008-05-05 19:09:05.000000000 +0200
+++ 2009-08-05 08:22:45.259555899 +0200
@@ -41,7 +41,8 @@
"xls": { FAMILY_SPREADSHEET: "MS Excel 97" },
"odp": { FAMILY_PRESENTATION: "impress8" },
"ppt": { FAMILY_PRESENTATION: "MS PowerPoint 97" },
- "swf": { FAMILY_PRESENTATION: "impress_flash_Export" }
+ "swf": { FAMILY_PRESENTATION: "impress_flash_Export" },
+ "csv": { FAMILY_SPREADSHEET: "Text - txt - csv (StarCalc)" }
# see
# for more available filters

Anonymous said...

hi all
i'm using PyODConverter witn openoffice 3 to convert ppt to swg with command lines...The probleme is that in the resulting swf, each ppt frame is put on 2 frames. It means that you'll find frame 1 of the ppt on frame 1 and 2 of the swf...i need 1 frame / image...any clue ?

Brian Fenton said...

Hi, thanks for this amazing piece of work. One thing I'm wondering is have you ever looked into isolating the part of OpenOffice that does the conversion, so that you could avoid installing the entire OpenOffice suite? It must be a small component inside there somewhere! :-)


Andrew Z said...

Brian: You can't really save space by installing part of shares most of its code. Well, you probably could break it up ("anything is possible"), but it would take an impractically-large effort.

Yousef Sawalha said...

Dear all,

I am using PyODConverter with openoffice 3 to convert doc ,docx and rtf documents to HTML, Its working fine with me, but I still have a problem with embded images.

Is there anyway to ignore embeded images ? i don't want to have them in the exported HTML file?

Please Help :(

Sublime1 said...

Hi Andrew,

you've mentioned exporting to CSV but what about importing CSVs? I've tried had no success. I tried adding this line but it didn't work
"csv": { FAMILY_SPREADSHEET: "MS Excel 97" },

Any suggestions?

Yousef Sawalha said...

Dear Andrew,

I am using PyODConverter with openoffice 3 to convert doc ,docx and rtf documents to HTML, Its working fine with me, but I still have a problem with embded images.

Is there anyway to ignore embeded images ? i don't want to have them in the exported HTML file?

Please Help :(

Bob Coret said...

Is it possible to use PyODConverter to convert PDF doc's to PDF/A?

Unknown said...

Hello Guys,

I have a quick question. I am using with OpenOffice 3 in a windows environment. When i used command prompt to convert documents everything works perfectly, with no problem. However, when I attempt to convert from PHP on a webserver via command line, using exec() - see below, everything goes through but no conversion occurs. So, for example, the soffice.exe is started (soffice.bin & soffice.exe) with NO problem. However, in the second line, no document conversion happens. I am hoping that this is something simple. I have tried everything but to no avail. I have tried all sorts of variations but with no success. I am on Windows XP.

//Convert source to PDF...
//Start Service
exec('"c:\\Program Files\\ 3\\program\\soffice.exe" -headless -nologo -norestore -accept=socket,host=localhost,port=8100;urp;StarOffice.ServiceManager'); ----->THIS WORKS FINE

//Convert File
exec('"c:\\Program Files\\ 3\\program\\python" c:/wamp/www/ xr2.docx xr2.pdf'); -------->THIS DOES NOT WORK: GIVES NO ERRORS BUT NO CONVERSION OCCURS

Sublime1 said...

Hello Ethan-Anthony, it's probably just your exec call. I notice you're using a mixture of forward and back slashes. Play around with making exec calls to other Windows programs that accept parameters until you get it right.


Luis said...

Hello I am having these error when trying to use the script, im using ubuntu, and have instaled the open office 2.4 with headless library and pyton 2.3 with uno library, can anyone help me, please.

Traceback (most recent call last):
File "", line 224, in
converter.convert(argv[1], argv[2])
File "", line 143, in convert
document = self.desktop.loadComponentFromURL(inputUrl, "_blank", 0, self._toProperties(loadProperties))
__main__.IllegalArgumentException: URL seems to be an unsupported one.

Luis said...

Im sorry its python 2.5 not 2.3

Luis said...

Ok, after looking around i found that i have the package missing in my instalation of openoffice, another tip take a look of the name of the process for your openoffice application, on my system its ooffice.bin instead of soffice, so you be sure u are killing the process, then i restarted the oofice service and the convertion was made.

inder said...

Can i convert .doc file to .ppt file in such a way that i can get full functionality of ppt files. reply me soon this is my project.

howtomakemoney said...

hey good info... but how can i use it in web scripts like php,jsp etc... i want to create a site for converting documents from one form to another.. .plz help me guys... plz help me with scripts...

e_metib said...

I too am interested in scripting PHP to convert uploads to pdf to swf.

There is little to no information I have googled that has been of any help.

e_metib said...

Wish to PHP script uploads from ppt to pdf conversion and pdf to swf conversion plus audio addition via a php script.

I have googled this for months and so far no luck. Please contact me or point me to a site which has open source scripts for this.

Reynold P J said...


First of all thanks for this wonderful article:)

I can't convert doc format to csv or excel. Is this a bug in openoffice?
# unoconv -vvv -f csv test.doc
Verbosity set to level 2
Connection type: socket,host=localhost,port=2002;urp;StarOffice.ComponentContext
Existing listener not found.
Connector : couldn't connect to socket (Success)
Launching our own listener using /usr/lib/openoffice.org3/program/soffice.bin.
OpenOffice listener successfully started. (pid=24575)
Input file: test.doc
Selected output format: Text CSV [.csv]
Selected ooffice filter: Text - txt - csv (StarCalc)
Used doctype: spreadsheet
unoconv: UnoException during conversion in :
ERROR: The provided document cannot be converted to the desired format. (code: 2074)
[root@convertmagic unoconv-0.4]#

Thanks in advance.

Unknown said...

I am getting following error when using PyODConverter:
Traceback (most recent call last):
File "./", line 144, in module
converter.convert(argv[1], argv[2])
File "./", line 76, in convert
document = self.desktop.loadComponentFromURL(inputUrl, "_blank", 0, self._toProperties(Hidden=True))
__main__.IllegalArgumentException: URL seems to be an unsupported one.

sudo apt-get install

solved the problem

Anonymous said...

using batch via cups-pdf printer on xubuntu, the printer was not named "Cups-Pdf", but plain "PDF": -norestore -nofirststartwizard -nologo -headless -pt PDF mydoc.odt

this, anyway, stores PDF's under ~/PDF

have to investigate..


sleeping8 said...

hi andrew - merry christmas and happy new year - I don't know what i have gotten into. life has become harder by becoming easier! I got myself python!

I want lines of text from .txt file into separate spreadsheets.

I:\spreadsheets-pages>"h:\Program Files\LibreOffice 3.4\program\soffice" -accept="socket,port=8100;urp;

I:\spreadsheets-pages>"h:\Program Files\LibreOffice 3.4\program\python" test.txt test.ods DeprecationWarning: BaseException.message has been deprecated as of Python 2.6
self.message = message DeprecationWarning: BaseException.message has been deprecated as of Python 2.6
return self.message
ERROR! unsupported conversion: from 'Text' to 'ods'

that was sad! I tried test.txt to test.odt - works fine .odt to .ods does not work.

renamed test.txt to test.csv and then pyod it for test.odt.

now I have spreadsheets ok but have to merge the row!!.

What I want is a line of text in single cells for many rows!

do you know a way out? thanks

ADS said...

Hi there,
The writeup mentions using the program as a python module (ie not calling it from the command prompt) but doesn't give any instructions or details. Maybe it's obvious, but could someone explain how to do this to me?

Thanks a lot,

Anonymous said...

Hi Guys,

I am converting ppt to html file using unoconv library. It convert total slide into text format or image format but I want html page having text with image.

Anyone help me to use unoconv library to get html page as per required. If you have any more library for the same? please guide.

Thanks in advance,