Vector screenshot

I just had to prepare a poster based on roughly 30 publications, and for several of them I didn't have the original figures but only the manuscript as a pdf file. Using okular and a magnification of 800%, I've got screenshots of these figures as comparatively highly resolved bitmaps, but the price I had to pay was that the editing of the poster in LibreOffice (which I've used as the least common denominator) was getting almost unbearably slow.

I couldn't silence the thought that it should be possible to take a 'vector screenshot' from a pdf file. I had the vague idea that pdftocairo could be useful in this respect, since it can output arbitrary parts of a pdf file as pdf or svg. And it turned out that Peter Williams, a young radio astronomer from Harvard, had the same idea and came up with a script which does exactly what I wanted.

I've fixed a small error (pageh should also be an integer) and ensured Arch and Fedora compatibility (python2), but otherwise its Peter's script:

#! /bin/bash
# original: <>
# see <>
# XPDF gives its y coordinates in terms of the standard PDF coordinate
# system, where (0,0) is the bottom left corner and y increases going
# up. But pdftocairo uses Cairo coordinates, in which (0,0) is the top
# left corner and y increases going down. We can use pdfinfo to get
# the page size to translate between these conventions.
pageh=$(pdfinfo -f $page -l $page "$file" |grep '^Page.*size' \
    |sed -e 's/.* x ' -e 's/pts.*$')
# Our variables end up in Cairo convention, so the box height is ybr -
# ytl.
xtl=$(python2 -c "import math; print int (math.floor ($3))")
ytl=$(python2 -c "import math; print int ($pageh) - int (math.ceil ($4))")
xbr=$(python2 -c "import math; print int (math.ceil ($5))")
ybr=$(python2 -c "import math; print int ($pageh) - int (math.floor ($6))")
w=$(python2 -c "print $xbr - $xtl")
h=$(python2 -c "print $ybr - $ytl")
# Lamebrained uniqifying of output filename.
while [ -f fig$n.pdf ] ; do
    n=$((n + 1))
# OK to go.
echo pdftocairo -pdf -f $page -l $page -x $xtl -y $ytl -W $w -H $h \
  -paperw $w -paperh $h "$file" '|' pdfcrop --margin $margin fig$n.pdf
exec pdftocairo -pdf -f $page -l $page -x $xtl -y $ytl -W $w -H $h \
  -paperw $w -paperh $h "$file" - | pdfcrop --margin $margin - fig$n.pdf

Unlike Peter (and thanks to piet and haui), I can show an actual vector screenshot made by this script:


The size of this shot is 2.7 kB. A bitmap of this size showing the same section is so terribly ugly that I've decided not to present it here.