Python: Convert a Word/PDF document to html

My current Django project deals with resume files in Word/PDF format. In order to show a web preview of the file, it's necessary to translate these files to plain HTML. While this was sometimes a pain in the past, I've recently found that it's relatively easy with standard Linux tools.

AbiWord is a general purpose word processor for Linux. It has pretty good support for Word files, as well as many other formats such as PDF, RTF, etc. Usually it's invoked as a GUI app, just like Microsoft Word. However, being a Linux app, there is also good command-line support.

One of the things you can do from the command line is convert files from one format to another. Here is a quick example:

# print the HTML translation of a DOC file to the console
abiword -t output.html resume.doc; cat output.html

It's also relatively simple to invoke this from Python, using the standard libraries.

import subprocess
import os
import uuid

def document_to_html(file_path):
    tmp = "/tmp"
    guid = str(uuid.uuid1())
    # convert the file, using a temporary file w/ a random name
    command = "abiword -t %(tmp)s/%(guid)s.html %(file_path)s; cat %(tmp)s/%(guid)s.html" % locals()
    p = subprocess.Popen(command, stdout=subprocess.PIPE, stderr=subprocess.PIPE, shell=True, cwd=os.path.join(settings.PROJECT_DIR, "website/templates"))
    error = p.stderr.readlines()
    if error:
        raise Exception("".join(error))
    html = p.stdout.readlines()
    return "".join(html)

AbiWord produces fairly clean HTML. If you want to scrub it even more, I would suggest something like BeautifulSoup.

I'm currently working at NerdWallet, a startup in San Francisco trying to bring clarity to all of life's financial decisions. We're hiring like crazy. Hit me up on Twitter, I would love to talk.

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