pdftk and php-pdftk on Ubuntu 18.04 without using snap

During a product launch I recently came across an “interesting” issue involving pdftk (and php-pdftk). Some of the developers had made assumptions (ever heard that one before?) about the operating environment and how things were/are configured.

These assumptions were based on a development environment that in no way reflected the final production environment (ever heard that one before?). In this particular case, they were expecting the great PDF toolkit (pdftk) to be available and working just like it did in their development environment.

To summarize the issue: pdftk has been removed from Ubuntu 18.04 due to dependency issues. The “recommended” solution is to install pdftk using snap. This, in itself, is not a bad recommendation. But in a web server environment, it may put you in a place you don’t want to be in.

So after a few hours of toying with ideas and testing various things, I figured there must be some Debian-like package that would actually work when installed on Ubuntu 18.04 and that is not a snap package.

There is.

Later versions (or packages) of pdftk now exist as pdftk-java, and they do work with php-pdftk as well.

In my case, I located pdftk-java_3.1.1-1_all.deb and installed it. Or tried to rather. It has a number of dependencies that you will see for yourself. You’ll need to decide if their “weight” makes it worthwhile for you to go down this path. But it was one, reasonably good, way for us to solve the problem.

The developers you ask? They have been sent to /dev/codersgulag/cobol and will spend a number of solar iterations there.

(The file I ended up using was http://ftp.debian.org/debian/pool/main/p/pdftk-java/pdftk-java_3.1.1-1_all.deb, and it does work on Ubuntu 18.04.LTS)