I have a renderAsPDF VF page that takes an object id parameter as part of the URL string. It returns a PDF with some textual data and some images (e.g. <apex:image id="theImage" value="/servlet/servlet.FileDownload?file={!$CurrentPage.parameters.id}" /> that point to image/png Attachements ). Within a trigger, I'm attempting to download the VF page as PDF, but unable to do it.

I asked on twitter and got some good suggestions, but none of them solved the problem. Here are some links from the conversation

The PageReference.getContentAsPDF can't be called from a trigger http://t.co/w9D8EZaQ

The PageReference getContent and getContentAsPDF methods can't be used with the future annotation. https://t.co/3KKKenxh

Here's a good discussion about it on the Force.com Discussion Boards http://boards.developerforce.com/t5/Apex-Code-Development/Generate-PDF-with-apex-trigger/td-p/481325

This clever idea linked out from the thread works for everything, but doesn't handle images http://corycowgill.blogspot.ch/2012/02/generating-pdf-in-apex-trigger.html

I posted a this code which works, but not sure it'll stand the test of time. Relies on grabbing session ids out of cookies, and following redirects.



  • Why would you want to do this? A better solution would be to re-define the problem to use workflows and email templates.
    – Anup
    Commented Sep 10, 2012 at 15:14
  • 1
    Anup - Good question. Maybe I'm coming at it from the wrong angle. The requirement I'm working with is that a user is using a disconnected mobile salesforce client where they record a transaction that includes a signature as a png. Once that transaction hits the salesforce backend, the transaction textual data + the signature image needs to be rendered in a single PDF and emailed.
    – pfeilbr
    Commented Sep 10, 2012 at 15:49
  • I haven't tried this but I believe it is technically possible to implement this using workflow rule fired when the transaction data is created and/or edited, which then sends an email using the template.
    – Anup
    Commented Sep 10, 2012 at 15:52
  • Myself and a handful of others I work with have been trying to figure out a way to do this from batch apex for a while now without much luck - hitting the same issues you mentioned. I strongly suspect that your HTTP callout to the visualforce system may well be the best option for now if you have to use a page. Commented Sep 11, 2012 at 17:43

3 Answers 3


If you're open to using a visualforce email template* instead of a visualforce page to generate the PDF then you have a good option: generate the PDF on the fly as part of the template.

This is in fact fully supported via the use of the messaging:attachment tag, like so:

<messaging:attachment renderAs="pdf" filename="{!relatedTo.name}.pdf">content</messaging:attachment>

I've used this before and I know there are ISV applications that rely on this functionality so it should be supported and safe to use if your use case allows.

*caveats include:

  • You cannot use a custom controller for the template (although you can use custom components with apex controllers).
  • You cannot perform DML in an email template like you could in a page.

This is typically a good field of action for Conga Composer.

A trigger detecting incoming info could trigger Conga Composer : this solution will easily assemble anything for you from one or several SObjects, collate them in a PDF; it can attach the PDF to a record, send it by email to a contact, etc., etc.

We are only users of Conga Composer, but it is such a great solution that you should try it if you have no other solution.


  • 1
    Thanks Rup. I appreciate the response. Looks like that'd work. Unfortunately I'm constrained to using what comes with salesforce and don't have the option to leverage other services.
    – pfeilbr
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 14:20

Could scheduled Apex potentially work around the limitations of triggers? For instance, the trigger could mark the relevant records for further action, and then a scheduled job could handle the task of sending out the necessary emails.

  • 1
    Thanks for the suggestion. I did try this out, but ran into the same issue. Rendering a vf page that includes dynamic images as a PDF when a browser isn't initiating the process seems to be the hurdle. The solution I landed on (mentioned in the question) uses the HTTP classes to mimic the behavior of a browser.
    – pfeilbr
    Commented Sep 13, 2012 at 13:41

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