Is there any chance of getting pdftk working in Ubuntu 18.04? I need this for creating PDF files with a watermark in shell.

Or, does anybody know a working alternative to pdftk to generate a PDF with a watermark in shell?

I already check/try out all of them:

sudo apt list pdf*
Listing... Done
pdf-presenter-console/bionic 4.1-2 amd64
pdf-redact-tools/bionic,bionic 0.1.2-1 all
pdf.js-common/bionic,bionic 1.5.188+dfsg-1 all
pdf2djvu/bionic 0.9.8-0ubuntu1 amd64
pdf2svg/bionic 0.2.3-1 amd64
pdfcrack/bionic 0.16-1 amd64
pdfcube/bionic 0.0.5-2build6 amd64
pdfcube-dbg/bionic 0.0.5-2build6 amd64
pdfgrep/bionic 2.0.1-1 amd64
pdfminer-data/bionic,bionic 20140328+dfsg-1 all
pdfmod/bionic,bionic 0.9.1-8 all
pdfmod-dbg/bionic,bionic 0.9.1-8 all
pdfposter/bionic,bionic 0.6.0-2 all
pdfresurrect/bionic 0.14-1 amd64
pdfsam/bionic,bionic 3.3.5-1 all
pdfsandwich/bionic 0.1.6-1 amd64
pdfshuffler/bionic,bionic 0.6.0-8 all
pdftoipe/bionic 1:7.2.7-1build1 amd64

But did not find a working tool.

  • 3
    and PDF Chain, too! These two tools were invaluable to me! – Joshp.23 Apr 26 at 20:02
  • 3
    Don't just write "You can try...", explain how you do it and the steps you have to follow to make the answer more helpful – ADDB Apr 27 at 17:32
  • 1
    If you solved your problem yourself, please answer your own question and accept your answer. Don’t put the answer in your question or the comments! :-) I took the liberty to revert the change that added the answer but you can always review a post’s history through the link below it. – David Foerster Apr 27 at 21:25
  • 5
    FYI, pdftk was dropped from the repositories and there's a feature request to add it back. – David Foerster Apr 27 at 21:28
  • 2
    it's a shame that such a nice tool got removed just because the developers didn't find an acceptable solution – Daniel Alder Jul 1 at 23:16
up vote 54 down vote accepted

The pdftk package in Ubuntu (and its upstream Debian package) was dropped due to its dependency on the now deprecated GCJ runtime. I found a fork that depends on OpenJDK or similar instead.

Install from PPA

I built a Deb package (for Bionic only) with suitable dependencies:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:malteworld/ppa
sudo apt update
sudo apt install pdftk

The package contains a wrapper script placed in /usr/bin, so you can invoke it as normally:

pdftk <arguments> ...

Install from source

  1. Install the build tools and dependencies:

    sudo apt install git default-jdk-headless ant \
        libcommons-lang3-java libbcprov-java

    Of course you can use a different supported JDK than the one supplied by default-jdk-headless.

  2. Download Marc Vinyal’s pdftk fork:

    git clone
    cd pdftk
  3. Place symbolic links to the required libraries into the libs directory:

    mkdir libs
    ln -st libs /usr/share/java/{commons-lang3,bcprov}.jar
  4. Build the JAR package:

    ant jar
  5. Run the JAR package:

    java -jar build/jar/pdftk.jar --help
  6. (Optional) To run the JAR package, e. g. when you distribute it to other systems, you need at least a working (headless) JRE like from the default-jre-headless package as well as the Java libraries libcommons-lang3-java and libbcprov-java:

    sudo apt install default-jre-headless libcommons-lang3-java libbcprov-java

    Again you can use a different JRE than default-jre-headless. This pdftk fork also supports builds for older JRE versions (≥ 7 according to the documentation).

  7. (Optional) You can teach Linux to execute JAR (Java Archive) files via update-binfmts(8). Most JREs shipped in Deb packages, including those in Canonical’s package repositories, take care of that during installation, though it appears to be buggy in some OpenJDK packages.

P.S.: I tried this with the non-headless OpenJDK 9 in Ubuntu Trusty but I see little reasons why it shouldn't work with headless OpenJDK 10 in Bionic.

  • Without looking into this at all, I wonder if this will work with PDFChain, the pdftk gui that was also dropped... – Joshp.23 Apr 28 at 17:03
  • 3
    @Joshp.23: PDF Chain is a C++ application and not directly affected by the deprecation of GCJ. It needs a working pdftk executable but doesn't care how it works under the hood. – David Foerster Apr 28 at 18:52
  • I was reading another question about installing a different package that was dropped from the repos for 18.04, and one user suggested installing the .deb package using gdebi, which should handle dependencies. Do you think that would work or would it create some problems? That may be a dumb question--I'm just trying to understand more about package management. – Emily May 15 at 16:22
  • @Emily: Could you please open a new question if you have a new or follow-up question? The comment section is not suitable or meant for new questions or extended discussion. You’re welcome to send me a comment with a notification to draw my attention to it. Thanks. P.S.: Look at the other answers to this question; some of them mention something similar to your proposition. – David Foerster May 15 at 16:24
  • Note that the URL for Marc Vinyal's pdftk fork has changed: – Daniel Martin Aug 6 at 17:27

For Ubuntu 18.04, just install the pdftk snap package:

sudo snap install pdftk
  • 1
    Symlinking didn't work for me, because snap seems to need the script name. But a minimal wrapper script /snap/bin/pdftk-smoser.pdftk "$@" works equally well. – Boldewyn Jun 27 at 20:30
  • What version of Ubuntu? The precise instructions I give above worked for me. I call pdftk from some perl xml processing scripts and the acid test is the scripts work and produce merged pdf's. – pgoetz Jun 28 at 22:34
  • Kubuntu 18.04, just upgraded from 16.04 and found pdftk missing. When I do the symlink, running pdftk in bash yields snaps help message. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ – Boldewyn Jun 29 at 6:46
  • 2
    i updated the answer above to use just 'pdftk' rather than 'pdftk' as I (smoser) have uploaded a snap named 'pdftk' to the store with the same content. ( – smoser Jul 12 at 19:27
  • 1
    This seemed to install fine but then pdftk would not open or work on any files (always says 'Error: Unable to find file. Error: Failed to open PDF file:'), also has no man page. In the end I removed it with snap remove and went with @abu_bua solution above, which works perfectly. – scoobydoo Jul 30 at 10:08
up vote 20 down vote

Installing pdftk on Ubuntu 18.04 amd64

I've written a small bash script which automatise the installation on Ubuntu 18.04. Note that I've downloaded only amd64 packages!

# author: abu
# date:   May 12 2018
# description: bash script to install pdftk on Ubuntu 18.04 for amd64 machines
# change to /tmp directory
cd /tmp
# download packages
wget \ \ \ 
echo -e "Packages for pdftk downloaded\n\n"
# install packages 
echo -e "\n\n Installing pdftk: \n\n"
sudo apt-get install ./libgcj17_6.4.0-8ubuntu1_amd64.deb \
    ./libgcj-common_6.4-3ubuntu1_all.deb \
    ./pdftk_2.02-4build1_amd64.deb \
echo -e "\n\n pdftk installed\n"
echo -e "   try it in shell with: > pdftk \n"
# delete deb files in /tmp directory
rm ./libgcj17_6.4.0-8ubuntu1_amd64.deb
rm ./libgcj-common_6.4-3ubuntu1_all.deb
rm ./pdftk_2.02-4build1_amd64.deb
rm ./pdftk-dbg_2.02-4build1_amd64.deb

This script will download the packages to /tmp and install from there using an apt installcommand! Afterwards the packages in the /tmp directory will be removed.

To run this script, copy it in an editor and save it e.g. pdftk_installer. Then run it in a terminal with

chmod 755 pdftk_installer

You can try use a docker image of Ubuntu 16.04 with pdftk installed to run pdftk:

  1. Install docker:

    sudo apt install
  2. Pull Ubuntu 16.04 and run a bash shell:

    sudo docker run -it ubuntu:16.04 bash
  3. Update and install pdftk from container prompt:

    apt update
    apt install pdftk
  4. On a new terminal run:

    sudo docker ps -a
  5. Commit the image using the CONTAINER ID of ubuntu:16.04 to a new image with pdftk installed:

    sudo docker commit CONTAINER_ID ubuntu_pdftk

    (Replace CONTAINER_ID with your container ID.)

  6. Create a file named pdftk in /usr/bin and then make it executable using chmod +x /usr/bin/pdftk:

    set -eu
    docker run --name pdftk -it -v "$PWD:/workdir$PWD" -w "/workdir$PWD" ubuntu_pdftk pdftk "$@"
    docker rm pdftk
  • Almost exactly what I did. Except, don't you have a mistake in -v "$PWD:/workdir$PWD" -w "/workdir$PWD" ? – Ondra Žižka Jun 12 at 19:51

I was able to install pdftk from artful (17.10) deb packages. Download and then install, in that order :

It's best to install gcc-6-base first to avoid dependencies error if you do it from cli.

That should do the trick… for now.

I made a quick and dirty workaround to get PDFTK running under Bionic.

lsb_release -a && pdftk --version
No LSB modules are available.
Distributor ID: Ubuntu
Description:    Ubuntu 18.04 LTS
Release:        18.04
Codename:       bionic

pdftk 2.02 a Handy Tool for Manipulating PDF Documents
Copyright (c) 2003-13 Steward and Lee, LLC - Please Visit:

I update my sources.list and include the following lines:

deb artful main restricted
deb artful-updates main restricted
deb artful universe
deb artful-updates universe
deb artful multiverse
deb artful-updates multiverse
deb artful-backports main restricted universe multiverse
deb artful-security main restricted
deb artful-security universe
deb artful-security multiverse

After that I run a simple

sudo apt update

to make the changes take effect.

Then install pdftk via

sudo apt install pdftk

Then remove the Artful sources from the source.list again and this is how I get PDFTK running under Bionic.


  • 5
    Hi Christian, would you mind updating your answer to include what your workaround is? We prefer if you include the essential parts of the answer here and then provide the link for reference. Thanks! – CalvT May 1 at 19:31
  • 1
    Yes, especially since the site you linked to seems to be down. – terdon May 2 at 8:35
  • Hi CalvT, the workaround I use is simply add the artfull packages to apt, install pdftk and remove them. And terdon my site was not down within the last 30 days so I do not know why you should not access the site. – WiKrIe May 7 at 19:04
  • @WiKrIe There is a problem with your site. I can reach the base URL, but not the page you linked. Neither can Wayback Machine. Google cache won't load it, but will load the source. There must be a problem on that page somewhere. So that's why terdon♦ thought your site was down. So did I until I checked. Hope that helps. – Dɑvïd Jun 1 at 11:09
  • 1
    -1 for the suggestion to mix repositories meant for different Ubuntu releases without proper priority rules. – David Foerster Jun 7 at 10:33

What a great opportunity to use some docker magic!

What I did was to use a docker container running ubuntu 16.04, install pdftk inside it and run it there.

Here are the exact steps if you want to do the same thing:

  1. Install docker if you don't already have it (
  2. Create a directory somewhere called pdftk
  3. Create a directory called docker inside the pdftk directory
  4. Copy this Dockerfile into the pdftk/docker directory:
  5. Copy this script also into the pdftk/docker directory:
  6. Make sure the dockershell script is executable
  7. Into the pdftk directory, copy all the pdf files you want to work with
  8. cd /path/to/pdftk
  9. Run the dockershell script with the path of the Dockerfile: docker/dockershell docker/Dockerfile (this will take some time the very first time you run it)

Now you should have a prompt inside the docker container, from where you can run pdftk. When you're done, type exit to exit the container and return to the host machine. Any newly generated files will be present in the pdftk directory (but they'll be owned by root, so you may need to change ownership as necessary).

On my 18.04 running in WSL I did the following

Get the dependencies from the (.deb files):



sudo apt install gcc-6-base

then install the above dependencies

sudo dpkg -i libgcj*

then I took the .deb from

sudo dpkg -i pdftk_2.02-4+b2_amd64.deb

An enhanced variant of Ademir's answer.

Assuming we only need a cli component of the pdftk and there's docker installed on the machine. Just put the following script somewhere on the $PATH with the name pdftk and executable bit set:


# Build or use cached image and tag with "local/local/ubuntu_pdftk", suppress 
# output to maintain compatibility in case you are parsing the pdftk output.
# It will build the image if it's absent or use the cached one.
echo "FROM ubuntu:16.04
RUN apt-get update && \
    apt-get install -y pdftk && \
    rm -rf /var/lib/apt/lists/*" | docker build -t local/local/ubuntu_pdftk - 2>&1 > /dev/null

# Run the pdftk as current user
set -eu
docker run --name pdftk -it --user $(id -u):$(id -g) --rm -v "$PWD:/workdir$PWD" -w "/workdir$PWD" local/local/ubuntu_pdftk pdftk "$@"

First run will take like 2 minutes to build the image, if the built image will remain on the machine next runs will be faster. You can freely clean up the image, it will be built when you'll need it next time.

Your Answer


By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.