Generating PDFs in Rails

How to use the Grover gem to generate a .zip file of multiple PDFs

Posted by Stuart Frost on March 26, 2023 · 4 mins read ·

Whilst working on v0.3.0 of Chordly, I needed to implement a feature where users could generate and download multiple PDFs at once. To do this I used the Grover gem and Zip::OutputStream from the Ruby standard library.

In this tutorial I’ll take you through the solution I ended up with.

Grover Basics

Grover is a fantastic gem, one that I was thrilled to find when I started working on Chordly. It uses Google Puppeteer to render a web page in a headless browser and then converts the content into other formats such as PDF or PNG.

A quick glance at Grover’s README will show you how simple it is to get started; initialize an instance of Grover with a URL or inline HTML, call to_pdf on it and away you go.

# accepts a URL or inline HTML and optional parameters for Puppeteer
grover ='', format: 'A4')
pdf = grover.to_pdf

Taking that one step further towards a more realistic use case and we render one of our Rails views as a string to pass into the gem. This is exactly how I had been using Grover up until now in the show action of my controller.

html ={
  template: 'controller/view',
  layout: 'my_layout',
pdf =, **grover_options).to_pdf

Zipping it up

My use case was that I had a SetList model which has many ChordSheet’s. I needed to give the user the option to download their set list as a ZIP file containing separate PDFs.

In my naivity I had assumed this would involve generating each PDF and saving it to disk in turn, creating a .zip file from these PDFs before serving that file up to the user and doing some inevitable cleanup. So you can imagine my joy when I discovered Zip::OutputStream.

A built-in Ruby library which allows you to generate .zip files on the fly, you call write_buffer passing it a block which then allows you to write multiple files to the ZIP file stream.

require "zip"

Zip::OutputStream.write_buffer do |zio|

So all I had to do was loop through the chord sheets in my set list, call put_next_entry with the chord sheet name, write the PDF content using as I did above and I was off to the races!

Here’s how that looked in practice, you can see the full code here. The only additional thing below is that I return io.string from the method. This allowed me to pass the entire ZIP contents back up to the controller where it was served to the user using send_data.

def to_zip
  io = Zip::OutputStream.write_buffer do |zio|
    @set_list.chord_sheets.each do |chord_sheet|


How do you test it?

As is often the case, working out how best to test something is harder than implementing the solution itself.

Before starting I had written a browser level test using Cypress which looked like this:

cy.contains("Separate PDFs").click({ force: true })

cy.wait('@file').its('request').then((req) => {
    .then(({ body, headers }) => {
      expect(headers["content-disposition"]).to.include('filename="My amazing"')

This gave me a good integration test to check that a .zip file was served up to the user, with the correct file name.

I also wrote some unit tests around the class which generates the ZIP content. These simply check that the ZIP output stream receives the correct method calls with the right parameters

let(:grover) { instance_double Grover, :grover, to_pdf: :some_pdf }

before do
  allow(Grover).to receive(:new).and_return grover
  allow(Zip::OutputStream).to receive(:write_buffer).and_yield zip_io

it "generates a zip file of all the chord sheet PDFs" do
  expect(zip_io).to have_received(:put_next_entry).with("1 - Foo.pdf")

it "writes each pdf content" do
  expect(zip_io).to have_received(:write).with(:some_pdf)

That gave me enough confidence in my feature going forwards. In hindsight, the tests are lacking in confirming the content of the PDF files. My code could render a ZIP file full of blank PDFs and my test suite would give me the green light.

To remedy this we could update the the Cypress test to check the contents of each PDF (by taking a digest of the file contents to compare in our test), or write some view tests to check the HTML template renders everything we’re expecting. Or perhaps both!


I love it when you have a problem and you find libraries as good as Grover & Puppeteer which help you solve it in such as easy and elegant way.